Highest punishment to state power usurpers | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 01, 2011 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, July 01, 2011

Highest punishment to state power usurpers

The 15th amendment to the constitution passed in parliament yesterday provides for the highest punishment to the usurpers of state power.
The amendment, that also blocks the way for legitimising unconstitutional power grabbing such as military takeovers, comes in the light of the experience of two military regimes since 1975.
During the period, Ziaur Rahman and HM Ershad grabbed state power making the constitution subservient to martial law.
"If any person, by show of force or use of force or by other unconstitutional means abrogates or repeals or suspends the constitution or any of its articles shall be guilty of sedition,” reads the new provision.
Similarly, any efforts to subvert or attempts or conspiracies to subvert the confidence or belief of the citizens will also be considered treason.
"Any person alleged to have committed the offence shall be given the highest punishment prescribed by the existing laws," the provision adds.
According to the Bangladesh penal code, the capital punishment for sedition is death.
Those who will abet or instigate and approve, condone, support or ratify such acts will be held responsible for committing the same crime.
Interestingly, Jatiya Party (JP) chief HM Ershad, who grabbed state power by declaring martial law in 1982, along with his party MPs voted for the amendment. JP is now a key ally of the Awami League-led government.
However, the main opposition BNP, which was founded by another military ruler Ziaur Rahman, has been abstaining from parliament protesting various government actions including its “hasty” move to amend the charter.
The 15th amendment comes following the Supreme Court verdict that declared the fifth amendment illegal.
The verdict recommended handing suitable punishment to the persons who declared martial laws and suspended the constitution.
The country was under military rule for a long time after the killing of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman along with most of his family members on August 15, 1975.
During the first military regime that began on the very day, the constitution was made subservient to the martial law orders and proclamations.
Later, parliament under Ziaur Rahman's rule passed the fifth amendment to ratify all the changes to the charter and all other acts of the military regime.
On March 24, 1982, martial law came for the second time when Ershad suspended the constitution for around four years and ruled the country by issuing martial law orders and proclamations.
He followed Zia to legitimise his regime by bringing the seventh amendment to the charter.
The SC scrapped that amendment too.
Both Zia and Ershad abused the transitional provisions of the constitution to ratify and validate their takeovers.
Through the 15th amendment, the House yesterday blocked that way for ever.
According to the amendment, the transitional period ended with the enactment of the constitution on December 16, 1972. This provision could not be used to legitimise any act done after that date.
Following yesterday's changes, the interim government led by Justice Shahabuddin Ahmed has also lost legality.
Ershad appointed him vice-president before he stepped down as president on December 6, 1990.
Shahabuddin functioned as a president, and a parliamentary election was held under his supervision in February 1991.
The fifth parliament, constituted through the 1991 election which BNP won, through the eleventh amendment the same year ratified his appointment as vice-president and the powers exercised by him.

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