Seminar series on contemporary laws
The School of Law of BRAC University organised its very first edition of the Undergraduate Seminar Series entitled 'Law in Contemporary Context' on 7 October 2013. It aimed to conduct a critical study and analysis of some legislations of contemporary relevance and their applications in practice. To my knowledge, in Bangladesh, this seminar is the first of this type exclusively devoted to presentation of research works of undergraduate law students.
The programme's guests included the faculties and students of other law schools of Bangladesh along with BRAC University's own. The inauguration and welcome address for the programme was given by Professor K. Shamsuddin Mahmood, Head, Undergraduate Programme of the School of Law, BRAC University.
Mr. Dhruba Brata Das, a senior student firstly offered a perspective on 'Cyber Law and Freedom of Expression in Bangladesh'. Characteristically, cyber law encompasses legal issues relating to the utilization of communication technology. This freedom particularly comprises the right to communicate through media like print, electronic, audio, and visual sorts. It also encompasses cyberspace activities of the modern world such as e-mail, social networking, chat rooms, and blogging and so on.
Such freedom include rights as are prescribed in Article 39 of the Bangladesh constitution which explicate on freedom of thought and conscience subject to the welfare of the security of the State, decency or morality. The Information and Communication Technology Act, 2006 is the statute to deal with electronic communications. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 8 (2) of the European Convention on Human Rights guarantee these rights as well. Predicaments such as restrictions are of significance since they should be balanced to the definite necessity. Hence, laws may be needed to uphold a margin of appreciation to impose curbs on freedom of expression.
The second presentation was by Mr. Yasir Adnan who provided an introspective view on 'A Critical Legal Analysis of Freedom of Press in Bangladesh'. His presentation focused on the present day practices of freedom of press. General concepts such as the 'right to criticise', 'right to information' and 'right to print matters' are integral to this. It is without doubt that our country's very own Constitution guarantees this freedom subject to reasonable restrictions under Article 39(2). Furthermore, the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights conserves this as well.
An outlook of his presentation included the diverse stages of freedom of press since Bangladesh's sovereignty in 1972 till the more recent contemporaneous events of 2009. There is a strong parallel between law and freedom of press. These are chiefly enshrined in specific legislations such as Information and Communication Technology Act 2006, Official Secrets Act 1923, The Right to Information Act 2009, Code of Criminal Procedure 1898, Penal Code 1860 along with the Special Powers Act 1974.
Certain facets of legal hurdles were also discussed such as the issues pertaining to the Printing Presses and Publications (Declaration and Registration) Act 1973 and the Contempt of Courts Act 1926. For instance, the Contempt of Courts Act does not explicate a definition of 'contempt of court', so it is rather convoluted to identify with what contempt of court really is. Thus, plausible suggestions were shared like provisions of law need to be more lucid and the importance of stakeholders having good intentions as well. Succinct presentation of several reported decisions where the judiciary has stood in the way of curtailment of freedom of press by the executive was a particular strength of the paper.
The third and final presenter was Mr. Md. Zamil S. Khan, a recent graduate from the law school who provided a thorough analysis on the 'The Discretion of Tax Authority in the Light of Administrative Law'. This mainly deals with the application of authority by administrative agencies. The presenter signified that principles of administrative law allow persons to seek judicial review of administrative actions. In terms of discretion, there is a dearth of a hard and fast rule, and it necessitates a tangible exercise of judgment and a contemplation of facts and circumstances. The speaker enlightened with the fact that there are an assortment of types of discretionary authority such as those which may be reviewed including individualizing discretion, executing discretion and policymaking discretion and others that cannot be reviewed in the likes of numinous and unbridled discretion.
The Income Tax Ordinance, 1984 is of key significance. Detailed laws in relation to taxation including annual value of property, fair market value, unexplained investments, house property income, agricultural income and its deductions and computation of capital gains are expounded here.
After wrapping up all the presentations, the floor was open for discussion where students and faculties raised questions regarding the three papers to their respective speakers. As the audience was informed and became familiar with prior and new innovative views on particular sets of laws, the questions were numerous and riveting.
The closing remarks and insights for the seminar was shared by Dr. Shahdeen Malik, Director of the School of Law of BRAC University. The anchors for the seminar were Farhaan Uddin Ahmed and Farzana Shashi, students of BRAC School of Law respectively. This seminar was made possible by the enthusiasm, zeal, and efforts of Assistant Professor Dr. Md. Rizwanul Islam and Ms. Tanjina Sharmin, Lecturer of BRAC School of Law.
The writer is a student of the School of Law, BRAC University.