Friday, 22 October 2010

Complexity of reprinting Constitution

Mostafa Kamal Majumder

The upper echelon of the national administration is learnt to have been against banning religion-based politics. Ministers have reportedly been asked to assuage leaders of the religion-based parties and, if necessary, talk to them except those of the Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh. Law Minister Barrister Shafique Ahmed on the other hand said last week that his ministry has initiated the process of printing the Constitution as per the verdict of the High Court Division which declared the 5th amendment of the Constitution illegal.

Chief Justice Khairul Haque after taking oath asked for reprinting the Constitution in keeping with the HC decision as modified by the Appellate Division. The Chief Justice observed that after the pronouncement of the Supreme Court verdict, the 1972 constitution has automatically been restored. The statement evoked opposition from leaders of both the ruling Bangladesh Awami League and the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) who asserted that amendment of the Constitution was the domain of Parliament, not the court. If yesterday's reported development within the government is true, then the ministry and law, justice and parliamentary affairs should for now not proceed with printing copies of the Constitution. Because as per the pronouncement of the said verdict if the original Constitution of 1972 is considered to have stood restored, article 12 and the proviso of article 38 that were omitted by the 5th amendment should also be restored. But these articles specifically prohibit religion-based parties and organisations, which will not be consistent with the latest policy line of the government.

Then again there might be a question of who authenticates the Constitution document. The Law Minister has said that the special committee of Parliament on constitutional amendment has decided to send the Constitution to press for reprinting. In such a case there would be the need for revising the document after it has been reprinted. The task of amending the Constitution would thus ultimately go to Parliament.

The policy planners of the government would have little choice if the government decides to go ahead with its latest line of thought of not banning religious politics in the country. Some important functionaries of the government have already said that they would retain 'Bismillah' and the state religion of Islam, and also introduce secularism. These provisions of the Constitution cannot be retained or restored only by relying on the Supreme Court verdict.

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