12:00 AM, October 05, 2010 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, October 05, 2010

Secularism back

HC says original constitution automatically restored thru' 5th amendment verdict; nobody can be forced to wear burqa, cap, dhuti

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Staff Correspondent

The High Court yesterday ruled that Bangladesh is now a secular state since the original constitution of 1972 has been automatically restored following the Supreme Court judgement on the fifth amendment.
In this secular state, everybody has religious freedom, and therefore no man, woman or child can be forced to wear religious attires like burqa, cap and dhuti, the HC said in a verdict.
But nobody could be prohibited from wearing religious attires if he or she wishes to wear those, it said.
The court also directed the authorities to immediately issue a circular asking all educational institutions not to compel students to wear religious clothes.
A division bench of the HC came up with the judgement after hearing a suo moto rule issued by it on August 22 asking the government to explain why compelling women to wear religious attires should not be declared illegal.
The bench comprised of Justice AHM Shamsuddin Chowdhury Manik and Justice Sheikh Md Zakir Hossain had issued the rule following a report published in a Bangla daily with the headline “Rani Bhabani Mohila College: Burqa Na Porle Ashte Mana” (Students of Rani Bhabani Women's College not wearing veils are barred from entering the campus).
The August 22 report said principal of the college at Natore Mozammel Haque stopped cultural activities and sports at the college, and prohibited students not come to the campus without wearing burqa.
The HC observed that the four state principles including secularism, the main spirit of the Liberation War of the republic, have been re-established since the constitution of 1972 has been restored.
Some military rulers had illegally damaged the constitution of 1972 through martial law regulations, which are not recognised now, the judgement said.
The court directed the government to probe the allegations against the principal and take action.
But he should be kept on suspension during probe, it said.
Earlier, responding to the HC rule, the government had informed the court that it had issued a circular asking the authorities concerned not to compel women students to wear religious attire, and made Mozammel an officer on special duty (OSD).
Mozammel appeared before the HC bench yesterday as per its earlier order.
Secretaries to the ministries of home, education, social welfare and women affairs, and the principal have been made respondents to the court verdict.
SC lawyers Mahbub Shafique and KM Hafizul Alam argued before the court against compulsory wearing of religious attires.
Deputy Attorney General Nazrul Islam Talukder represented the government.

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