Monday, 11 April 2011

Confusion everywhere over reprinted version : Which Constitution now in force

Mohammad Ali
Even after reprinting the Constitution over three months ago following a judgment of the Supreme Court, the apex court and the Jatiya Sangsad are still displaying the previous Constitution in their websites, creating a question, 'which constitution is now being adhered to?'

The Constitution was reprinted following a Supreme Court judgments declaring the 5th and the 7th Amendments illegal and a recommendation of Chief Justice ABM Khairul Haque to do so.

The High Court in 2005 delivered a judgment canceling the Fifth Amendment and the Appellate Division of the SC last year upheld the verdict with some modifications and observations.

Chief Justice ABM Khairul Haque, after taking oath as CJ on September 30, 2010 told the law ministry to reprint the Constitution, saying that the articles of the original Constitution had automatically been restored on February 2, 2010, when the SC gave final decision on illegality of the Fifth Amendment.

Then the law ministry reprinted the Constitution in December last year, reviving some articles that were omitted and amended by the Fifth Amendment passed in the Parliament in 1979 as well as inserting some new paragraphs on the declaration of independence, sources said.

Meanwhile, many legal experts and opposition parties criticised the government for including many new things in the reprinted Constitution, violating the judgment and bypassing the Parliament. They said that only Parliament, not the court, could change or amend the Constitution. Chairman of Bangladesh National Human Rights Commission (BNHRC) Professor Dr Mizanur Rahman on February 18 last said that reprinting of the Constitution was misleading as it included contradictory elements.

The reprinted Constitution has simultaneously state religion 'Islam' and fundamental principle of 'secularism', which is against the state religion, he opined. Main opposition leader and former law minister Barrister Moudud Ahmed earlier said that the country is passing through a constitutional vacuum.

Suranjit Sen Gupta, chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on law, justice and parliamentary affairs, repeatedly said that the SC has no right to amend the Constitution. He said that a draft bill for amending the Constitution was being made and would be brought before the Parliament soon.

Leading framer of the Constitution Dr Kamal Hossain parried direct answer to the question as to which version of the Constitution is now effective-- 'the old version' or 'the new one' printed under the directive of the Supreme Court.

Replying to a question, Dr Kamal Hossain said the Supreme Court should clarify the matter. He also said that anybody could file a writ petition with the Supreme Court to get the matter clarified.

Dr Kamal Hossain said, "He does not have any copy of the newly printed Constitution and knows about it nothing more that what has been written in different newspapers." He said that he would write to the law ministry for a copy of the reprinted Constitution.

When contacted, the Registrar of the Supreme Court Md Ashraful Islam on Saturday told The New Nation that they didn't get the copy of the reprinted constitution till now.

Sources in the Law Ministry on Friday said that they don't have available copy of the Constitution to distribute even to sell to public because only a limited number-500 copies-- was printed.

General Secretary of Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) Barrister Badruddoza Badol told The New Nation, "We didn't get any copy of the reportedly reprinted Constitution till now."

"Generally, when the Constitution with amendment is printed, minimum a copy of it is provided to the bas association, bar council and other important places. Now a question is raised that whether the Constitution was reprinted at all and which constitution is effective?" Badol continued.

He recommended that law minister Barrister Shafique Ahmed and chairman of the special parliamentary committee on constitutional amendment Suranjit Sen Gupta should immediately give a brief to the citizens clearing the real situation on the matter.

Sources in the Jatiya Sangsad said that only three copies of the reprinted Constitution were supplied to the Parliament-- one for the Secretary, one for the Speaker and the other for the special parliamentary committee on constitutional amendment.

About displaying the old version of the Constitution in the Sangsad website, the source said, "The new Constitution is not property of Parliament rather it was reprinted by the law ministry. Old version will remain in the website till an amendment to the Constitution is passed in the Parliament."

"After the amendment, the amended constitution will be uploaded in the website," the source said.
The New Nation 

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