The Constitution of Bangladesh legitimized the quota system for public service, but it did not make the provision obligatory. The system can be scrapped through an administrative order.
So, the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s announcement for cancelling the quota system for government jobs will not contradict the constitution.
These comments were made by several lawyers while discussing the issue with the correspondent.
However, a few other lawyers believe that the constitution would need to be amended to legalize the cancellation of the quota system.
They also pointed out that the sudden cancellation of quotas will violate the fundamental rights of disadvantaged groups that had been depending on it.
‘No more quotas’
On April 11, reacting to students’ movement for quota reform, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the parliament said: “So much unrest centring the quota issue. There will be no more quotas from now on.
“Candidates will have to compete with each other for government jobs.”
Addressing the demand for quota reform, Sheikh Hasina added: “As long as quota system remains, the reform issue will exist too. Even if we reform the existing system, another group could raise objections in the future.
“It will only lead to more suffering among the people. Quota system will continue to create unrest, so we will get rid of it. This is my final decision.”
Stating his opinion over the issue, President of Democratic Lawyers’ Association of Bangladesh, Subrata Chowdhury said: “The prime minister’s decision will not be enough. The constitution needs to be amended for cancelling quota system.”
Meanwhile, BNP Standing Committee Member Barrister Moudud Ahmed said: “There are no constitutional obligations to continue the quota system, and it can be cancelled through an administrative order.
“A decision in this regard has already been taken in a recent cabinet meeting.”
Responding to a query, lawyer Monjil Morshed said: “The constitution has provisions for ensuring special support for helping disadvantaged communities in our society, and the quota system was introduced as part of that initiative.
“However, the existing quota system has issues. Allocation of quotas for freedom fighters was a special recognition, and cancelling it entirely would not be a logical move.”
Will there be legal ramifications?
Senior Secretary of Ministry of Public Administration Dr Md Mozammel Haque Khan has revealed that a gazette notification on the cancellation of quota system will be issued as soon as the prime minister gives the order.
Lawyer Subrata Chowdhury however said: “There is no option of issuing a gazette. The constitution must be amended first.”
However, former law minister Barrister Shafique Ahmed stated: “The quota system was introduced through an administrative order. This is not a constitutional obligation.
“The constitution does not have any provisions making the quota system obligatory. It clearly dictates what type of laws can be formulated in Bangladesh and what is unconstitutional.”
The article 28(4) of the constitution states: “Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making special provision in favour of women or children or for the advancement of any backward section of citizens.”
A faction of lawyers firmly believes that the quota system was legitimized by the constitution, but it was never meant to be obligatory.
When asked about whether the decision to cancel the quota system would contradict the basic structure of the constitution, Lawyer Monjil Morshed opined: “No, the move does not fall under the constitution’s basic structure.
“But, cancellation of quotas will violate the fundamental rights of disadvantaged groups that were being supported by this system.”
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, following her announcement of quota cancellation, further stated: “We will make special arrangements for providing employment opportunities to small ethnic communities and disabled citizens.”
Giving his opinion on that statement, Subrata Chowdhury said: “The constitution has special provisions for supporting small ethnic groups.
“The prime minister spoke about special arrangement for small ethnic groups and the disabled citizens. But, what about the women?”
Adding that the recent movement was for reforming the quota system, Subrata said: “There are no special quota provisions for freedom fighters in the constitution. But following the movement, decision was taken to cancel all quotas.
“We will have to wait and see the government’s next move regarding this issue.”
Commenting on the matter, Law Minister Anisul Huq said: “Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has made an announcement about the quota system, and the cabinet secretary will work on implementing it.
“I will provide legal counsel to the secretary if he seeks it. However, I will not make any comments on the matter.”
This article was first published on banglatribune.com