Saturday, 18 June 2011

Bangladesh High Court questions Islam as state religion

The High Court of Bangladesh on June 8 asked the government to explain why the insertion of Islam as state religion in the constitution was not illegal and unconstitutional. 

The bench of justices A H M Shamsuddin Chowdhury and Gobinda Chandra Tagore on Wednesday also asked why the Eighth Amendment to the constitution, that made Islam the state religion of Bangladesh, should not be annulled.

The amendment made on June 9, 1988 during the tenure of military strongman H M Ershad inserted Article 2A in the constitution which gave Islam the status of state religion. The move touched off furore in

The final hearing on the petition will take place on June 16. Before that, the speaker of parliament and the law secretary have been asked to respond to the rule.

The rule came upon a writ petition filed in 1988 by 15 eminent persons.

They are former Supreme Court judge Kamal Uddin Hossain, National Professor Kabir Chowdhury, Prof Khan Sarwar Murshid, Prof Mosharraf Hossain, retired Maj Gen C R Duttta, Prof Serajul Islam Chowdhury, Badaruddin Umar, journalist and writer Faiz Ahmed, Borhan Uddin Khan Jahangir and Prof Anisuzaman.

Five of the petitioners have died: poet Begum Sufia Kamal, justice Devesh Chandra Bhattacharjee, justice K M Subhan, barrister Syed Istiaque Ahmed and Rabindra Sangeet exponent Kalim Sharafee.

Journalist Faiz Ahmed on Wednesday filed a supplementary affidavit on behalf of the petitioners who are alive.

The court also appointed nine lawyers as amici curiae or friends to the court for advice. They are T H Khan, Kamal Hossain, Rafique-Ul Haque, Amir-ul-Islam, Rokanuddin Mahmud, Yusuf Hossain Humayun, M Zahir, Mahmududl Islam, Fida M Kamal, A S M Mesbahuddin and Abdul Matin Khasru.

Lawyer Subrata Chowdhury argued for the petitioners at the hearing. He told reporters the High Court was decentralised and Islam was made state religion through the Eighth Amendment on June 9, 1988.

"But the decision to decentralise the High Court was declared illegal on a writ petition filed at that time but the issue of state religion issue was left out. We hoped that a political government would decide on the matter. But no-one did it," said Subrata.

"The petitioners decided to move the writ petition on being aggrieved by the special parliamentary committee on constitution review suggesting retaining Islam as the state religion," he added. 

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