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284 MPs take oath

Confusion remains over 9th parliament

Staff Correspondent

Members of parliament-elect of the 10th Jatiya Sangsad take oath of office at the national assembly complex on Thursday after the Election Commission.
 — New Age photoMembers of parliament-elect of the 10th Jatiya Sangsad take oath of office at the national assembly complex on Thursday after the Election Commission. — New Age photo

Two hundred and eighty-four lawmakers elected to the 10th Jatiya Sangsad took oath on Thursday amid confusions over whether the constitution allowed it keeping the ninth parliament in place.
The speaker Shirin Sharmin Choudhury administered the oath of office to 226 Awami League lawmakers, including its president Sheikh Hasina, 31 Jatiya Party lawmakers, six Workers Party of Bangladesh lawmakers, four Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal lawmakers, one each from Jatiya Party (Manju), Bangladesh Nationalist Front and Tarikat Federation and 14 independent lawmakers in the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban.
The oath taking of 284 lawmakers gave rise to confusions whether there would be two lawmakers in each constituency as the ninth parliament was yet to be dissolved and would be in place till January 24, which meant the number of lawmakers at the moment was 634.
The confusion arose as Article 123(3) bars an elected lawmaker from assuming office before expiry of the previous parliament and Article 148 (2A) makes it mandatory for lawmakers to take oath in three days after publishing gazette notification of election results and the Article 148(3) ensures one’s assuming office immediately after taking oath.
Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury declined comments over the issue. ‘The issue requires legal interpretations and there are people to do so. I will not comment on it,’ she said after administering oaths of office to the lawmakers.
Senior Awami League lawmakers Tofail Ahmed and Matia Chowdhury said there would not be two lawmakers in a constituency after the newly-elected MPs took oath.
The attorney general, Mahbubey Alam, however, told reporters that the members of the ninth parliament would remain lawmakers till January 24 as the ninth parliament would exist till then. He said it did not stand in the way of the newly elected lawmakers’ taking oath as the new MPs would not start their work before expiry of the ninth parliament. ‘Their function would be considered once the 10th parliament goes into session,’ he said.
Mahbubey Alam said the newly-elected lawmakers had to take oath on Thursday in line with the constitutional obligation to do so in three days after the publication of the gazette notification of the election results.
Jurist Rafique-ul Huq said there was no problem with the oath taking by the MPs of the 10th parliament but they would not be considered as lawmakers until the tenure of the ninth parliament expired. 
Jurist Shahdeen Malik said oath taking by the new MPs before dissolution or expiry of the ninth parlaiment was contradictory to the Article 123(3) of the constitution. ‘It is simply a violation of the constitution and it was done whimsically without reason. Six hundred MPs in 300 seats cannot be acceptable.’
Shahdeen also disagreed with Rafique-ul Huq. The MPs elected in the January 5 polls became MPs immediately after taking oath as per Article 148(3) of the constitution, he pointed out.
Cabinet secretary Mohammad Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan told reporters at the secretariat that the president was expected to administer the oath of office to the new cabinet early next week.
Asked whether the existing cabinet would continue until the government’s tenure expires on January 24, the top civil servant said, ‘The new government is in place once the members of new cabinet take oath of office.’
He, however, refused to explain any constitutional provisions relating to the matter.
The attorney general said oath taking by MPs had nothing to do with the formation of the cabinet. He said he found no problem with formation of  the cabinet since the ministers would not make laws.
Rafique-ul Huq said, ‘They are even no lawmakers before January 24. How could they form the cabinet not being lawmakers?’
The Cabinet Division is likely to organise the ceremonial takeover of the new cabinet of Sheikh Hasina on Sunday afternoon, according to policymakers.
Article 123(3) of the constitution says, ‘A general election of the members of Parliament shall be held – (a) in the case of a dissolution by reason of the expiration of its term, within the period of ninety days preceding such dissolution ; and (b) in the case of a dissolution otherwise than by reason of such expiration, within ninety days after such dissolution : provided that the persons elected in a general election under sub-clause (a) shall not assume office as members of Parliament except after the expiration of the term referred to therein.’
Article 148(2A) says, ‘If, within three days after publication through official Gazette of the results of a general election of members of Parliament under clause (3) of article 123, the person specified under the Constitution for the purpose or such other person designated by that person for the purpose, is unable to, or does not, administer oath to the newly elected members of Parliament, on any account, the Chief Election Commissioner shall administer such oath within three days next thereafter, as if, he is the person specified under the Constitution for the purpose.’
Article 148(3) says, ‘Where under this Constitution a person is required to make an oath before he enters upon an office he shall be deemed to have entered upon the office immediately after he makes the oath.’
Polling in 147 constituencies was held on January 5 amid widespread stuffing of ballot boxes, rigging and violence as the rest 153 constituencies went uncontested.
The Election Commission on Wednesday published gazette notification of the results of 290 constituencies.
Results of eight constituencies were withheld as fresh voting would take place in 392 centres of the constituencies on January 16 after violence forced suspension of polling there on January 5.
The speaker first administered oath to Awami League lawmakers and the lone member from Jatiya Party (Manju) Anwar Hossain Manju. In the second phase she administered oath to the Jatiya Party MPs without its chairman HM Ershad, then MPs of Workers Party of Bangladesh, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal, Bangladesh Nationalist Front and Tarikat Federation took oath and finally the independent lawmakers. 
Jatiya Party chairman HM Ershad did not take oath as he was ‘ill’ and undergoing ‘treatment’ at Combined Military Hospital in Dhaka. Jatiya Party MP Nasim Osman, Awami League MPs Saber Hossain Chowdhury and Nazmul Hasan and JSD lawmaker Mainuddin Khan Badal also did not take oath on the day as they were abroad. 

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Members of parliament-elect of the 10th Jatiya Sangsad take oath of office at the national assembly complex on Thursday after the Election Commission.
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