Dhaka North, South City polls stayedStaff Correspondent
The High Court on Monday stayed for three months the mayoral elections of the newly created Dhaka South City and Dhaka North City scheduled for May 24.
A bench of Justice AHM Shamsuddin Chowdhury and Justice Jahangir Hossain asked the Election Commission and the administrators of Dhaka South City Corporation and Dhaka North City Corporation to explain in two weeks why they should not be directed to hold the elections only after updating the lists of voters and other required legal formalities.
They were directed to explain why they should not be directed to hold the civic polls after re-demarcating the wards, which wards would go to which city corporation, the number of councillors in the newly created cities and the number of women’s seats, delimitation of the wards and appointment of the delimitation officers.
Following a public interest writ petition, the court directed the chief election commissioner, the Election Commission secretary, the district election officer, the administrators of Dhaka North City Corporation and the Dhaka South City Corporation and the two returning officers to answer the rule.
The court also set a three-month deadline to complete the delimitation of the wards and update the lists of the voters of Dhaka North City and Dhaka South City.
The Election Commission must act in accordance with the stipulations of the law regarding delimitation of the wards and it must determine the number of councillors who are to be elected from Dhaka South City and Dhaka North City, the court said.
The court passed the order after hearing a public interest litigation writ filed on Sunday by Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh general secretary and Supreme Court lawyer Asaduzzaman Siddiqui.
Chief Election commissioner Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad later told reporters that the Election Commission would decide whether it would appeal against the order after receiving a copy of the High Court order.
The returning officers of Dhaka South City and Dhaka North City said they had suspended distribution of nomination papers as soon as they came to know about the court’s stay order.
Attorney General Mahbubey Alam told reporters, ‘I tried best so that elections were not suspended at this moment.’
On Sunday, the same bench, after a preliminary hearing of the petition, asked the Election Commission to keep the proceedings of the elections suspended until it heard the petition on Monday.
The Election Commission’s lawyer Shahdeen Malik submitted that the writ petition was not maintainable, as it did not make the local government division a party to it, although the division, not the commission, was responsible for the delimitation of the electoral areas.
The Election Commission, Shahdeen submitted wass only responsible for holding elections.
Shahdeen submitted that the local government division had asked the Election Commission to hold the elections in 180 days.
He submitted that the law empowered the local government division to delimit the civic constituencies.
He also submitted that the local government division informed the Election Commission that it had already completed the delimitation of the civic constituencies.
Referring to a report carried by daily Ittefaq on April 12 which stated that over five lakh young and new voters would not be able to exercise their voting rights as the electoral rolls were not updated since 2009, the court asked Shahdeen why the Election Commission failed to update the voters’ list in last three years.
‘Updating of the voters’ list is a continuous process,’ submitted Shahdeen.
Shahdeen said that there was no legal bar on holding
the elections with the existing voters’ list.
The court observed, ‘It is a serious allegation that one-eighth of about 40 lakh voters would not be able to vote in the upcoming elections.’
On Sunday, Additional Attorney General MK Rahman and Deputy Attorney General ABM Altaf Hossain had admitted to the court that indeed some electoral provisions had been violated.
But on Monday, in his submissions Attorney General Mahbubey Alam differed with what the Additional Attorney General the Deputy Attorney General had told the court.
The Attorney General submitted that the elections were going to be held in accordance with the law.
‘Bifurcation of the city corporation does not mean that new corporations have been created,’ he submitted.
‘As the delimitation was done earlier, it would be redundant to do so again,’ submitted the Attorney General.
The petitioner’s lawyer Manzill Murshid submitted that the elections were going to be held without following the law particularly, with Sections 3(2), 5(1)(a), 27, 28, 29 and 30 of the Local Government (City Corporations) Act 2009.
The government, he submitted, amended the local government law and notified it in the official gazette on December 1, 2011 bifurcating the erstwhile Dhaka City Corporation into Dhaka North City Corporation and Dhaka South City Corporation.
Manzil submitted that the government did not care to follow the provisions of the law for holding the civic elections in newly created Dhaka South City and Dhaka north City.
Referring to section 3(2) of the law, Manzill submitted that the government was yet to notify in the official gazette outlining the areas of the new two city corporations.
According to Section 27(1) of the local government law, the delimitation officer has to propose the demarcation of the wards of a city corporation and the government has to decide the number of the wards on the basis of the latest census in a city area.
The provisions have not been followed for the new two Dhaka city corporations, Manzill submitted.
According to the Section 29 of the local government law, a primary list of the demarcated wards has to be published and it needs to be finalised after considering the objections and suggestions made by the people.
The requirements of the law were not followed for the newly created corporations of Dhaka South City and Dhaka north City, he submitted.
He submitted that the government also violated Section 30 of the law, which stipulates that the government has to delimit the boundary of the wards reserved for women councillors.
For Dhaka South City, 13 mayoral aspirants collected nomination papers besides 109 for the reserved seats of women councillors, and 627 for the position of general councillors.
For Dhaka North City, 11 mayoral aspirants collected the nomination papers besides 98 for the reserves seats of women councillors and 507 for the position of general councillors.
Among prominent mayoral aspirants, ruling Awami League’s Mofazzal Hussain Chowdhury Maya and Sayed Khokan, former organising secretary of AL Mahmudur Rahman Manna, Jatiya Party presidium member Kazi Firoz Rashid, JSD (Inu) standing committee member Shirin Akhter, BNP’s former lawmakers SA Khaleque, Salauddin Ahmed and Nasiruddin Ahmed Pintu and BNP international affairs secretary Asaduzzaman Ripon, collected the nomination papers.
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