In gross violation of a recent Dhaka High Court order and other established rules and regulations, the Bangladesh Election Commission (BEC) continues to drag its feet on taking a decision on the questionable nomination of a former senior secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), on an Awami League ticket for the forthcoming general elections.
Northeast News had on December 4 brought to light the Awami League leadership’s decision to nominate Sajjadul Hassan, a former senior secretary in the PMO and an ex-chairman of Biman Bangladesh’s Board of Directors, for the Netrakona-4 seat even though he did not fulfill the mandatory three-year “cooling off” period after his retirement from government service.
The same day, the Dhaka High Court passed a judgment that no government employee could run for election if she or he does not complete the mandatory three-year cooling-off period.
While the court judgment renders Hassan’s nomination as disqualified, the BEC, instead of moving swiftly to debar him from contesting the polls, is yet to take a decision on his nomination papers even as the last date (December 17) for withdrawal of nomination nears.
A Bangladesh Administrative Service (BAS) officer of the 1985 batch, Hassan, whose elder brother Obaidul Hassan is Bangladesh Supreme Court Chief Justice, was appointed senior secretary at the PMO on December 25, 2019. His tenure as PMO senior secretary was over on January 10, 2020.
He was subsequently appointed by the Sheikh Hasina-led government as chairman of the government-controlled Biman Bangladesh airline on January 27, 2020, by the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism.
While serving in this capacity, Hassan took decisions on retaining government control over Biman Bangladesh. Hassan completed his term at Biman Bangladesh on January 24, 2023, following which he has been on a compulsory one-year post retirement leave (PRL) period with full salary.
Significantly, Hassan ‘won’ the Netrakona-4 seat uncontested in a byepoll held in July 2023, leaving serious questions on the then BEC’s decision to clear his nomination papers when he was still in the midst of a cooling-off period.
The current BEC is walking on thin ice since Article 12(1) of the Representation of the People Order (RPO) 1972 disqualifies former public servants from contesting national elections within three years of their resignation or retirement from service.
The RPO rule states clearly that “a person shall be disqualified for election as or for being, a member, if he… has resigned or retired from the service of the republic or of any statutory public authority or of the defence service, unless a period of three years has elapsed since the date of his resignation or retirement”. This rule is also applicable to officials who are appointed on contractual terms.