HC demands explanation on Islam as ‘state religion’ in B`desh

Last Updated: Wednesday, June 8, 2011 - 21:05

Dhaka: The Bangladesh High Court on Wednesday
demanded an explanation from the government on legal grounds
of keeping Islam as the country`s state religion, amid demands
to restore the secular character of 1972 constitution.

"The High Court today issued rule on the authorities
concerned asking to show cause in eight days why declaration
of Islam as the state religion of the Republic should not be
declared illegal and ultra vires to the Constitution," a court
official said.

The two-member High Court bench comprising judges
Shamsuddin Chowdhury Manik and Gobinda Chandra Tagore also
appointed 11 senior lawyers and jurists as "amici curiae" or
`friends of the court` to place their opinions on the issue.

The order came on a long-pending writ petition by 15
distinguished Bangladeshis filed in 1988 just after the then
government of military ruler turned politician president HM
Ershad incorporated a provision in the constitution declaring
Islam as the state religion under the Eighth Amendment to the
constitution.

The court fixed June 16 for holding hearing on the
issue while parliamentary speaker Abdul Hamid Advocate and the
law secretary were made respondents of the rule.

The writ was moved 23 years after the filing of the
petition as one of the petitioners` journalist Faiz Ahmed took
initiatives to get it heard by submitting a supplementary
affidavit.

The development came five days after the main
grouping of religious minority communities warned of tough
actions against reported government plans to keep Islam as the
state religion as initiatives were underway to amend the
constitution.

"Any suicidal decision by the incumbent Awami
League-led coalition which is imbued with the spirit of 1971
Liberation War will force the religious minority communities
to rethink about their stance," said the Rana Dasgupta of
Hindu Boudhha Christian Oikya Parishad at a press conference.

The statement said country`s nearly 2.5 crore
minority people out of over 15 crore population were "deeply
concerned" as a parliamentary constitution amendment committee
reportedly decided not to touch the constitutional provision.

The Parishad decided to observe the June 9 as the
"Black Day" coinciding with the 23rd anniversary of
introducing Islam as the state religion.

The grouping of the 1971 Liberation War veterans
Sector Commanders Forum last week threatened to enforce a
countrywide general strike and even to go for hunger strike if
the constitution was amended retaining Islam as the state
religion provisions allowing religion-based politics.

The forum, which is headed by planning minister of
the incumbent government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and
liberation wartime deputy commander in chief of the freedom
fighters air vice marshal AK Khandkar demanded that the
constitution should be restored as it was adopted in 1972.

"The government will push the country to the brink
of destruction if it does not settle these issues," Khandkar
said. The original 1972 constitution contained four state
principles with secularism being one of them which was
scrapped during the subsequent rule of army general turned
politician Ziaur Rahman.

PTI



First Published: Wednesday, June 8, 2011 - 21:05

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