While commencing a dialogue with political parties on Thursday at Bangabhaban, President Zillur Rahman in his written speech stated: "You are perhaps also aware that the constitution of the People's Republic of Bangladesh in article 118 dealing with formation of the Election Commission, empowers the president to appoint the chief election ommissioner and other election commissioners."
He further stated that he wants to take a decision on this matter upon holding discussions with the leaders of major political parties.
However, we observed some serious anomalies between the president's claim and the provisions of the constitution.
The president in his written speech referred to article 118 of the constitution as the source of his power to appoint the EC.
But article 118 cannot be read in isolation from the constitution's article 48 (3) that clearly says: "In the exercise of all his functions, save only that of appointing the Prime Minister pursuant to clause (3) of article 56 and the Chief Justice pursuant to clause (1) of article 95, the President shall act in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister."
Even in these two cases, his discretionary power is very nominal. Because he has no option but to appoint the leader of the majority party in parliament as the prime minister.
And in case of the appointment of chief justice, the president is expected to appoint the senior most judge of the Appellate Division.
When article 118 is read along with article 48 (3), it becomes clear that the president's claim that the constitution empowers him to appoint the CEC and other EC members is misconstrued.
His statement that after discussions with political leaders he "will decide…" is also beyond his power, as he must act on the advice of the prime minister in all cases except the two mentioned above.
It is only natural that the president's written statement was drafted by his staff. So we want to ask did the president's staff do their homework, and are they well versed in the constitution?
We feel that the president was misguided in this matter which should be immediately looked into, as otherwise the president might be dragged into unnecessary and undesirable controversies that must be avoided to maintain the prestige of the high office that he holds.