Some elements somewhere are advising the government to go along the way of autocracy without any regard to the truth that our people are for democracy and Bangladesh was ..." /> Logo
09th-Oct-2016

Violation of the Constitution is derogatory, criticism of violation not

By MAINUL HOSEIN

Some elements somewhere are advising the government to go along the way of autocracy without any regard to the truth that our people are for democracy and Bangladesh was founded on their faith in democracy. Criticism is the essence of democratic accountability. Our constitutional obligation is to defend the Constitution by ensuring its compliance. Honour of the Constitution lies in obeying it, not in what others say.

The new law passed for foreign funded NGOs making derogatory remarks concerning the Constitution a criminal offence will invite controversy about its need and motive. Many will find passing such a law as unwarranted for protecting the Constitution and the constitutional bodies.

We hope the government is not thinking of protecting the violators of the Constitution who are holding constitutional positions. The constitutional bodies are protected for obeying the Constitution itself. This does not mean those who hold the constitutional positions have to be protected for violating the Constitution.

The people's Constitution is the people's property and the government is not the protector of the Constitution. The government's obligation is to obey the Constitution and be criticised and condemned for violation, if any, of the people's Constitution.

In the first place the law itself is objectionable as a concept and a weakness for the government. A democratic Constitution is a people's Constitution and no one can derogate it by criticising the same. Only its violation is derogatory. In order not to make it derogatory we must preserve the democratic nature of the Constitution most diligently.

In the United States it has been held over the issue of burning the flag that such act will not be derogatory to the Constitution or unconstitutional unless it is found to be in breach of freedom of speech. Controversy still remains if burning of the flag is to be considered desecration of the Constitution.

No Constitution, even one promulgated by the people, can be perfect. So criticism of the Constitution is different from insulting it.

Those who hold constitutional positions it is for them to show how much respectful they are to the Constitution.
The Constitution of an autocrat does not enjoy popular sanctity and because of that he needs special laws for not challenging the legitimacy of his constitutional position. But that does not make him or her a democrat.

What is strange is if derogatory remarks are bad for the NGOs then it cannot be right for others. So the law is also discriminatory and on the face of it unreasonable.

We find wrong emphasis is placed when criticism of the Constitution is discouraged but not violation of the Constitution. As the single chamber parliament, it wants to try the Supreme Court judges which will mean weakening the Supreme Court's role as the guardian of the Constitution. It cannot be constitutional to deny the parliament the opposition. They cannot be called elected representatives in the parliament if the arrangement is to get them as uncontested. Such trends are certainly derogatory and a threat to the people's Constitution.       
We agree with the law-makers for their concern about the use of foreign funds in Bangladesh. The foreign funded NGOs should be subjected to proper scrutiny about transparency in the use of their funds received from abroad. There are allegations that some government servants directly or indirectly benefit from big NGOs. That needs to be looked into also.

What is to be cautioned is that the power becomes slippery when not protected by the institutions of a democratic Constitution.