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Constitution of Bangladesh

:
Features, Major Amendments and
Fundamental Rights

A. Introduction :
Constitution of the People's Republic of Bangladesh was adopted by the Constituent
Assembly on 4 November 1972 and came into force on 16 December of the same
year, marking the Victory Day. The Constitution has 153 Articles arranged under
eleven parts and 4 schedules entitled the Republic, Fundamental Principles of State
Policy, Fundamental Rights, the Executive, Prime Minister and the Cabinet, the
Legislature, Legislative and Financial Procedure, Ordinance Making Power, Judiciary,
Elections, Comptroller and Auditor General, Services of Bangladesh, Public Service
Commission, Emergency Provisions, Amendment of the Constitution, and
Miscellaneous.
The Constitution has declared Bangladesh a Republic committed to the principles of
democracy and human rights; rule of law; freedom of movement, assembly and
association; freedom of religion and international peace and harmony. Since 1972, the
Constitution has undergone certain amendments and changes, some by way of
constitutional amendments and some under Martial Law Proclamation Orders. The
form of government has also undergone changes quite a number of times. Bangladesh
began its constitutional journey with an ad hoc constitution under the Proclamation of
Independence Order (10 April 1971) investing the PRESIDENT (of the MUJIBNAGAR
GOVERNMENT) with all executive and legislative authority and the power to appoint a
PRIME MINISTER. This proclamation order was replaced by the Provisional
Constitution of Bangladesh Order, 1972 which declared the members elected to the
National Assembly and Provincial Assemlies of Pakistan in the elections held in
December 1970 and March 1971 as the Constituent Assembly of the Republic. The
Order changed the form of government to a parliamentary system with a cabinet of
ministers headed by the Prime Minister.
The Constitution was fundamentally amended in January 1975. Under the
Constitution (Fourth Amendment) Bill 1975, the parliamentary system was abandoned
and a one-party presidential system introduced. From 15 August 1975 to 9 April 1979,
there were several rounds of martial laws interspersed with civil governments. The
governments, civil or military, during the period had neither abrogated the
constitution nor observed it fully. Every regime ruled partly by decrees, partly by
constitution. All the constitutional anomalies were regularised and confirmed under

the PROCLAMATION OF INDEPENDENCE on 10 April 1971 with retrospective effect from 26th March. shall be exercised by the Prime Minister and his/her cabinet shall be collectively responsible to the Jatiya Sangsad. The multi-party presidental form of government had continued down to 1991 when the Constitution was again amended in favour of a parliamentary system of government. The subsequent Martial Law Proclamation. Martial Law Reugulations and Ordinances were confirmed and ratified by the Constitution (Seventh Amendment) Act. Chief Martial Law Administrator's Orders.the Constitution (Fifth Amendment) Act. holds dignity and grace. and the President the constitutional head. constituted themselves into a Constituent Assembly and formed a Government of Bangladesh-inexile with a view to legalising the War of Independence. the President has the power to appoint the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice. not power. Martial Law Regualtions. the Prime Minister became the executive head. Theoretically. like the crown of Britain. (Sirajul Islam) B. according to the twelfth amendment. is collectively responsible to the President. 1979. The Proclamation served as the Provisional 2 . The President. But such power is formal than actual. The executive power of the Republic. They adopted a legal instrument. The last and constitutionally very significant amendment to the constitution is the Constitution (Thirteenth Amendment) Act. Under this amendment all Proclamations. 1986. Under the Constitution (Twelfth Amendment) Act. However. which is headed by a Chief Advisor. Framing of the Constitution of Bangladesh: Following the Pakistani military crackdown on 25 March 1971. all executive actions of the government shall be expressed to be taken in the name of the President. Martial Law Orders and other laws and tribunals made during the period from 15 August 1975 to 9 April 1979 were ratified and confirmed. The Non-Party Caretaker Government. the elected members of the National Assembly and Provincial Assembly met at Mujibnagar. 1996 which provided for a Non-Party CARETAKER GOVERNMENT which shall work during the period from the date on which the Chief Adviser enters office after Parliament is dissolved till the date on which a new Prime Minister enters upon his or her office. 1991. though the presidency is vested with practically no executive power.

It was made effective from 26 March 1971 in order to ensure continuity in all areas of administration. in exercise of the powers conferred on him by the Proclamation. civil. It provided that all officials of the government. Its main features were: (i) There should be parliamentary democracy in Bangladesh in accordance with the will of the people. On 11 January 1972 President SHEIKH MUJIBUR RAHMAN issued a Provisional Constitution Order. (ii) There should be a cabinet of ministers with the PRIME MINISTER as its head. It provided for a presidential system of government in Bangladesh. he was to exercise all executive. (v) In the event of a vacancy in the 3 . this proclamation remained a significant document both from the historical and constitutional point of view. magistrates and diplomatic representatives within their jurisdictions. issued the Laws Continuance Enforcement Order on 10 April 1971. The presidential form was substituted by the cabinet form of government. This Order changed the nature of government. (vi) There should be a constituent assembly comprising Bangladeshis who had been elected to the seats of the National Assembly and the Provincial Assembly in December 1970 and 17 January 1971. military. The administration of such oath was to be arranged by the district judges. The President was declared the supreme commander of the armed forces. and it continued to remain the fundamental law of the land till the framing of the constitution. legislative and judicial powers of the republic. judicial and diplomatic. The Laws Continuance Enforcement Order The Acting President. The Proclamation of Independence made Bangladesh a sovereign People's Republic. who would take the oath of allegiance to Bangladesh. would continue in their offices on terms and conditions of service so long enjoyed by them. who are not otherwise disqualified by or under any law. He had the power to appoint the prime minister. (iii) The president should act and exercise his functions on the advice of the prime minister. he had the powers to summon and adjourn the constituent assembly and do 'all other things that may be necessary to give to the people of Bangladesh an orderly and just government'. This order legalized and made effective all the existing laws inherited from Pakistan subject to the proclamation. It further declared that Bangladesh would observe and give effect to all duties and obligations that devolved on it as a member of the family of nations under the Charter of the United Nations. All other ministers should be appointed by the President on the advice of the prime minister. (iv) The President should appoint a member of the constituent Assembly the prime minister who commanded the confidence of the majority members of the constituent assembly. This legal document became the fountain of law and authority.Constitution. With the establishment of Bangladesh as a sovereign Republic after the surrender of the Pakistan Army on 16 December 1971.

There should be a HIGH COURT of Bangladesh which would consist of a CHIEF JUSTICE and as many judges as may be appointed from time to time. 1972 on 23 March 1972. On the second day of the sitting a Constitution Drafting Committee of 34 members was formed with Dr. The main contents of the Constitution are: (i) The Preamble The Preamble. One significant point to be noted here is that unlike the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan the Constituent Assembly of Bangladesh was not given any law-making function. The Constitution Bill was introduced in the Assembly on 12 October for consideration. would be the fundamental principles of the Constitution. democracy and secularism that inspired our heroic people to dedicate themselves to. The beginning of the constitution-making process was made when the President issued the Constituent Assembly of Bangladesh Order. The executive till then remained unaccountable to anybody or to any institution whatsoever. a few of them had died and some were disqualified. The Constitution was given effect to from 16 December 1972. and four schedules. socialism. it was solely responsible for making the constitution of the country. the national liberation struggle". 153 Articles divided into 11 parts. The Order defined the Constituent Assembly and its functions in great detail. The law-making power continued to remain vested in the executive. Its first reading began on 19 October and continued till 30 October. The third reading began on 4 November and it was approved with 65 amendments. and the Proclamation of Independence continued to remain as the supreme law till the constitution was put into effect from 16 December 1972. and sacrifice their lives in. 4 . affirmed that the "high ideals of nationalism. Though the total number of members who were elected to the National Assembly and Provincial Assembly was 469. The second reading took place from 31 October to 3 November. The Assembly held its first meeting on 10 April 1972. Kamal Hossain as its chairmen.office of the President at any time prior to the framing of the constitution by the constituent assembly. C. Only 404 took part in the proceedings of the Constituent Assembly. the cabinet should appoint a Bangladeshi citizen as the President. which embodied the collective memories and national aspirations. Main Features of the Constitution of Bangladesh : The Constitution as adopted in 1972 contained a Preamble.

Socialism has been defined as a 'socialist economic system' aiming at ensuring the attainment of a just and egalitarian society. should be applied by the state in the making of laws and should be a guide to the interpretation of the Constitution and other laws of Bangladesh. Democracy has been envisaged as a system in which fundamental human rights. right to life and liberty. emancipation of peasants and workers from all forms of exploitation. Secularism has been defined as the elimination of all forms of communalism. the national emblem. Article 26 of the Constitution has asserted that the state shall not make any law inconsistent with this part.(ii) New Nationhood Part I of the Constitution was the definitive and formal manifestation of a new nationhood. It has declared Bangladesh as a sovereign unitary people's Republic. and any law so made shall to the extent of such inconsistency be void. abuse of religion for political purposes and discrimination on the basis of religion (Article 12). It has defined the four basic principles as mentioned in the Preamble. safeguard against arbitrary arrest and detention. (iv) Fundamental Rights of the Citizens Part III of the Constitution has dealt with the fundamental rights of the citizens. the state language. freedom of assembly. freedom of religion and right to property. free from the exploitation of man by man (Article 10). The right to move the Supreme Court for the enforcement of these rights has also been guaranteed (Article 102). Most of the fundamental rights have been subject to 'reasonable restrictions imposed by law' in the interest of 'the security of the state'. freedom and dignity of persons would be guaranteed and effective participation of the people would be ensured through their elected representatives at all levels of administration (Article II). These include such rights as equality before law. the national flower and the national identity. the right to employment with recreation and leisure and such other facilities to the citizens have been made the national goal. freedom of movement. It has affirmed that 'Bangali' nationalism is rooted in the unity of the people from its identity of language and culture and attainment of independence through the determined struggle in the War of Independence (Article 9). or 'decency' or 'morality'. equal opportunity in public employment or office. education and medical care to all citizens. provision of such basic necessaries of life as food. the national anthem. It has been stated that the principles enunciated in Part II. shelter. though not enforceable in the court. the national flag. 5 . The Fundamental Principles of State Policy are mere pledges without any legal backing. freedom of association. freedom of speech and expression and of the press. clothing. equal protection of law. Moreover. (iii) Fundamental Principles of State Policy Part II of the Constitution has contained a declaration of social and economic goals of the nation in the form of 'Fundamental Principles of State Policy'. It has defined the state territory.

Judiciary) Parts IV. there are another 15 seats reserved for 10 years for women to be elected by the members of the Sangsad. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is appointed by the President and holds office up to the age of 65 years. VIII and IX of the Constitution deal with elections. The Jatiya Sangsad is the supreme law-making body. The Jatiya Sangsad is also the guardian of national finance.(v) Form of Government (Executive. The PRESIDENT has no veto power. A major theme of the Constitution is the supremacy of the unicameral Jatiya Sangsad. "central to its formation. appellate and high court divisions. The form of government as provided for in the Constitution has been parliamentary democracy modelled on the British system. Judicial power has been vested in a judiciary with the Supreme Court at its head. It has been provided that any provision of the constitution can be 6 . central to its life and central to its death". V and VI of the constitution have mainly described the structure of Bangladesh Government. although a bill passed by it requires the assent of the President to be an act. and chairman and members of the BANGLADESH PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION are independent in the exercise of their functions and can be removed 'in the like manner and on the like grounds as a judge of the Supreme Court' (Articles 118. The control and discipline of the employees in the judicial service are vested in the Supreme Court. (vi) Elections. (vii) Amendment of the Constitution Part X of the Constitution is concerned with the amendment process. It consists of 300 members. The Court consists of two divisions. is the chief executive. In addition to this. to be elected from 300 single-member constituencies on the basis of universal adult franchise. in fact. audit and civil services. The head of the state is the President who would be elected by the members of the JATIYA SANGSAD for a term of 5 years and removed only through impeachment by at least two-thirds majority of the members of the Jatiya Sangsad. He would appoint as prime minister a member of the Jatiya Sangsad who appeared to him to command the confidence of members of the Sangsad. The Chief Election Commissioner. Administrative tribunals can also be established by law to deal with matters relating to the terms and conditions of persons in the service of the Republic. Services and Audit Parts VII. The cabinet is the executive arm of the government. 129 and 130). The Prime Minister is the head of the cabinet. In the exercise of his functions. Other judges are appointed by the President in consultation with the Chief Justice. he is the constitutional head. the President is required to act on the advice of the Prime Minister who. Legislature. and no tax can be imposed without its sanction. Like the British King or Queen. COMPTROLLER AND AUDITOR-GENERAL.

Fundamental rights give the citizens dignity of life in an atmosphere of freedom and justice beyond the man-made fetters that had constricted their physical and mental horizons.amended or repealed by an Act of the Jatiya Sangsad passed by not less than twothirds of its members. 141(b) and 141(c) during an emergency arising out of a threat to the country's security or economic life. Article 31 and 32 provide that to enjoy the protection of the law. caste. is the inalienable right of every citizen. race. The first schedule contains a list of the laws that have been kept beyond judicial review. and to be treated in accordance with law. personal liberty. reputation or property of any person shall be taken except in 7 . the second prescribes rules regarding the election of the President. body. Certain rights may. Fundamental Rights Guaranteed in the Constitution : The fundamental rights of the people of Bangladesh have been enshrined in the CONSTITUTION of the country. and the jurisdiction of the HIGH COURT Division of the Supreme Court to enforce the rights is defined in Article 102 of Part Vl of the Constitution of 1972. Modern judiciary is regarded as an excellent product of civilization to put the concept of justice to work in the midst of divergent forces with conflicting class or individual interests. in the third the proforma of oaths to be taken by persons of certain elevated positions has been inserted. sex or place of birth. Such conflicts make it difficult to bring about equilibrium in the society for a peaceful and orderly association of citizens for their common good. and no action detrimental to the life. (Emajuddin Ahamed) D. The fundamental rights in Bangladesh are listed under Articles 27 to 44 of Part III. remain suspended under the provisions of articles 141(a). The fourth one contains provisions for transition to constitutional government. and the State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion. All past laws inconsistent with these rights were made void by the Constitution. however. Articles 27 and 28 of the Constitution provide that all citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law. (viii) Miscellaneous Provisions In Part XI of the Constitution there are some miscellaneous provisions. and it enjoined upon the State not to make any law inconsistent with these rights. An independent judiciary and strong democratic institutions are the best guarantee against assaults on the rights of the citizens.

sex or place of birth. As per Articles 37 and 38 every citizen shall have the right to form associations or unions. Article 36 provides that subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the public interest. and no such person shall be detained in custody beyond the said period without the authority of a magistrate except in the case of any person who for the time being is an enemy alien. nor shall he be denied the right to consult and be defended by a legal practitioner of his choice. friendly 8 . No person shall be subjected to torture or to cruel. to reside and settle in any place therein and to leave and re-enter Bangladesh. caste. that which might have been inflicted under the law in force at the time of the commission of the offence. Nothing in this article shall apply to compulsory labour by persons undergoing lawful punishment for a criminal offence. or required by any law for public purposes. Subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interests of the security of the State.accordance with law. subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interests of morality. Article 35 provides that no person shall be convicted of any offence except for violation of a law in force at the time of the commission of the act charged as an offence. every citizen shall have the right to move freely throughout Bangladesh. and any contravention of this provision shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law. Article 29 provide that there shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in respect of employment or office in the service of the Republic irrespective of religion. to assemble and to participate in public meetings and processions peacefully and without arms. or degrading punishment or treatment. inhuman. race. Freedom of thought and conscience is guaranteed in Article 39 of the Constitution. or different from. Article 34 guarantees that all forms of forced labour are prohibited. or who is arrested or detained under any law providing for preventive detention. Every person accused of criminal offence shall have the right to a speedy and public trial by an independent and impartial court or tribunal established by law. public order or public health. Every person who is arrested and detained in custody shall be produced before the nearest magistrate within a period of twenty four hours of such arrest. nor be subjected to a penalty greater than. Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making special provision in favour of any backward section of citizens for the purpose of securing their adequate representation in the service of the Republic. Article 33 provides that no person who is arrested shall be detained in custody without being informed of the grounds for such arrest.

This act resulted in the (i) amendment of Articles 26. nationalised or requisitioned save by authority of law. the nature of the Bangladesh Constitution today is considerably different from the original version. search and seizure.The fourteen CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT Acts and the numerous proclamation orders have been responsible for bringing in profound changes in the character of the Constitution. and no property shall be compulsorily acquired.relations with foreign states. The following is a brief account of these acts and orders. Second Amendment Act The Constitution (Second Amendment) Act 1973 was passed on 22 September 1973. Article 41 provides that every citizen has the right to profess. public order. crimes against humanity or war crimes and other crimes under international law'. and freedom of the press are guaranteed. every citizen shall have the right to enter upon any lawful profession or occupation. Article 40 provides that subject to any restrictions imposed by law. maintain and manage its religious institutions. practice or propagate any religion. It amended Article 47 of the constitution by inserting an additional clause which allowed prosecution and punishment of any person accused of 'genocide. 72 9 . As per Article 42 of the Constitution every citizen shall have the right to acquire. and to the privacy of his correspondence and other means of communication. Constitution of Bangladesh: Major Amendments : The Constitution of the People's Republic of Bangladesh has so far been amended fourteen times. transfer or otherwise dispose of property. and every religious community has the right to establish. decency or morality. defamation or incitement to an offence the right of every citizen to freedom of speech and expression. hold. (Enamul Haq) E. As a result. Article 44 guarantees the right of every citizen to move the High Court Division in accordance with clause (1) of Article 102 for the enforcement of any of the fundamental rights conferred by Part III of the Constitution. or in relation to contempt of court. First Amendment Act The Constitution (First Amendment) Act 1973 was passed on 15 July 1973. 63. and to conduct any lawful trade or business. After Article 47 it inserted a new Article 47A specifying inapplicability of certain fundamental rights in those cases. According to Article 43 every citizen shall have the right to be secured in his home against entry.

substitutions and omissions made in the constitution during the period between 15 August 1975 and 9 April 1979 (both days inclusive) by any Proclamation or Proclamation Order of the Martial Law Authorities had been validly made and would not be called in question in or before any court or tribunal or authority on any ground whatsoever. Fourth Amendment Act The Constitution (Fourth Amendment) Act 1975 was passed on 25 January 1975. 70. (vi) made special provisions relating to the office of the president and its incumbent. Major changes were brought into the constitution by this amendment. 66. additions.and 142 of the constitution. providing among others that all proclamations. the powers of the JATIYA SANGSAD were curtailed. 122. 109. the Judiciary lost much of its independence. 115 and 124 of the constitution. (ii) substituted Articles 44. The presidential form of government was introduced in place of the parliamentary system. Fifth Amendment Act This Amendment Act was passed by the Jatiya Sangsad on 6 April 1979. (vii) inserted a new part. Third Amendment Act The Constitution (Third Amendment) Act 1974 was enacted on 28 November 1974 by bringing in changes in Article 2 of the constitution with a view to giving effect to an agreement between Bangladesh and India in respect of exchange of certain enclaves and fixation of boundary lines between India and Bangladesh . This Act amended the Fourth Schedule to the constitution by adding a new paragraph 18 thereto. modifications. Seventh Amendment Act This Act was passed on 11 November 1986. (iii) amended part III of the constitution out of existence. Chief Martial Law Administrator's Orders. (iv) altered the Third and Fourth Schedule. 119. (ii) substitution of Article 33 and (iii) the insertion of a new part ie IXA in the constitution. a one-party system in place of a multi-party system was introduced. 72. 10 . 67. proclamation orders. which provided that all amendments. Provisions were made through this amendment for the suspension of some fundamental rights of citizens in an emergency. (v) extended the term of the first Jatiya Sangsad. 123. 76. ie part VIA in the constitution and (viii) inserted articles 73A and 116A in the constitution. 88. Sixth Amendment Act The Sixth Amendment Act was enacted by the Jatiya Sangsad with a view to amending Articles 51 and 66 of the 1981 constitution. 102. This Act (i) amended articles 11. it also amended the Fourth Schedule to the constitution by inserting a new paragraph 19 thereto. 141A. the SUPREME COURT was deprived of its jurisdiction over the protection and enforcement of fundamental rights. 98. 74. 95. 116. 80. 117. 147 and 148 of the constitution. It amended Article 96 of the constitution.

Martial Law Instructions. This amendment provided for the direct election of the vice-president. Article 65 of the constitution. but the appointment must be approved by the Jatiya Sangsad. The Act also confirmed and made possible the return of vice-president Shahabuddin Ahmed to his previous position of the Chief Justice of Bangladesh. providing for reservation of thirty seats for the next 10 years in the Jatiya Sangsad exclusively for women members. Tenth Amendment Act The Tenth Amendment Act was enacted on 12 June 1990. all orders made and acts and things done. to be elected by the members of the Sangsad. among others.Martial Law Regulations. This Amendment Act (i) declared ISLAM as the state religion. honours. duly elected under the amended provisions of the constitution. award or decoration from any foreign state by any citizen of Bangladesh without the prior approval of the president. Eighth Amendment Act This Amendment Act was passed on 7 June 1988. Ninth Amendment Act The Constitution (Ninth Amendment) Act 1989 was passed in July 1989. Martial Law Orders. as the vice-president of the Republic and the resignation tendered to him on 6 December 1990 by the then President HUSSAIN M ERSHAD. confirmed and validated all powers exercised. it also provided that a vice-president might be appointed in case of a vacancy. (ii) decentralised the judiciary by setting up six permanent benches of the High Court Division outside Dhaka. it restricted a person in holding the office of the PRESIDENT for two consecutive terms of five years each. ordinances and other laws made during the period between 24 March 1982 and 11 November 1986 (both days inclusive) had been validly made and would not be called in question in or before any court or tribunal or authority on any ground whatsoever. all laws and ordinances promulgated. 30 and 100 of the constitution. Eleventh Amendment Act This Act was passed on 6 August 1991. 3. It may be noted here that the Supreme Court subsequently declared the amendment of Article 100 unconstitutional since it had altered the basic structure of the constitution. Chief Justice of Bangladesh. It amended the Fourth Schedule to the constitution by adding a new paragraph 21 thereto which legalised the appointment and oath of SHAHABUDDIN AHMED. It amended. This Act ratified. and actions and proceedings taken by the vice-president as acting president during the period between 6 December 1990 and the day (9 October 1991) of taking over the office of the president by the new President ABDUR RAHMAN BISWAS. (iv) amended Article 30 of the constitution by prohibiting acceptance of any title. (iii) amended the word 'Bengali' into 'Bangla' and 'Dacca' into 'Dhaka' in Article 5 of the constitution. 11 . It amended Articles 2. 5.

72. Vol. the post of the vice-president was abolished. 119. 70.) Banglapedia. (Emajuddin Ahamed) Fourteenth Amendment Act The Constitution (Fourteenth Amendment) Act 2004 was passed on 16 May 2004. through Article 59 of the constitution this act ensured the participation of the people's representatives in local government bodies. 109. would be collectively responsible to the president and would stand dissolved on the date on which the prime minister entered upon his office after the constitution of the new Sangsad. [Sirajul Islam (Ed. Thirteenth Amendment Act The Constitution (Thirteenth Amendment) Act 1996 was passed on 26 March 1996. Through this amendment the parliamentary form of government was re-introduced in Bangladesh. 116 – 119. The non-party caretaker government. would give all possible aid and assistance to the Election Commission for holding the general election of members of the Jatiya Sangsad peacefully. 60. 106 . the cabinet headed by the prime minister became responsible to the Jatiya Sangsad. 124. acting as an interim government. the president was required to be elected by the members of the Jatiya Sangsad. Vol. 55. It provided for a non-party CARETAKER GOVERNMENT which. Moreover. 56.108. As before they will be elected by the members of the Jatiya Sangsad. the president became the constitutional head of the state. thus stabilising the base of democracy in the country. 141A and 142. the PRIME MINISTER became the executive head. 3: PP. known as the most important landmark in the history of constitutional development in Bangladesh. 58. 4: PP. It amended Articles 48. 287 – 288] 12 . was passed on 6 August 1991.Twelfth Amendment Act This Amendment Act. 57. By it the number of reserved seats for women in the Jatiya Sangsad was increased from 30 to 45 for another 10 years. fairly and impartially. 59. comprising the Chief Adviser and not more than 10 other advisers.