Bangladesh SC declares illegal amendment allowing religion in politics

February 02, 2010 02:55 pm | Updated 02:55 pm IST - Dhaka

Bangladesh’s Supreme Court on Tuesday declared as illegal a Constitutional amendment that had allowed religion-based political parities to flourish in the country, paving the way for the government to ban such groups.

The Supreme Court’s order came on two writ petitions challenging an earlier High Court verdict that had declared the 1979 Fifth Amendment to the Constitution as illegal.

A six-member bench of the apex court’s Appellate Division headed by Chief Justice Md Tafazzul Islam upheld the High Court verdict after six days of hearing on the two leave-to-appeal petitions filed by opposition BNP Secretary General Khondker Delwar Hossain and three lawyers from its key ally Jamaat-e-Islami.

The amendment declared illegal had also legitimised the governments that came to power following the coup of August 15, 1975 in which Bangladesh’s founder president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman along with most of his family members was killed.

The then deputy army chief general Ziaur Rahman had subsequently emerged as the strongman of Bangladesh and ascended to presidency, floating the BNP as a political party.

His regime had also scrapped an earlier Constitutional ban on religion-based politics through the Fifth Amendment.

The August 2005 High Court judgement had also rendered illegal the regimes of Khandaker Moshtaque Ahmed, Abu Sadaat Mohammad Sayem along side that of Ziaur Rahman between August 15, 1975 and April 9, 1979.

Law Minister Shafique Ahmed had recently said the government was awaiting the apex court verdict to take a decision on banning religion-based political parties.

The Fifth Amendment was carried out during late president Ziaur Rahman’s BNP government in 1979 that had allowed the religion-based political parties and added the Arabic ‘Bismillah-ar-Rahman-ar-Rahim’ or in the name of God, the most merciful, benevolent in the preamble of the Constitution.

Ahmed, however, said the words ‘Bismillahir-ar-Rahman-ar Rahim’ would remain intact in the preamble.

The original Constitution of 1972 had embodied four fundamental principles of nationalism, socialism, democracy, and secularism.

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