Monday, 07 March 2011
Dhaka, Mar 6: The status of the reprinted Constitution has come under debate as many experts and members of the parliamentary sub-committee on constitutional amendment do not want to accept it as the “amended” version.
Talking to The Independent, they made it clear that they consider it as a “draft” for amendment. But law minister Shafiq Ahmed is in no way ready to accept their view. “There is no question of treating the reprinted copies of the Constitution as draft copies,” he said.
He added: “Parliament has the authority to amend the Constitution. But since the Supreme Court has made some provisions illegal and issued directions to replace those, we have reprinted the Constitution replacing the sections declared illegal. Now, if someone reads the previous edition, it would be improper because many old provisions have already been declared illegal.”
The minister pointed out that the replacement of constitutional provisions through reprint was nothing new as one of the sections was replaced through this process when the apex court declared a provision of establishing high court benches in divisional cities. “At that time, no one objected. But why is there such a hue and cry now?” he asked.
But former foreign minister and Jatiya Party lawmaker Anisul Islam Chowdhury has an answer to the question. “Definitely that move was wrong and no one opposed it. But does it allow us to repeat another mistake. That time, no such sub-committee was formed and the issue went unnoticed unlike the present one,” he said.
Article 142 (1) (a) says “notwithstanding anything contained in this Constitution - any provision thereof may be amended by way of addition, alteration, substitution or repeal by Act of Parliament.” The reprint is definitely a draft and none should consider it as an amended Constitution because only Parliament has the sole authority to change it, he added.
Referring to the argument that the Supreme Court judgment should be incorporated in the Constitution, he said there was no denial of the fact that the apex court verdict should be complied. But the process to amend the Constitution in line with the court judgment must be handled by Parliament.
“During the interim period to resolve any constitutional dispute, the apex court judgment should be treated as law,” he added.
Former law minister Abdul Matin Khosru is of the same view. “My opinion is that these reprints are draft. We are scrutinizing them for amendment through Parliament,” he said.
When asked about the issue of limited prints, the law minister said there were a number of anomalies in the reprinted version after replacing the illegal portion in line with the apex court order.
“Suppose an article included through the 5th amendment [declared illegal by the Supreme Court] says that any treaty with a foreign country should be ratified by Parliament. But a sub-article was added with that particular article by another amendment which was not declared illegal by the Supreme Court. We have omitted the illegal part but can’t remove the sub-article. That is why we have sent the copies to the parliamentary sub-committee to remove the anomalies,” he said. Chowdhury also cautioned about the danger of considering reprinted version as the amended one.
He said, “It will create a disastrous precedence as an extra-constitutional ruler may get a verdict in favour of his rule and claim to be a legal ruler after replacing the court judgment through reprint arguing that the Constitution was amended.” Chowdhury reminded that the provision to get the Constitution amended only through Parliament also acts as a safeguard for democracy. “Since getting majority support for amending the Constitution in one’s favour is very difficult, many feel discouraged to make any move,” he said.