Bangladesh's court restores 'secularism' in Constitution
Dhaka: Bangladesh's Supreme Court has restored 'secularism' as one of the basic tenets in the country's 1972 Constitution.
In a 186-page ruling announced on Wednesday, 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 August 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 court observed that the martial law proclamations by "omitting secularism, one of the state policy from the Constitution, destroyed one of the basis of our struggle for freedom and also changed the basic character of the Republic as enshrined in the preamble as well as in the Article 8(1) of the Constitution".
The court ruling was silent on the changes made during the military rule that declared Islam as the state religion.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government, which initiated a review of the Constitution through a parliamentary committee last week, has, however, indicated that Islam would remain the state religion.
The Constitution had originally barred religion-based political parties. But Hasina also told Parliament last week that her government had no intention of banning the Jamaat-e-Islami and a host of Islam-based parties.
Attorney General Mahbubey Alam told The Daily Star newspaper that the words 'Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim' would continue to be in the preamble to the Constitution, as the court did not say anything in that regard.
Khaleda Zia, a former prime minister and the current opposition leader, said she would respond to the Supreme Court ruling later.
In an editorial on Thursday, New Age newspaper said the apex court verdict had placed obstacles in the way of the government to push through the Constitution's review by the parliamentary committee.
It pointed to contradiction in restoration of 'secularism' as a basic principle and working of religion-based parties and said the government could seek a revision of the ruling from a larger bench of the apex court.