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Rastrapati


Rastrapati (President) constitutional head of the People's Republic of Bangladesh. Articles 48-54 of Part IV of the constitution state provisions related to the presidency. The President takes precedence over all other persons, and exercises the powers and performs the duties conferred upon him by the Constitution and by any other law. Furthermore, all executive actions of the government are expressed to be taken in the name of the President. Though theoretically he is above all, but in reality he is a titular executive performing ceremonial functions only, and the real executive power of the state is exercised by the cabinet under the leadership of the prime minister. Except for appointing the Prime Minister in pursuance of the clause (3) of Article 56 of the Constitution the President always act in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister.

Election The system of election of President in Bangladesh underwent modifications from time to time as Bangladesh has experienced both the presidential and parliamentary forms of government since independence. As per the 1972 Constitution, the President was to be elected by members of the jatiya sangsad in a poll by secret ballot as provided for in the second schedule of the Constitution. Later, the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution provided that the President would be elected in accordance with the law by direct election. The system of electing the President was made indirect by the Constitution (12th Amendment) Act 1991 under the parliamentary system. At present, as per Article 48, the President is to be elected by the members of the Sangsad.

According to Article 48(4) of the Constitution, all that is required to be qualified for election as President is that the person shall be 35 years of age; he shall be qualified for election as a member of the Sangsad; and finally he has not been removed from the office of the President by impeachment under the Constitution. The President during his term of office shall not be qualified for election as a member of the Sangsad, and if a member of the Sangsad is elected as President he shall vacate his seat in Sangsad on the day on which he enters upon his office as President. Furthermore, the President shall not hold any office, post or position of profit or emolument or take any part whatsoever in the management or conduct of any company or body having profit or gain as its object.

Article 50 of the Constitution states that the President shall hold office for a term of five years from the date on which he enters upon his office. Even after the expiry of his term, the President shall continue to hold office until his successor enters upon his office. But one shall not hold office as President for more than two terms, whether or not the terms are consecutive. If the President wants to resign from his office before the expiration of his term, he will have to write on his own addressing the Speaker of the Jatiya Sangsad. Article 54 also provides that if a vacancy occurs in the office of the President or if the President is unable to discharge his functions on account of absence etc the Speaker shall discharge those functions until the president resumes office or a new President is elected. In the case of vacancy in the office of President occurring by reason of the expiration of his term of office, an election to fill the vacancy shall be held within the period of ninety to sixty days prior to the date of expiration of the term. But in the case of vacancy in the office of President occurring by reason of the death, resignation or removal of the President, an election to fill the vacancy shall be held within the period of ninety days after the occurrence of the vacancy.

Table  Presidents of Bangladesh.

Name Tenure
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Bangabandhu 17 April 1971-12 January 1972
Syed Nazrul Islam (Acting) 17 April 1971-10 January 1972
Abu Sayeed Choudhury 12 January 1972-24 December 1973
Mohammad Mohammad Ullah 24 December 1973-25 January 1975
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman 25 January 1975-15 August 1975
Khondakar Mostaq Ahmad 15 August 1975-6 November 1975
Abusadat Mohammad Sayem 6 November 1975-21 April 1977
Ziaur Rahman 21 April 1977-30 May 1981
Abdus Sattar 30 May 1981-24 March 1982
AFM Ahsanuddin Chowdhury 27 March 1982-11 December 1983
Hussain Muhammad Ershad 11 December 1983-6 December 1990
Shahabuddin Ahmed (Acting) 6 December 1990-9 October 1991
Abdur Rahman Biswas 9 October 1991-9 October 1996
Shahabuddin Ahmed 9 October 1996-14 November 2001
AQM Badruddoza Chowdhury 14 November 2001-21 June 2002
Jamiruddin Sircar (Acting) 21 June 2002¾6 September 2002
Iajuddin Ahmed 6 September 2002-12 February 2009
M Zillur Rahman 12 February 2009-

Functions President's power and functions stem from two sources, ie, the Constitution and any other law. The generally exercised power of the President can be divided into the following:

Executive power The President is the head of the state and all executive actions of the government are expressed to be taken in the name of the President. The President, by rules, specifies the manner in which orders and other instruments made in his name be attested or authenticated. The President makes rules for the allocation and transaction of business of the government.

The President appoints a member of the Jatiya Sangsad as Prime Minister who appears to him to command the support of the majority of the members of the Sangsad. Besides the Prime Minister, the President appoints other ministers, state ministers and deputy ministers. In accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister, the President also appoints the attorney general of Bangladesh, the Chief Justice, judges of the supreme court, the chief election commissioner and other election commissioners, the Comptroller And Auditor General and the chairman and other members of the Bangladesh Public Service Commission. The President is the supreme commander of the defence services of Bangladesh.

Judicial power the judicial power of the President originates from article 49 of the Constitution. It says that the President shall have power to grant pardons, reprieves and respites and to remit, suspend or commute any sentence passed by any court, tribunal or other authority.

Legislative power In accordance with the written advice of the Prime Minister, the President summons, prorogues and dissolves Jatiya Sangad. The President has right to address the Sangsad and may send message thereto. The President is required to give assent to every bill passed by the Sangsad to make it a law. When Sangsad stands dissolved or is not in session the President may make law by promulgating ordinances, and such ordinances have the same force and validity as an Act of the Sangsad.

Financial power No money bill or any bill that involves expenditure from public money shall be placed before the Sangsad except on the recommendation of the President. No demand for a grant shall be made except on the recommendation of the President. The President has the power to authorise expenditure from the consolidated fund as supplementary or excess grants. If the sangsad in any financial year fails to make any grant the President, upon the advice of the Prime Minister, would have power to draw from the consolidated fund, the necessary funds for a period not exceeding 60 days, stipulated in the annual financial statement for that year.

Miscellaneous powers The President has to perform some other functions like administration of oaths. The oath of the Chief Justice, the Prime Minister, ministers, state ministers, deputy ministers, speaker and deputy speaker are to be administered by the President under the Third Schedule of the Constitution. Likewise, as the head of the state, the President sends and receives ambassadors and other diplomatic representatives. All treaties with foreign countries, annual reports of the public service commission and of the auditor-general are submitted to the President who causes them to be laid before Jatiya' Sangasd.

Immunity Article 51 of the Constitution ensures President's immunity from answering in any court for any thing done or omitted by him in the exercise or purported exercise of functions of his office. The President is not liable to any criminal proceedings during his term of office and no process for his arrest or imprisonment shall be issued from any court.

Removal The President may be removed from his office by the Jatiya Sangsad before the expiry of his term through (a) impeachment and (b) removal on grounds of incapacity.

(a) Impeachment According to Article 52 of the Constitution, the President may be impeached on two grounds: on a charge of violating the Constitution or on a charge of grave misconduct. The impeachment charge against the President must be preferred by a notice of motion signed by a majority members of the Sangsad. The notice must be delivered to the Speaker and must set out the particulars of the charge. The motion shall not be debated earlier than fourteen or later than thirty days after the notice has been delivered to the Speaker. Having received the notice, the Speaker shall forthwith summon the Sangsad if it is not in session. The President shall have the right to appear and to be represented during the consideration of the charge. If after the consideration of the charge a resolution is passed by the Sangsad by the votes of not less than two-thirds of the total members declaring that the charge has been substantiated, the President shall vacate his office on the date on which the resolution is passed.

(b) Removal under Article 53 of the Constitution the President may be removed on the ground of two types of incapacity: physical and mental. A notice of a motion may be given to the effect that the President has been physically or mentally incapable. The notice of motion must be signed by a majority of the members of the Sangsad. The notice must be delivered to the Speaker setting out the particulars of the alleged incapacity. On receipt of the notice the Speaker shall forthwith summon the Sangsad if it is not in session, and shall call for a resolution constituting a medical board.

As soon as the medical board is constituted a copy of the notice thereto shall be transmitted to the President with a request signed by the Speaker that the President submit himself within a period of ten days from the date of the request to an examination by the board. If the President submits himself to an examination by the board, the board shall submit its report within seven days of the examination. If after consideration by Sangsad of the motion, and of the report of the board the motion is passed by votes of not less than two-thirds of the total members of Sangsad, the president shall vacate his office on the date on which the motion is passed. The President shall have the right to appear and to be represented during the consideration of the motion.

Rastrapati's office To assist the President in all respects, there exists a President's office, housed in the official residence of the President i.e, Bangabhaban, which is divided into two divisions, public division and personal division. The public division is entrusted with providing secretarial service to the President in discharge of his constitutional, legal and executive functions as the head of the republic. The Personal division deals with matters like household affairs of the President, arrangements for all ceremonial functions, reception and entertainment of foreign heads of states and foreign dignitaries and other VIPs; security and protection of the person of the President etc. [Mohammad Ehsan]