THE High Court coming to ask the government to explain the legality of Section 41 (1) of the Civil Service Act 2018, which stipulates the requirement for government approval to arrest an accused official before a court is dismissed. ‘accepts the indictment and which has been criticized by legal experts and advocates since the enactment of the law for being discriminatory, unconstitutional and an obstacle to the accountability of officials, is welcome. The court also asked for an explanation of the legality of section 41 (3) of the law which requires a first instance court to notify the government immediately after the court learns that the accused in a case is a public official. . A High Court bench, when hearing a written petition filed by a Kurigram-based journalist who accused four officials of attempted murder, also called on the government to explain the legality of a recent posting to ‘an accused, who was still a’ fugitive accused ‘in the attempted murder case. In his request, the reporter said that the civil service law prevents law enforcement from arresting accused officials because the law grants special privilege and undue protection to officials.
The reporter in his case alleged that he was sentenced by a mobile court to one year in prison and fined Tk 50,000 on fabricated charges of transporting 100 grams of marijuana and 450 grams of ethyl alcohol, after to have been abducted from his home and tortured. The deputy commissioner, Kurigram’s deputy revenue collector and two deputy commissioners were sued by the journalist while the four officials, who reportedly neither went to court nor asked for bail in the case, were all removed and reattached to public administration. ministry after the incident triggered convictions across the country. When the abuse of power by officials increasingly tainted public agencies and when there was an increasing involvement of officials in corruption and crime and when the government itself promised zero tolerance with regard to corruption and the abuse of power to ensure the accountability of officials and transparency in public bodies, both provisions prevent misguided officials from being brought to justice. Moreover, the two provisions conflict with the constitution which, in article 27, states that “all citizens are equal before the law and have the right to equal protection of the law”.
Legal experts and rights activists have long called on the government to remove discriminatory provisions to ensure transparency in public agencies and end abuses of power by civil servants. They also urged the government to establish an independent commission to investigate cases involving officials to reduce any conflicts of interest that may arise when agencies investigate cases involving their own staff. The government must therefore rethink its position on discriminatory provisions and keep its promises to ensure the accountability of civil servants and transparency in public bodies.