Dhaka: In a far-reaching move, Bangladesh`s Supreme Court has restored `secularism` in the country`s constitution. It has also denounced the declaration of martial law in the past and sought safeguards to end "extra-constitutional adventures".
Responding to the ruling, Bangladesh`s top law officer, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam, said the country would, however, continue to be an Islamic republic. Bangladesh has a 90 percent Muslim population.
"Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim", which is not in the original 1972 constitution, but introduced subsequently by a military-led regime, would be retained, he said Wednesday after the apex court`s 186-page order was made public, The Daily Star reported.
Although the restored portion of the constitution disallows functioning of religion-based parties, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina last week said she had no intention of banning Islamist parties recognised by the Election Commission.
The appellate division of the apex court said: "Preamble and the relevant provisions of the Constitution in respect of secularism, nationalism and socialism, as existed on August 15, 1975, will revive."
The reference to Aug 15, 1975 was to the date when the country`s founding father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was assassinated. After Mujib`s killing, Bangladesh witnessed radical political and constitutional changes introduced by a series of military-led governments.
The apex court`s verdict upheld a 2005 high court ruling that annulled the constitution`s fifth amendment that validated declaration of martial law and changes in the statute book brought about by military rulers.
The court ruling said: "We are putting on record our total disapproval of martial law and suspension of the constitution or any part thereof in any form.
"The perpetrators of such illegalities should also be suitably punished and condemned so that in future no adventurist, no usurper, would dare to defy the people, their constitution, their government, established by them with their consent."
It also said military rule was wrongly justified in the past, and it should not be justified in future on any ground.
"Let us bid farewell to all kinds of extra constitutional adventure forever," it observed.
Media reports Thursday carried comments that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina could face a political problem in acting against former military ruler Gen. (retd) H.M. Ershad, whose Jatiya Party is a key member of the alliance.
The court`s ruling on military takeovers was Thursday hailed by Suranjit Sengupta, lawmaker and co-chair of a parliamentary committee tasked to review the constitution.
"A law should be enacted to ensure punishment. The committee will be considering recommending that the house introduce a law to this effect," Sengupta said as the 15-member committee began its task.