State of emergency maximum 120 days
The just-passed 15th amendment to the constitution restricts state of emergency to a maximum of 120 days since its proclamation.
It also curtails parliament's authority to lengthen the period.
Before the amendment was passed on Thursday, the president could proclaim a state of emergency without specifying any time frame.
Parliament could decide within 120 days of proclamation if the emergency period would be stretched further.
Then there was ample scope to extend emergency if the proclamation was made in absence of parliament or parliament got dissolved during the 120 days. In that case, the next parliament would decide within 30 days since its first sitting about continuation of emergency. If the House opted not to extend the period, emergency would cease to operate after expiry of the 30 days.
Thursday's amendment does away with that authority of parliament.
The amended provision says if the state of emergency is not revoked by a subsequent proclamation by the president, it shall cease to be in force after 120 days.
If the government wants to continue emergency beyond 120 days, it will have to proclaim it afresh.
The latest changes to the charter's emergency provision were brought in line with the recommendations of the parliamentary special committee on constitutional amendment. The special committee made the recommendations in light of the experience during the state of emergency in the past.
The original constitution of 1972 did not provide for proclamation of emergency.
The second amendment to the constitution in 1973 empowered the president to proclaim a state of emergency in a part of the country or in the whole country.
The emergency provision says, “If the president is satisfied that a grave emergency exists in which the security or economic life of Bangladesh is threatened by war or external aggression or internal disturbance, he may issue a proclamation of emergency.”
With the introduction of the emergency provision in the constitution, the government also gained the power to suspend the operation of some fundamental rights including freedom of movement, freedom of association, freedom of thought and conscience and of speech, freedom of professions or occupation, and rights to property.
During emergency period, none is allowed to file any case with the court challenging the validity of emergency and suspension of fundamental rights.
Soon after the second amendment, the then president Mohammad Mohammadullah issued a proclamation of emergency in December 1974, and suspended many fundamental rights of citizens, on advice of the then prime minister Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The emergency was lifted five years later in November 1979.
On January 11, 2007, the then president Iajuddin Ahmed declared a state of emergency amid a growing political turmoil over holding of general election.
His proclamation came around 16 years after restoration of democracy in 1991.
To declare emergency, Iajuddin did not require the prior counter signature of the prime minister, since a caretaker government was ruling at that time.
After the 13th amendment to the constitution in 1996, the provision for the prime minister's counter signature was not required during the caretaker government rule.
Backed by the military, a new caretaker government was installed after the declaration of emergency.
The state of emergency continued for around two years before being lifted ahead of the December 29 parliamentary election.
During the eventful emergency period, many politicians including Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia, and businessmen were detained on charges of corruption.