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26th-Jun-2015

The minister being just unlucky

By Editorial Desk

Many express surprise why Mr Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya, the Minister of Relief and Disaster Management, should be a subject of public debate and be asked to resign especially by referring to our Constitution. Who cares to follow the Constitution except those who can be easily victimised or those who can afford to come to the Supreme Court for whatever protection they can get?
For the powerful ones, the Constitution is what they just want it to be. They can change it as they please. The election has no constitutional sanctity of fairness or inclusiveness. Election has become mostly a selection process. Our politics is not to punish ministers for corruption.
Even then those who want to explain the constitutional position of Minister Maya who has been found by the
tribunal guilty of corruption, this is admitted in the light of the judgement of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in Gen. Ershad's case that the constitutional provision as interpreted by it,  the  conviction  has to assume finality by way of appeal or otherwise before the constitutional disqualification is attracted. So it suits the Minister to take shelter of the Constitution to wait till his conviction is finally upheld in appeal. He also regrets that so many others have escaped when he is caught
When the constitutional disqualification becomes operative such a minister has no option of resigning, his loss of the position is automatic and immediate.
Now the High Court Division will rehear the appeal of the minister concerned as directed by the Appellate Division. But this is also true that the conviction handed down by the tribunal now remains in force till the High Court Division finds him not guilty. Earlier, the conviction was set aside by a Bench of the High Court Division on a technical law point. This time, it has to examine the conviction in a larger context of evidence. The Appellate Division took the view that in setting aside the conviction, the High Court Division failed to apply its judicial mind.
It has become easy to believe now that many other corruption cases were also thrown out on such technical but flimsy law point such as no pre-trial notice was served. It is for the ACC to pursue other such cases for the sake of consistency.
The lawyer of the Anti-Corruption Commission Mr Khurshed Alam Khan has, of course, a point when he says that the minister should resign on his own. This is not for constitutional requirement but an indispensable requirement of a fair trial.
It is immoral and certainly undemocratic for a minister to continue in power as minister when a conviction for corruption remains hanging over his head. It will be most unusual even under a Communist government for a minister facing a corruption case to hold his office.
 On final conviction for moral turpitude he must lose his membership of the Parliament and his position as minister immediately.
But it is an ethical question and also a question of fair trial in public eye that a minister should not be in the position of power enabling or providing scope to influence the trial process when he faces the court proceedings.
In a democratic country, it is unthinkable for a minister to face a corruption or any other criminal case as a sitting minister. He will resign without waiting to see if the Constitution so requires or not. It is not defensible that a public office holder will not be respectful to the trial being seen as fair and not tainted by power of influence.
When corruption is very much part of our politics and the rule of law is not generally applicable for the powerful ones, we find it not consistent with our politics to seek constitutional or moral reasoning to support the demand of resignation of the minister. What is poisonous for any values to prevail in public life is our politics. Otherwise, such questions would not have called for public debate.
Blaming Minister Maya is not the solution. He is just being unlucky.