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March 14, 2004 

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Constitutional law simplified 

Muhammad Zamir

The Constitution of the People's Republic of
Bangladesh with Comments and Case
Justice Latifur Rahman
Mullick Brothers, Dhaka,
February 2004, 256 pages, Price: Tk. 225

A regular presence in the tennis courts and the golf course, the author, a former Chief Justice of Bangladesh and also the Head of the last Non-Party Caretaker Government (2001) has drawn on his judicial experience of many years to present in broad strokes the constitutional developments that have taken place in Bangladesh over the last three decades. The book includes a compilation of the provisions of the Bangladesh Constitution alongwith Article by Article, commentary and relevant caselaws based mostly on decisions by the Supreme Court of the country.

In the course of his effort, Justice Latifur Rahman has particularly recognized the contribution of Judges of the Supreme Court towards the evolution and development of our Constitution through their interpretations. In this regard, he has tried to highlight the important role which the Supreme Court plays in safeguarding liberty and ensuring justice for the common citizen.

In the course of evaluating the judicial progression of constitutional law in Bangladesh, the author has also noted that 'the rule of law and constitutionalism can only grow in a democratic polity, where the Supreme Court possesses the absolute power of judicial review'. One can only observe that such an assertion assumes greater relevance in contemporaneous times where politicisation of the judiciary is affecting the fabric of perceived neutrality and impartiality.

It is important that the author has also referred to the pernicious effects of martial law on constitutional development. Such an arrangement affected us more than once-between August 1975 to November 1979 and then again between March 1982 to November 1986. During these two periods the Supreme Court essentially lost its power of judicial review. Details of this in the book will evoke interest for the reader.

The introductory note also outlines in simple language the thirteen different amendments made of the Bangladesh Constitution since our independence. This chapter will be useful for students of political science as well as law.

The author in the course of his book has tried to follow the organic structure of the Constitution and given his commentary on the various provisions. Bangladesh Supreme Court decisions have been cited to explain the denotations and connotations of the legal provisions. One wishes, that while doing so, Justice Latifur Rahman would have also made comparisons with interpretations of similar provisions by the Supreme Courts of India and Pakistan. That would have enriched the work. Similarly, it might have helped if he had provided more comments with regard to Articles 14 to 20 which deal with important duties of the State to provide for its citizens fundamental necessities with regard to education, public health, equality of opportunity and work as a right and duty. One thinks that the author should not have brushed aside such significant issues as being dependent only on "the economic resources of the State". The author might have also liked to discuss in greater detail the difficult aspects of Part IX a (Emergency Provisions) as contained in the provisions of Articles 141 A, 141 B and 141 C. That would have materially helped serious students.

It would have also benefited readers if an index of cases used in the book was prepared as an Annexure. One hopes that this will be included in the next edition.

In any case, what is important is that a functional presentation has been made of a difficult subject. For this the author deserves thanks.

This work will be popular across the main-stream readership. It will also be less controversial than the author's previous book on his experiences as the Chief of the last Caretaker Government.

Muhammad Zamir is former Secretary and Ambassador.

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