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Lawyers' dress code violates Article 31 of the Constitution of Bangladesh

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27th-May-2017       
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Barrister Tarikul Islam :
The Civil Rules and Orders (CRO) started its journey to regulate the working system of courts in 1918 under the then British colonial rule. Following the independence of India and Pakistan in 1947 and Bangladesh in 1971, the CRO has been amended to adopt and adapt the demands of ever changing times and circumstances. The amendments made our CRO i.e. courts' working system smarter, more brilliant and efficient. Much of the credit of this amendments and developments must go to the Supreme Court of Bangladesh which has responsibility to do it. On this particular occasion, it is to seek one more amendment of Rules Nos. 825 & 826 and Rule 2, Chapter XVIA of Supreme Court of Bangladesh (High Court Division) Rules 1973 to change the existing dress code and introduce a dress code which would be comfortable in Bangladesh with extreme hot weather on the following reasons and circumstances:
The dress code, we are following today in a burning-summer-country like Bangladesh, had been introduced by those who had come from an ice-cold-winter-predominant country, the United Kingdom.
Our predecessors could not afford the power to oppose the dress code when it came in force in 1918 and almost 100 years had been passed away, still we have been carrying on a completely unsuitable and uncomfortable dress code which has been just unbearable and a massive cause of immense suffering for law professionals in our country. Our question is, if we, instead of alien British ruler, made the CRO, had we ever have imagined a dress code which is not suitable in our weather condition with average temperature of fiery 31.7 degree centigrade for minimum 8-month-long-summer country (Bangladesh Meteorological Department (BMD) report). Weather here even takes more furious nature than what it looks under average temperature. Record shows, our summer temperature reached as high as 42.2 degree centigrade last year (2016) which actually turned into a natural disaster and claimed many lives across the country.  So, our prayer for changing present dress code should be considered as extremely compelling as it had been chosen by an alien body on the basis of what they were wearing in a completely alien and freezing weather.
Time has truly come long before to advent a dress code which appropriately suits our summer weather and bears the elegance of distinctiveness of legal profession. By this time, we along with our past generations have suffered a lot by this dress code already. Demand of amendment has thus been very long standing.   
The recent day's weather reaches about 40 degree centigrade in Dhaka. It seems like the touch of flame really but the advocates still need to run with black coat and black gown denying how furious the weather is. In true senses, the existing dress code is just meaningless.
The law of dress code goes against the basic health science too. Any doctor would suggest wearing light and loose cloths in the hot weather of recent days to keep good health and to avoid heat-stroke.
In terms of mental health, nobody should be capable of maintaining a good psychological condition in the present days heat wave with the black coat and gown on. So, by this dress code, any lawyer's physical and psychological state may be put in danger at anytime. The probability of heat-stroke may be increased and which may tragically cut short of a lawyer's life even.
If life is put in danger by any provision of law then it would be the violation of Article 31 of the Constitution of Bangladesh. Article 31 of the Constitution reads as follows: "To enjoy the protection of the law, and to be treated in accordance with law, and only in accordance with law, is the inalienable right of every citizen, wherever he may be, and of every other person for the time being within Bangladesh, and in particular no action detrimental to the life, liberty, body, reputation or property of any person shall be taken except in accordance with law." The High Court Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh interpreted the Article 31 to the effect that right to life includes a right to protection of health and normal longevity (Dr Mohiuddin Farooque v Bangladesh, 48 DLR 438).
It is us who should introduce the law of dress for ourselves which we could not in the first place. However, we can do it now.
The heat wave of the present days gives us the message really strongly that we cannot just continue it any longer. May the authority be considerate enough to bring the appropriate amendment to introduce a comfortable dress code for advocates and judges for Bangladesh so that the dress code may not be playing a role to distress a lawyer's psychological and physical health any more.

(Barrister Tarikul Islam, Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh)

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