The High Court yesterday rejected the writ petition that challenged the legality of a constitutional provision giving Islam the status of state religion.
Fifteen distinguished citizens under the banner of Sairachar O Samprodaikota Protirodh Committee (Dictatorship and Communalism Resistance Committee) had filed the petition with the HC in 1988.
Yesterday, the HC passed the rejection order on the ground that the petitioners have no jurisdiction to move such a petition, as they are not aggrieved by the provision, Additional Attorney General Murad Reza told The Daily Star.
The HC bench of Justice Naima Haider, Justice Quazi Reza-Ul Hoque and Justice Md Ashraful Kamal also discharged the rule issued earlier over the legality of the provision that gives Islam the status of state religion, he said.
The constitutional provision will remain in force following the HC order, added Murad.
Petitioners' lawyer Subrata Chowdhury told this correspondent that the HC rejected the petition without hearing his arguments on the jurisdiction of his clients.
He said once they receive the full text of the verdict, they would decide whether to appeal against it before the Supreme Court.
Replying to a query, the lawyer said they didn't move the writ petition earlier in the hope that political governments would annul the provision by amending the constitution.
After the filing of the writ petition, the HC on June 11, 2011 issued a rule upon the government to explain why the provision of the eighth amendment to the constitution, which made Islam state religion, should not be declared illegal. It also invited 12 amici curiae (friends of court) to give their opinions.
On June 30 the same year, parliament passed a bill on the 15th amendment to the constitution retaining Islam's status as state religion. The amendment, however, restored secularism as one of the four fundamental principles of the state, which had been omitted by a martial law regime after the bloody changeover in 1975.
Following an application by the writ petitioners, the HC in December 2011 issued a supplementary rule, asking the government to explain why the provision of the 15th amendment to the constitution, which retains Islam's status as state religion, should not be declared illegal.
The government, however, didn't respond to the rule.
The writ petitioners include Begum Sufia Kamal, former chief justice Kemal Uddin Hossain, Khan Sarwar Murshid, Prof Kabir Chowdhury, Prof Mosharraf Hossain, Maj Gen (retd) Chitta Ranjan Datta (Bir Uttam), Prof Serajul Islam Choudhury, Badaruddin Umar, journalist Faiz Ahmed, Dr Borhan Uddin Khan Jahangir, Prof Anisuzzaman, Justice Devesh Chandra Bhattacharjee, Justice KM Sobhan, Syed Istiaq Ahmed and Kalim Sharafi.
Ten of them, including Begum Sufia Kamal and Justice Kemal Uddin Hossain, passed away, said Subrata.
A few months ago, the chief justice assigned the three-member HC bench to hold hearing on the rule, and the petition was included in its hearing list on February 29, he said.
The Jamaat-e-Islami withdrew its countrywide dawn-to-dusk hartal yesterday afternoon after the HC rejected the writ petition.
The party made the announcement around 2:30pm through a press release issued by its acting secretary general Shafiqur Rahman.
The Jamaat, which stood against Bangladesh's liberation in 1971, had called the shutdown protesting “the conspiracy against Islam's status as the state religion in the constitution”.
Though the hartal was in force till the afternoon, it had little impact on public life in the capital and elsewhere, as people were seen going about their business as usual.