Bdesh mulls limiting Prezs power to impose emergency

Dhaka: Bangladesh is mulling limiting the President`s sweeping powers to declare emergency and promulgate key ordinances under caretaker governments which are installed every five years to conduct general elections.

"We are working on how to do it (limit his authority) through bringing necessary changes to the Constitution," Suranjit Sengupta, the co-chair of Bangladesh`s Special Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Amendments, was quoted as saying by the Daily Star after a closed-door meeting of the panel.

He said the parliamentary body had earlier agreed in principle to limit the president`s powers to declare a state of emergency and promulgate ordinances in the absence of an elected government and parliament.

Sengupta, however, said a door should be kept open to tackle urgencies during a caretaker regime.

Under the existing Constitutional provisions the President is a ceremonial head of the state requiring him to act in line with prime ministers advice. But he is empowered with the sweeping authority to act independently during the non-party interim governments installed every five years for 90 days to conduct general elections.

The parliamentary move appears to have come in response to the then President Iajudin Ahmed`s imposition of emergency amid a heightened political tension in 2007, following which the army-backed caretaker regime ran the country for two years until the December 2008 elections brought the ruling Awami League to power.

Newspaper reports quoting members of the parliamentary committee said that their meeting yesterday decided to insert some conditions to restrict the President`s authority to promulgate ordinances in absence of a Parliament.

The development came as hearing on an appeal was underway in the Supreme Court against a 2004 High Court verdict declaring as lawful the 13th amendment to the Constitution introducing the non-party caretaker government in 1996.