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UPDATE: The Legal System of the Peoples’ Republic of Bangladesh Update by Md. Ershadul Karim

UPDATE: The Legal System of the Peoples’ Republic of Bangladesh Update by Md. Ershadul Karim

UPDATE: The Legal System of the Peoples’ Republic of Bangladesh
Update by Md. Ershadul Karim

Dr. Md. Ershadul Karim is a Senior Lecture at the Faculty of Law, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and a non-practicing lawyer enrolled with Bangladesh Supreme Court.

Published July/August 2018

(Previously updated by Omar Sial & Md. Ershadul Karim in June 2010; by Md. Ershadul Karim in April 2013 and in May 2016)

See the Archive Version!

Table of Contents

  1. Background
  2. Location and Geography
  3. Constitution
  4. Constitutional Status of Islamic Law
  5. Government
  6. Parliament – the House of the Nation, the Jatiya Sangsad
  7. Law Making Process
  8. Legal System of Bangladesh
  9. Codification of Laws
  10. Bangladesh Gazette
  11. Judicial System
    11.1. The Supreme Court of Bangladesh
    11.2. The Subordinate Courts and Tribunals
    11.2.1. Civil Courts
    11.2.2. Criminal Courts
  12. Bangladesh Judicial Service Commission
  13. Law Reports
  14. Legal Profession in Bangladesh
  15. Bangladesh Law Commission
  16. Arbitration Law in Bangladesh
  17. Intellectual Property Law
  18. Legal Education
  19. Legal Research
  20. Law Libraries
  21. Other Related Important Websites
  22. Business Guides
  23. Background

Bangladesh is officially known as the Peoples’ Republic of Bangladesh [Article 1, the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, 1972]. Being a part of ancient Indian subcontinent, the history of Bangladesh is as old as the history of both India until 1947 and Pakistan until 1947. Bangladesh became independent on March 26, 1971 under the name Bangladesh, meaning the country of Bengali nation. Bangladesh seceded from Pakistan on December 16, 1971, when Pakistani troops in East Pakistan surrendered to a joint command of Bangladesh and India. The historic speech containing the Declaration of Independence on March 7, 1971 by the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman has recently been listed as Documentary heritage by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

Though Bangla, the national language in Bangladesh, is the seventh most common language with speakers from some Indian states, the citizens of independent Bangladesh, known as Bangladeshis, are very proud of their Bangla language. When the present Bangladesh was part of Pakistan (East Pakistan), the rulers based in the then-West Pakistan (present Pakistan) declared Urdu as the only state language. Mass people protested the decision and on February 21, 1952, some students sacrificed their lives and hundreds were injured to establish Bangla as the state language. Since then, the day has been being celebrated as ‘Language Martyrs’ Day’. Thus, Bangla is the only language in the world for which people sacrificed their lives. To represent the event, the UNESCO has been observing February 21 every year since 2000 as the International Mother Language Day.

Three sites, i.e. the historic Mosque in the City of Bagerhat, ruins of the Buddhist Vihara at Paharpur and the Sundarbans, largest ever mangrove forest in the world are listed in the UNESCO World Heritage list. Five other sites, i.e. Mahansthangarh and its Environs, Lalmai-Mainamati Group of monuments, Lalbagh Fort, Halud Vihara, Jaggadala Vihara are included in the Tentative List developed by the same organization.

Bangladesh is the second largest Islamic state with 151 million of people. The country is now recognized as a model for the world because of its number of achievements nationally and internationally. It is the second largest exporter of the readymade garments in the world after China, the second largest jute producer after India, fourth largest inland freshwater fish producer, with 3.7 million tonnes of vegetables in a year it is third fastest vegetable producer after China and India and eighth largest producer of mango in the world. United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organisation expected Bangladesh to be the world’s fourth largest rice producer in 2017. The country is becoming a major player in pharmaceutical sector with 20% growth and exports medicines to 100 countries because of patent exemption requirements till 2032. It is the second most favourite country in supplying online workers.

From being the largest least developed country in terms of population and economic size, the country is in the right direction to attain the status of developing country because of her remarkable progress in poverty reduction and human development even with daunting challenges. The country, after successfully meeting several targets of Millennium Development Goals e.g. reduction of poverty gap ratio, attainment of gender parity at primary and secondary education, and reduction of mortality rate of below five years age, etc., has committed to implement the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.

The government functions and activities are run by 58 ministries and divisions along with 353 departments. There are four levels in the local government administration and the country is divided into eight divisions and sixty-four districts, 491 upazillas, and 4558 union parishard.

For Bangladesh National Portal, visit here [Bangla, English].

  1. Location and Geography

Bangladesh lies in the northeastern part of the Indian subcontinent – which is located in southern Asia. With more than 700 rivers including tributaries, Bangladesh is known as the land of rivers and had some of the most confusing territories on the planet. Bangladesh is almost completely surrounded by India, except for a short frontier with Myanmar in the southeast and a coastline along the Bay of Bengal in the south. Bangladesh, with 95 to 119 enclaves (known as Chitmahals) inside India, had the second largest numbers of enclaves in the world after India. Until August 1, 2015 when Bangladesh and India formally exchanged 162 enclaves, this situation was portrayed as the ‘world’s craziest border’ or ‘the weirdest border dispute in the world’.

Read an article on Bangladesh and India enclave exchange at the Migration Policy Institute.

The country consists mainly of the deltaic plains of the Ganges and Brahamaputra rivers and a portion of the hill country bordering Myanmar. The 120km beach in Cox’s Bazar located in the southern part of the country on the Bay of Bengal is the longest unbroken stretch sea beach in the world. Bangladesh has an area of 55, 598 square miles (143, 998 sq. km). It is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Dhaka, with a history of more than four hundred years as the capital of the then-Bengal, is the national capital and the largest city.

  1. Constitution

The Constitution of Bangladesh was adopted on November 4, 1972 and has undergone sixteen amendments to date. Originally the Constitution provided for a parliamentary form of government. However, the Constitution was thoroughly amended by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution in 1975 and a Presidential form of government was introduced. Major changes were further introduced in the Constitution by the Fifth, Seventh and Eighth amendments; and the Twelfth amendment to the Constitution brought back the original Parliamentary form of government. However, very recently, the Supreme Court declared the Fifth and Seventh Amendment to the Constitution illegal and as inspired by the order of the Supreme Court, the Parliament of Bangladesh, through the Constitution (Fifteenth Amendment) Act, 2011 (Act XIV of 2011), revised the whole Constitution significantly.

Women’s rights and the principles of gender equality come under the Fundamental Principles of State Policy and are protected by Article 10 i.e. participation of women in national life as well as under Articles 26 to 29 of the Part on Fundamental Rights, affirming equality of all citizens before the law. Rights of minority groups have been protected by Article 41, which reiterates that religions may be practiced in peace and harmony (subject to law, public order and morality).

Constitution of Bangladesh 1972
First Handwritten Ornamented Constitution of Bangladesh 1972
Article on the Constitutional Amendments (up to fifteenth amendment) in Banglapedia, National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh
Historic judgment on the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of Bangladesh
Historic judgment on the Seventh Amendment to the Constitution of Bangladesh
Historic judgment on the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution of Bangladesh
4. Constitutional Status of Islamic Law

Recently amended Article 2A to the Constitution of Bangladesh, 1972 provides that the state religion of the Republic is Islam, but the State shall ensure equal status and equal right in the practice of the Hindu, Buddhist, Christian and other religions. While the Government generally respects this provision in practice, religion exerts a powerful influence on politics, and the Government is sensitive to the Muslim consciousness of its political allies and the majority of its citizens. Citizens generally are free to practice the religion of their choice; however, police are normally ineffective in upholding law and order and are often slow to assist members of religious minorities who have been victims of crimes. Although the Government states that acts of violence against members of religious minority groups are politically or economically motivated and cannot be solely attributed to religion, human rights activists reported an increase in religiously motivated violence.

  1. Government

The President, while the Head of State (article 48(2), the Bangladesh Constitution, 1972), holds largely a ceremonial post to appoint the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice (articles 56 and 95, the Bangladesh Constitution, 1972); the real power is held by the Prime Minister, who is the Head of Government. The President is elected by the legislature (Members of Parliament) for 5 years (Articles 48(1) and 50, the Bangladesh Constitution, 1972). The President’s circumscribed powers were substantially expanded during the tenure of a Caretaker Government, which is now repealed by the provisions of the Constitution (Fifteenth Amendment) Act, 2011 (Act XIV of 2011). Under the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which the Parliament passed in March 1996, a Caretaker Government assumed power temporarily to oversee general elections after dissolution of the Parliament. In the Caretaker Government, the President had control over the Ministry of Defense, the authority to declare a state of emergency, and the power to dismiss the Chief Adviser and other members of the Caretaker Government. Once national election was held and a new government and Parliament were in place, the President’s powers and position revert to their largely ceremonial role.

Read the article on Caretaker Government in Banglapedia, National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh.

Read the Appellate Division Judgement declaring the Constitution (Thirteenth Amendment) Act, 1996 (Act 1 of 1996) void [a large portion of the text is in Bangla].

The Prime Minister is appointed by the President (Articles 48 (3) and 56(3), the Constitution of Bangladesh, 1972). The Prime Minister must be a Member of Parliament (MP) whom the President feels has the confidence of the majority of other MPs (Article 56 (3), the Bangladesh Constitution, 1972). The Cabinet is composed of Ministers selected by the Prime Minister and appointed by the President. At least 90% of the Ministers must be MPs. The other 10% may be non-MP experts, or “technocrats”, who are not otherwise disqualified from being elected MPs. According to the Constitution, the president can dissolve the Parliament upon the written request of the Prime Minister (Article 57 (2), the Bangladesh Constitution, 1972).

Find more information about the President of Bangladesh. Find more information about the Prime Minister’s Office.

  1. Parliament – the House of the Nation, the Jatiya Sangsad

The legislature is a unicameral, 300-seat body. All its members are elected by universal suffrage at least every five years. Parliament amended the Constitution in 2011, making a provision for adding 50 seats reserved for women and to be distributed among political parties in proportion to their numerical strength in Parliament (Article 65(3), the Constitution of Bangladesh, 1972).

All citizens of Bangladesh of and above the age of 18 and of sound mind, resident of a constituency and not convicted of any offence under the Bangladesh Collaborates (Special Tribunal) Order, 1972, who have registered themselves as voters (Article 122, the Constitution of Bangladesh, 1972), form the electorate. Each constituency elects one Member of Parliament on the basis of direct election. All citizens of Bangladesh who have attained the age of 25 is qualified to be elected in the Parliament. Those disqualified include the insane, un-discharged bankrupts, persons who on conviction for a criminal offence involving moral turpitude who have been sentenced to imprisonment for not less than two years unless five years have elapsed since their release, persons owing allegiance to a foreign state, and persons holding an office of profit in the service of the Republic (Article 66 (2), the Constitution of Bangladesh, 1972).

A general election for a new Parliament takes place on the same day in all constituencies. Depending on the size of a constituency and its total number of voters, a number of polling centres are set up with arrangements for voters to exercise their franchise freely, peacefully and in secrecy. Polling officials in each centre – in the presence of candidates or their nominees – count votes. The result is sent to the Returning Officer in sealed covers together with ballot papers. The Returning Officer, generally the Deputy Commissioner of the district, communicates the result of each constituency to the Election Commission after he has compiled the results in the presence of the candidates or their authorised representatives. Unofficial results start being announced in various media from the evening of the Election Day. The Election Commission declares the result of the general election formally a few days later through the publication of the names of winning candidates in the official Bangladesh Gazette. Members-elect are administered an oath of office by the outgoing Speaker.

The Parliament of Bangladesh runs its business according to the Rules of Procedure. The Rules of Procedure contains detailed provisions as to Summoning, Prorogation and Dissolution of Parliament and Seating, Oath and Roll of Members, Election of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker and nomination of a Panel of Chairmen, Powers and functions of the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker, Sittings of the House, Arrangement of Business and Orders of the Day, President’s Address and Messages to and from the House, Questions and Short Notice Questions, Motion for adjournment on a matter of public importance, Discussion on matters of urgent public importance for short duration, Calling attention to matters of urgent public importance, Legislation, Amendment of the Constitution, Petitions, Procedure in Financial Matters, and all other issues necessary in order to run the business of the Parliament.

For more detail on the Parliament of Bangladesh, visit the Parliament’s website.

For more details on the Election Commission of Bangladesh (in Bangla), visit the Commission’s website.

For more detail on election related important laws (in Bangla), visit the Bangladesh Election Commission website.

  1. Law Making Process

Article 80 of the Bangladesh Constitution, 1972 provides that every proposal in the Parliament for making a law shall be made in the form of a Bill and When a Bill is passed by the Parliament it shall be presented to the President for assent. The Parliament can make any law which is not inconsistent with the Constitution since any law inconsistent with the Constitution, to the extent of inconsistency, is void (Article 7(2), the Constitution of Bangladesh, 1972).

See the Legislative Process in Bangladesh Parliament. Read the Bangladesh Secretariat Instructions, 2014 [in Bangla].

  1. Legal System of Bangladesh

As a English common law country, Bangladesh’s Supreme Court has the power not only to interpret the Constitution (articles 103(2) (a) and 110, the Constitution of Bangladesh, 1972) and the laws made by the Parliament, but it can also declare them null and void when they are found inconsistent with any of the provisions of the Constitution and enforce fundamental rights of the citizens (articles 7 (2) and 44, the Constitution of Bangladesh, 1972). Although founded on the English common law system, the laws of Bangladesh take a statutory form, which are enacted by the legislature and interpreted by the Supreme Court.

The word ‘law’ is defined in Article 152 of the Bangladesh Constitution, 1972. It says that “law” means any Act, ordinance, order, rule, regulation, byelaw, notification or other legal instrument, and any custom or usage, having the force of law in Bangladesh. Under this definition, the Act of Parliament, the Ordinance and President’s Orders are treated as primary legislation, whereas rules and regulations are considered as secondary legislation. It may be relevant to mention here that seven Regulations which were enacted during the British time by the Governor-General in Council by virtue of the Regulating Act, 1773 were considered as primary legislation and were included in the Bangladesh Code. Bangladesh Law Commission commissioned studies and published two reports, report no. 109 and 116, regarding the historical background and status of these Regulations.

Besides, article 111 of the Constitution of Bangladesh, 1972 provides that the law declared by the Appellate Division shall be binding on the High Court Division and the law declared by either division of the Supreme Court shall be binding on all courts subordinate to it. Therefore, the statutory laws, secondary legislation and judgment laws or precedent along with customs and usage all form the sources of law in Bangladesh.

  1. Codification of Laws

There are strong legal obligations for the codification, translation and publication of existing Bangladeshi laws. Section 6 of the Bangladesh Laws (Revision and Declaration) Act, 1973 (Act no. VIII of 1973), provides that, “all Acts of Parliament, Ordinances and President’s Order in force in Bangladesh shall be printed in chronological order under the name and style of Bangladesh Code.”

The emergence of Bangladesh as an independent, sovereign country called for necessary amendments, adaptations and the repeal of certain laws as well as the enactment of new laws and translation of laws into Bangla version to meet the changed and changing political, social and economic needs of the new country. Commensurate with this requirement, the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs started examining the existing laws for adaptation, codification and publication for said purposes. Accordingly, Bangladesh Code, Volumes I-XI were published containing the laws enacted between 1836 to 1938. But due to the lack of proper leadership, manpower, and sound organizational support, the process had proceeded no further. As a result, laws enacted after 1938 were kept scattered and unattended to, which used to create unbearable suffering to all people having interest in Bangladesh laws including lawyers, judges, students of laws, journalist and so on. Fortunately, during the political government led by BNP (2001-2007), with the support of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs started the codification of Bangladesh Code, which saw the light of the day during the Caretaker Government led by Dr. Fokruddin Ahmed. This is undoubtedly a milestone in the legal history of Bangladesh. The oldest and the shortest (with only one section and without any preamble or long title) law as applicable in Bangladesh is the Districts Act, 1836. However, as of today, no effective steps have been taken to compile the existing rules, regulations, by-laws, notifications, statutory orders, etc. in a single place like the Bangladesh Code.

Pertinent to mention here that though Bangla is the State language of Bangladesh (article 3, the Constitution of Bangladesh, 1972), even after the independence in 1971 till 1987 all laws were enacted in English and hence most of the educated people who are non-familiar with the technical legal terms remain ignorant of the provisions of law, let alone the position of illiterate people. In 1987, by the enactment of the Bangla Bhasha Procholon Ain, 1987 (Act No. 2 of 1987) [The Introduction of Bangla Language Act, 1987], it was provided that, from now on, all laws shall be enacted in Bangla. As a result, from then on, all laws have been enacted in Bangla with some exceptions where English authoritative translations of few laws are also made by the Drafting Wing of the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs. The list of some of these laws includes, inter alia, the Trade Mark Act, 2009, the Right to Information Act, 2009, the Money Laundering Prevention Act, 2012, etc. Similarly, some of the laws which were originally enacted in English were subsequently translated in Bangla. The list of some of these laws includes, the Mines Act, 1923, the Administrative Tribunal Act, 1980, etc. Later on, the Government, with the help of United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has started, under its Access to Justice Project, the translation of the laws in Bangladesh Code. Once this Project is successfully completed all laws of the land shall be bi-lingual and can be available in both Bangla and English.

For more details, see, the Bangladesh Code.

  1. Bangladesh Gazette

Bangladesh Government Press widely known as BG Press is the lying-in house of Government Publications and for classified materials like Reports, Budget, Bills, Acts, Ordinances, Rules, Regulations, Statutory Orders, Resolutions, leaflets, Posters, etc. Synchronizing with the geo-political change and rearrangements those came on the map of this area BG Press has got its present infrastructure, manpower, technology back-up and product range. A good number of Presses established in different parts of British India including the East Bengal Government Press at Alipur, Calcutta (now Kolkata). During the partition of British India as an independent Government print-house of State it was temporarily shifted in the previous Central Jail, (Nazimuddin Road), Dhaka. It came in operation by 1948 with a few mounds of lead type-metal and two worm-out printing machines. Then in 1953 it was again shifted and permanently established at the present venue. By the year 1956 it was introduced as East Pakistan Government Press (EPGP) and then the manpower strength was 1400. After the emergence of Bangladesh as an independent country in 1971, the EPGP was renamed as Bangladesh Government Press (BG Press).

Details can be found at BG Press.

The Heidelberg Bangladesh Law Translation Project: This site contains the English translation of laws enacted in Bangla between 1985-1995. Although, the effort made should be welcomed, the translation of laws under this Project should not be considered as a proper legal translation, rather from the reading of the laws it appears that the translation of laws were either generated using computer software or done by people without sufficient knowledge on legal translation and legal drafting.

  1. Judicial System

The Judiciary of Bangladesh consists of a Supreme Court, Subordinate Courts and Tribunals established under the provisions of different statutes.

11.1. The Supreme Court of Bangladesh

The Supreme Court of Bangladesh is comprised of the Appellate Division and the High Court Division. It is the apex Court of the country; other Courts and Tribunals are subordinate to it. The Supreme Court has the jurisdiction to interpret the Constitution and other laws of the land and it is the guardian of the Constitution. The Constitution provides for detailed provisions as to the appointment, tenure, powers and functions of the judges of the Supreme Court.

The Appellate Division, the highest Court of Appeal, has the jurisdiction to hear and determine appeals from judgments, decrees, orders or sentences of the High Court Division, review its own judgments and orders. It has rule making power for regulating the practice and procedure of each Division and of any Court subordinate to it (Article 103, the Constitution of Bangladesh, 1972). Under article 106 of the Constitution, 1972, the Appellate Division, with the request of the President, has the power to give its opinion on a serious question of law having public importance.

The High Court Division has both appellate as well as original jurisdiction. It hears appeals from orders, decrees, and judgments of subordinate Courts and Tribunals. It has original jurisdiction to enforce the fundamental rights of the citizens upon Writ Applications under articles 44 and 102 of the Constitution. It has further original jurisdiction, inter alia, in respect to company and admiralty matters arising out of various statutes. The High Court Division, in special circumstances, also has powers and jurisdiction to hear and dispose of cases under article 110 of the Constitution and has control over all Courts and Tribunals subordinate to it. The Supreme Court is also a Court of Record and can try contempt cases (article 108, the Constitution of Bangladesh, 1972). Visit the Supreme Court website for more information.

Find more details on History of Supreme Court of Bangladesh. Read more on the Rules of the Supreme Court.

11.2. The Subordinate Courts and Tribunals

There is a wide variety of subordinate Courts and tribunals created by various statutes. The powers, functions and jurisdictions of these Courts and tribunals are also determined by respective statutes. The major bulk of the cases, both Civil and Criminal, are tried and heard in such Courts and tribunals. Apart from civil and criminal courts, there are also administrative tribunals.

For more information, visit the website of Subordinate Courts of Bangladesh (in Bangla), here.

11.2.1. Civil Courts

The Civil Courts are created under the Civil Courts Act of 1887 (Act XII of 1887). According to section 3 of the Civil Courts Act, 1887, there are following classes of Civil Courts, namely:

Court of the District Judge;
Court of the Additional District Judge;
Court of the Joint District Judge;
Court of the Senior Assistant Judge; and
Court of the Assistant Judge.
The three latter Courts are of first instance with powers, functions and jurisdictions in respect to subject matter, territory and pecuniary value determined by or under statutes. The remaining two are generally subordinate courts of Appeal in Civil matters. However, the Court of District Judge functions, to very limited extent, as a Court of first instance.

11.2.2. Criminal Courts

The criminal court within the subordinate judiciary are established under section 6 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 (V of 1898), which stipulates that there shall be the following categories of criminal courts:

Courts of Sessions; and
Courts of Magistrates.
Section 6 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898, further says that there shall be two classes of Magistrate, namely:

Judicial Magistrate, and
Executive Magistrate.
The Judicial Magistrates are classified into four categories, namely:

Chief Metropolitan Magistrate in Metropolitan Area and Chief judicial Magistrate to other areas;
Magistrate of the first class, who shall in Metropolitan Area, be known as Metropolitan Magistrate;
Magistrate of the second class; and
Magistrate of the third class.
Pertinent to mention here that the word “Chief Metropolitan Magistrate” and “Chief judicial Magistrate” shall include “Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate” and “Additional Chief judicial Magistrate” respectively.

Among Executive Magistrates, there appear two Magistrates who are to be appointed by the Government as:

District Magistrate,
Additional District Magistrate.
Beside these criminal courts, the Government can appoint a person to work as a Special Magistrate to deal with cases situate generally in any local area outside a Metropolitan area. (Section 12 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898).

For details on the jurisdiction of various courts, please the Judicial Portal.

There are many other specialized courts and tribunals, which are established under the provisions of different statutes. For example, Environment Courts are established under the Environment Court Act, 2010, Acid Crime Tribunals are established under the Acid Crime Control Act, 2002, Labour courts are established under the Bangladesh Labour Act, 2006, Nari-O-Shishu Nirjatan Daman Tribunals established under the Nari-O-Shishu Nirjatan Daman Ain, 2000, and village courts to be established under the Village Court Act, 2006, etc.

  1. Bangladesh Judicial Service Commission

There is a Judicial Service Commission, officially known as the Bangladesh Judicial Service Commission (BJSC), was structured under the provisions of the Bangladesh Judicial Service Commission Rules, 2007. The BJSC is primarily responsible to assess the suitability of persons for appointments at the entry level of the Bangladesh Judicial Service and to conduct periodical examinations for probationer Assistant Judges/Judicial Magistrates.

For more information on the Bangladesh Judicial Service Commission, please visit their website.

The Judicial Administration Training Institute (JATI) was created by the Judicial Administration Training Institute Act, 1995, which provides for the establishment of a training institute, a statutory public authority in nature, to work as focal point for training of members of judicial service and certain other professional connected with the judicial system.

For more information on the Judicial Administration Training Institute (JATI), please visit their website.

  1. Law Reports

Being a common law country, the Constitution of Bangladesh provides that the law declared by the Appellate Division shall be binding on the High Court Division and the law declared by either division of the Supreme Court shall be binding on all courts subordinate to it (Article 111 of the Bangladesh Constitution, 1972). The Supreme Court declares the law by way of judgment, order and decisions, etc. These judgments, order and decisions are reported in different law reports. Therefore, these law reports play an important role in the study of law, legal research, and legal practices, etc.

In Bangladesh, the law reports are published according to the provisions of the Law Reports Act, 1875. There are at least seven printed law reports now in Bangladesh, the most popular one is the Dhaka Law Reports (popularly known as DLR) which started its publication in 1948. Bangladesh Legal Decisions (BLD) is published under the authority of the Bangladesh Bar Council. The other law reports are Bangladesh Law Chronicles (BLC), Law Guardian (LG), the Lawyers (Appellate Division Cases/ ADC), Bangladesh Law Times (BLT), and the Mainstream Law Reports (MLR). Even after the establishment of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh in 1972, a law report was published for a few years under its supervision. But that did not continue for long. These Law Reports basically contain the judgments, orders and decisions of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh with some legal articles and statutes. It should be noted that some of the judgments delivered by the Appellate Division and High Court Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh are available in the website of the Supreme Court.

Some Judgements delivered by the Appellate Division can be found on their website.

Some Judgements delivered by the High Court Division can be found on their website.

Supreme Court Online Bulletin (SCOB) is an online law report published by the Supreme Court of Bangladesh compiling important judgments from the Appellate Division and High Court Division.

From 2008, Chancery Research and Consultants Trust (CRC-Trust), a socio-legal consulting group has been maintaining the first Bangladesh Online Case Law Database, the Chancery Law Chronicles in its website. Exciting features of the website include judgments of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, legal dictionary (both judicial and legislative), glossary, explanation of Latin terms and phrases, abbreviations, directory of various categories of government organizations, Law Journal, blog, delegated legislation, newly enacted Laws, policies of the Government of Bangladesh, various official and legal forms, etc.

  1. Legal Profession in Bangladesh:

Bangladesh Bar Council, a statutory autonomous body constituted under the Bangladesh Legal Practitioners and Bar Council Order, 1972 (President’s Order No. 46 of 1972) is the central body to regulate different activities of legal profession including enrolment, professional misconduct etc. The Council is headed by the Attorney-General of Bangladesh and run by a Committee of fifteen members.

For details, please visit the Bangladesh Bar Council’s website.

After passing out successfully in the enrolment examination conducted by the Bangladesh Bar Council, a candidate shall be known as advocate but needs to enroll himself/herself in one of the District Bar Associations of his choice to practice as a lawyer. There is a District Bar Association in every administrative district of the country. An association of lawyers in the Supreme Court is known as Bangladesh Supreme Court Bar Association.

The Attorney General of Bangladesh and other members from his team (Additional Attorney Generals, Deputy Attorney Generals and Assistant Attorney Generals), as appointed under the Bangladesh Law Officers Order, 1972 represent the government in the Supreme Court. The office of Public Prosecutor and Government Pleaders represent the government in the subordinate courts. The Solicitor’s Office takes care of and monitors litigations by or against the government in different courts of the country including Supreme Court.

  1. Bangladesh Law Commission

The law of the land in a dynamic society requires that it be constantly reviewed by an authority, which is manned by persons possessing an adequate and thorough knowledge of law and the society in which it operates. Reflecting this, different countries at different times felt the need to establish a law reform agency; Law Commissions have been set up to fulfill this need. In 1996, by the enactment of the Law Commission Act, the Law Commission in Bangladesh started its journey.

For more information, visit the Law Commission of Bangladesh, visit the Law Commission of Bangladesh’s website. Access Bangladesh Law Commission reports.

  1. Arbitration Law in Bangladesh

Bangladesh has repealed both the Arbitration (Protocol and Convention) Act of 1937 and the Arbitration Act of 1940, and has enacted a new arbitration law, “The Arbitration Act, 2001”. The Act is principally based on the UNCITRAL Model Law in International Commercial Arbitration (1985). The new arbitration law consolidates the domestic and international arbitration regime in Bangladesh.

The Act provides that an arbitral tribunal may rule on its own jurisdiction, unless otherwise agreed by the parties in terms of the following questions: (a) whether there is a valid arbitration agreement; (b) whether the arbitral tribunal is properly constituted; (c) whether the arbitration agreement is against public policy; (d) whether the arbitration agreement is capable of being performed, and (e) what matters have been submitted to arbitration in accordance with the arbitration agreement.

Chapter VI of the Arbitration Act, 2001, entitled “Conduct of the Proceedings,” provides in Article 24 that the arbitral tribunal shall not be bound by the Code of Civil Procedure and the Evidence Act of Bangladesh, and that the arbitral tribunal shall follow the procedure to be agreed on by the parties. In terms of setting aside arbitration awards, Chapter VIII of the Act, entitled “Recourse against arbitral awards” is similar to Chapter VII, Article 34 of the UNCITRAL Model Rules. It also provides that Bangladesh courts may set aside awards if they are satisfied that (i) the subject matter of the dispute is not capable of settlement by the arbitration under the law for the time being in force in Bangladesh; (ii) if the arbitral award is prima facie opposed to the law for the time being in force in Bangladesh; (iii) the arbitral award is in conflict with the public policy of Bangladesh or (iv) the arbitral award is induced or affected by fraud or corruption.

The Bangladesh International Arbitration Centre, the first international arbitration institution of the country, is registered as a not-for-profit organization and commenced operations in April 2011 under a license from the Government and with the sponsorship of three prominent business Chambers of Bangladesh, namely, International Chamber of Commerce-Bangladesh (ICC-B), Dhaka Chamber of Commerce & Industry (DCCI) and Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce & Industry (MCCI), Dhaka.

For more about the Bangladesh International Arbitration Centre, visit here.

Read the Report of the Law Commission of Bangladesh on the Arbitration Act, 2001, here.

  1. Intellectual Property Law

By integrating former “Patent Office” and “Trademarks Registry Office” the Department of Patents, Designs & Trademarks (DPDT) was created in 2003 under the Ministry of Industries of the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh to protect industrial property. Relevant laws are:

The Patents and Designs Act 1911
The Patents and Designs Rules, 1933
The Trademarks Act, 2009 [amended in 2015] [English version].
The Trademark Rules, 2015 [in Bangla]
The Geographical Indication of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 2013 [English version]
The Geographical Indication of Goods (Registration and Protection) Rules, 2015 [in Bangla]
Patent-related relevant forms are available. The law being so old, the Law Commission of Bangladesh submitted a Report to update the Law in 2001. Unfortunately, nothing has happened so far.

Design-related relevant forms are available.
Trademark-related relevant forms are available.
Geographical Indication-relevant forms are available.
The Copyright Office of Bangladesh is an affiliated body under the Ministry of Cultural Affairs. hRelevant laws and application processes are available. Copyright registration flowchart is available [in Bangla].

  1. Legal Education

At present, a good number of public universities in Bangladesh offer law degrees at both undergraduate and graduate levels. The list of these public universities include: University of Dhaka, University of Rajshahi, University of Chittagong, Islamic University, Kushtia, Jagannath University, Dhaka, Jahangirnagar University, Dhaka and National University, Gazipur. All public universities except National University offer 4-year LLB (Hons.) Degree at the undergraduate level. National University offers 2-year LLB (Pass) Degree at graduate level through its different affiliated private law colleges (around 70) all over Bangladesh.

In the graduate level, 1-year Master program, i.e. LLM, both general and specialized, is being offered by all the public universities except Jahangirnagar University, Dhaka that has very recently opened Department of Law & Justice under the Faculty of Law. Evening LLM Program (1 year and 2 years) is being offered by the only public university in Bangladesh i.e. University of Rajshahi.

Besides, around 30 private universities offer 4 years LL.B. (Hons) and 1 or 2 years LL.M. program.

  1. Legal Research

The following website(s) on Bangladeshi Laws may be of help to a legal researcher:

Chancery Law Chronicles: Comprehensive, searchable database of Bangladesh Laws and more than 8000 Judgments of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh as available now in the website. It reports judgments of the Appellate and High Court Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, legal dictionary (both judicial and legislative), delegated legislation, newly enacted Laws, policies of the Government of Bangladesh, various official and legal forms, etc.
Asian LII: Provides sources of information on Bangladesh courts, case law, government, indigenous law, infrastructure, ADR, etc.
Bangladesh Journal of Law: Published by Bangladesh Institute of Law and International Affairs (BILIA).
Library of Congress entry on Bangladesh Laws.
Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs): Copies of BITs between Bangladesh and thirty other countries.
20. Law Libraries

The following are the popular law book suppliers in Bangladesh:

Aligarh Library, Govt. New Market, Dhaka
Book Syndicate, Govt. New Market, Dhaka
Anupam Gyan Bhandar, 156, Bangabandhu Stadium, Dhaka
The University Press Limited, 61, Motijheel C/A, Dhaka-1000
Mallik Brothers, 42, Banglabazar, Dhaka-1100
Khoshroj Kitab Mohol, 15, Banglabazar, Dhaka-1100
The following are contact details for the law reporters in Bangladesh:

Dhaka Law Report, 264, Malibagh, Dhaka-1217, Bangladesh, Phone- 880-2-8312503; 880-2-9356928; 880-01711-688860.
Bangladesh Legal Decisions, Secretary, Bangladesh Bar Council, Dhaka-1000, Phone- 880-2-9567056; 880-2-9569807; 880-2-9569809; Fax- 880-2-9554959, E-mail: barcon@bdmail.net
The Lawyers (ADC), 228, Green Road, Dhaka-1205. Phone- 880-2-9145695; 880-2-9136508; 880-2-9144027; 880-1711-455999.
Mainstream Law Reports, 4/B, Mayakanon, Shabujbag, Dhaka-1214, Bangladesh, Phone- 880-2-7273474; 880-1552-363284
Bangladesh Law Chronicles, 204, Shantibagh, Dhaka-1217, Bangladesh, Phone- 880-2-9353649; 880-2-8322271; 880-1711-688860.
Bangladesh Law Times, 24/1, Segunbagicha, at present 9, Circuit House Road, Dhaka-1000, Bangladesh.
Law Guardian, Suite 512A, 11, Purana Paltan, Dhaka-1000, Bangladesh, Phone- 880-2-9570782, 880-1712-203339.
21. Other Related Important Websites

General sites:

National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh: Banglapedia is the national encyclopedia of Bangladesh developed by the Asiatic Society of Bangladesh with the generous support of more than 1200 scholars.
National Web Portal of Bangladesh: This site contains information on Bangladesh, its constitution and various government ministries.
Forms of Bangladesh: This website was developed to help the citizens of Bangladesh to find out frequently used government forms in a digital format.
Different Government Ministries and Departments: There are more than thirty-five ministries in Bangladesh and some of these ministries are divided into Divisions. Under these ministries there are also many departments. The main roles and functions of these Ministries are distributed according to the Allocation of Business among the Different Ministries and Divisions.

Prime Minister’s Office: The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) is the office of the head of the government of Bangladesh.
Parliament of Secretariat: This website has information on the Constitution, Bill and Legislation and parliamentary procedures.
Cabinet Division: The functions of the Cabinet Division include: secretarial work for the cabinet and its committees; custody of papers and documents of the cabinet and committees and their decisions; review of progress and implementation of cabinet and committee decisions; remuneration and privileges of the president prime minister and other ministers; immunity of the president; administration of oath of the president and resignation of the president; rules of business and allocation of business among the ministries and divisions; Toshakana; flag rules, national anthem rules and national emblem rules; appointment and resignation of the Prime Minister, ministers, ministers of state and deputy ministers and administration of their oath.
Ministry of Public Administration: The Ministry of Public Administration is primarily responsible for management of public administration. It provides necessary assistance and support to all concerned on administrative matters.
Ministry of Finance: The Ministry of Finance has three divisions – The Finance Division; The Internal Resources Division (IRD); The Economic Relations Division (ERD). Each division is headed by a secretary to the government.
National Board of Revenue of Bangladesh: The National Board of Revenue (NBR) is the central authority for tax administration in Bangladesh. Administratively, it is under the Internal Resources Division (IRD) of the Ministry of Finance (MoF). Secretary, IRD is the ex-officio Chairman of NBR. NBR is responsible for the formulation and continuous re-appraisal of tax-policies and tax-laws in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh Bank: The site of Bangladesh Bank, the Central Bank of the country, contains information on management, the Bangladesh Bank Library, economic data, and major economic indicators, including:
Monthly updates
Exchange rates
International reserves
Balance of payments
Bank credit
Bank deposits
Money supply
Monetary survey
National income aggregates
Foreign trades
Export receipts
Import payments
Non-resident investment
Tax exemptions
Foreign exchange guidelines
Money laundering risks
Prudential regulations for banks
Procurement regulation
Guidelines for merger/amalgamation of banks/financial institution
Guidelines/notifications
Ministry of Law and Justice: This website has information on the courts of Bangladesh and certain judicial offices. The website also contains the Bangladesh Code, which is the single authoritative source of all primary laws i.e. Acts, Orders and Ordinances from the year 1836 to till date.
National Legal Aid Services Organization: Provision of legal aid by way of advice, financial assistance or defending is constitutional obligation of the government of Bangladesh and to this end, the government has enacted the Legal Aid Services Act 2000. National Legal Aid Services Organization (NLASO) was also established at national level and 64 District Legal Aid Committees (DLAC) were created through which NLASO implements the government legal aid program at the district level. See National Legal Aid Services Organization for more information.
Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development: This website contains laws related to local government in Bangladesh.
Divisional City Corporations of Bangladesh: There are eight divisional city corporations in Bangladesh in Dhaka, Chittagong, Rajshahi, Khulna, Barishal, Sylhet and Rangpur. In Dhaka Metropolitan City, there are two City corporations- north and south:
Dhaka South City Corporation.
Dhaka North City Corporation.
Chittagong City Corporation.
Rajshahi City Corporation.
Khulna City Corporation.
Barishal City Corporation.
Ministry of Agriculture: This website has information on issues related to agriculture. The site also has a link on agriculture related laws.
Ministry of Information: The Ministry of Information has a functional setup comprised of twelve departments under its aegis. All these departments have different sets of laws available in the respective sites. These departments are:
Bangladesh Betar [Bangladesh Radio]
Bangladesh Television
Directorate of Mass Communication
Department of Films and Publication
Bangladesh Film Archive
Press Information Department
Press Institute of Bangladesh
Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha
Bangladesh Press Council
Bangladesh Film Censor Board
National Institute of Mass Communication
Bangladesh Film Development Corporation
In addition, there are six Press Wings in six important cities of the world within Bangladesh Mission in those cities including:
Washington
New York
London
Islamabad
New Delhi
Kolkata
Ministry of Shipping: Apart from texts of important shipping-related circulars and various organizations under the supervision and control of the Ministry of Shipping, this website also has information on:
Ports
Light houses and light ships
Navigation and shipping
Mercantile marine, admiralty jurisdiction and offences committed on high seas
Inland water transport and shipping, marine services and elimination of danger of shipping
Inland waterways
Administration of mechanically propelled vessels and the rules made there under
Engineer and ship surveyors and register of inland shipping
Marine shipping and navigation, provision of education and training for mercantile marine
Organization and maintenance of mainland, island and inter-island shipping services
Co-ordination activities relating to this Ministry and research
Legislation relating to shipping and navigation
Liaison with international organizations and matters relating to treaties and agreements with other countries and world bodies relating to subjects allotted to this Ministry
All laws on subjects allotted to this Ministry
Inquiries and statistics on any of the subjects allotted to this Ministry
Fees in respect of any of the subjects allotted to this Ministry except fees taken in court.
Chittagong Port Authority: The Chittagong Port is the principal seaport of Bangladesh handling about 92% of import-export trade of the country. As such, its importance in the national economy is paramount. The Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) is a basic services provider. Its objective focuses mainly on providing necessary services and facilities to the port users efficiently and effective at competitive price.
Mongla Port Authority: Mongla Port is the second seaport situated in southwestern part of Bangladesh, at the confluence of the River Passur and Mongla, about 131 Km. upstream from the Bay of Bengal. The port is well protected by the natural mangrove forest of Sunderbans, which was declared as world heritage by United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. Basically the entire western part of Bangladesh is its hinterland and neighboring countries like Nepal, Bhutan and border areas of India are also considered as natural hinterland of Mongla Port.
Ministry of Environment & Forest: The Ministry of Environment & Forests is the nodal agency in the administrative structure of the Central Government, for the planning, promotion, co-ordination and overseeing of the implementation of environmental and forestry programs. This Ministry oversees all environmental matters in the country and is a permanent member of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council. The texts of environmental laws are available.
Department of Environment: The website of the Department of Environment contains initiatives taken by the government relating to environment, including banning of polythene shopping bags, decision on brickfields, hill cutting, vehicular emission, status of multilateral environmental treaties where Bangladesh is a party.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Amongst others things, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs contains information on the fundamental foreign policy of Bangladesh.
Ministry of Food: To access the food related laws as applicable in Bangladesh, visit the Ministry of Food website here.
Ministry of Commerce: The Ministry of Commerce is mainly entrusted with the responsibility of dealing with all trade and commerce related activities in Bangladesh. Relevant laws on trade, policies for import and export, and WTO related issues can be found on its website. Some other relevant organizations are as follows:
Export Promotion Bureau
Bangladesh Tariff Commission
Bangladesh Tea Board
Registrar of Joint Stock Companies and Firms
Institute of Cost and Management Accounts of Bangladesh
Institute of Chartered Accounts of Bangladesh
Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) Office of Chief Controller of Imports and Exports (CCI&E)
Securities and Exchange Commission, Bangladesh: The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) was established on 8 June 1993 under the Securities and Exchange Commission Act, 1993. The Chairman and Members of the Commission are appointed by the government and have overall responsibility to administer securities legislation. The Commission is a statutory body and attached to the Ministry of Finance.
Dhaka Stock Exchange: The Dhaka Stock Exchange (DSE) is registered as a Public Limited Company and its activities are regulated by its Articles of Association, rules & regulations and byelaws along with the Securities and Exchange Ordinance, 1969, the Companies Act, 1994 & the Securities & Exchange Commission Act, 1993. This site contains laws in connection with stock exchange of the companies listed with the Dhaka Stock Exchange.
Chittagong Stock Exchange: The Chittagong Stock Exchange received approval from the government of Bangladesh on February 12, 1995 and was incorporated as a limited company on April 1 of the same year.
Ministry of Labor and Employment: The Ministry of Labor & Employment has taken its present shape and status following different changes and developments, which have taken place since the independence of the country. Considering the importance of employment for socio-economic development and poverty alleviation, the former Ministry of Labor & Manpower was renamed as the present Ministry of Labor & Employment in December 2001. Labour and employment related laws, policies and notifications can be found in this website.
Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment: This site contains valuable information on bills, notices and consultations in connection with expatriate workers and the enhancement of overseas employment.
Statutory Public Authorities: Statutory public authorities are those authorities, which are created by the provisions of different laws of the land. Information on these statutory public authorities can be found in the following websites-
Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission: The Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission, established on March 13, 2003 through the Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission Act, 2003, is responsible to enforce fiscal discipline of the energy sector, introduce the performance targets and incentive-based regulation, uniform operational standards and quality of supply, transparency in tariff determination and economic efficiency, etc. See all laws and policy relating to the energy sector of Bangladesh.
Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission: Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) established in 2002 under the Bangladesh Telecommunication Act, 2001 to encourage the orderly development of a telecommunication system that enhances and strengthens the social and economic welfare of Bangladesh; to ensure, in keeping with the prevalent social and economic realities of Bangladesh, access to reliable, reasonably priced and modern telecommunication services and internet-services for the greatest number of people, as far as practicable; to ensure the efficiency of the national telecommunication system and its capability to compete in both the national and International spheres; to prevent and abolish discrimination in providing telecommunication services, to progressively effect reliance on competitive and market oriented system, and in keeping with these objectives, to ensure effective control of the Commission; and to encourage the introduction of new services and to create a favorable atmosphere for the local and foreign investors who intend to invest in the telecommunication sector in Bangladesh. All laws and policies relating to the telecommunication sectors of Bangladesh can be found online.
Election Commission Secretariat: Article 118 of the Constitution provides for the establishment of an Election Commission for Bangladesh, consisting of a chief election commissioner and such number of other election commissioners, if any, as the president may from time to time direct. The appointment of the chief election commissioner and other election commissioners (if any) is made by the president. When the election commission consists of more than one person, the chief election commissioner is to act as its chairman. Under the Constitution, the term of office of any election commissioner is five years from the date on which he enters into office. A person who has held office as chief election commissioner is not eligible for appointment in the service of the Republic.
Bangladesh Public Service Commission Secretariat: The Bangladesh Public Service Commission (PSC) is a quasi-judicial body established under the Constitution of Bangladesh. It works under the provisions of articles 137 to 140 of the Constitution and certain other rules and regulations made by the government from time to time under the Constitution.
Bangladesh National Human Rights Commission: Bangladesh National Human Rights Commission established under the National Human Rights Commission Act, 2009 is responsible for the promotion and protection of human rights in Bangladesh. Details about the activities of the Commission can be found online.
NGO Affairs Bureau (NGOAB): The NGO Affairs Bureau (NGOAB) was established in 1990 through an administrative order of the Government. Its prime objective is to provide one-stop service to the NGOs operating with foreign assistance and registered under the Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Ordinance, 1978. In addition, it facilitates the activities of the NGOs in the country, and ensures their accountability to the state and thereby to the people of the country. Initially, it was located in the President Secretariat’s Public Division and, later on, in the Cabinet Division. In 1991, with the re-introduction of a parliamentary form of government, the NGOAB was placed under the Prime Minister’s Office as a regulatory body overseeing NGOs with the status of a government department. Here are the web links of some of the Human Rights NGOs in Bangladesh:
Ain o Salish Kendra
Bangladesh Institute of Labor Studies
Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust
Bangladesh National Women Lawyer’s Association
Odhikar
22. Business Guides

Doing Business in Bangladesh, World Bank Group
Hauser Global Law School Program, New York University School of Law
40 Washington Square South, New York, New York 10012-1099
Telephone: (212) 998-6691

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Harvey Yan

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