UPDATE: The Legal System of the Peoples’ Republic of Bangladesh

By Mohammad Ershadul Karim

Dr. Mohammad Ershadul Karim is a Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Law, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and a non-practicing lawyer enrolled with Bangladesh Supreme Court.

Published November/December 2023

(Previously updated by Omar Sial & Md. Ershadul Karim in June 2010; by Md. Ershadul Karim in April 2013, May 2016, and in July/August 2018)

See the Archive Version!

1. Background

Bangladesh is officially known as the Peoples’ Republic of Bangladesh (Article 1, the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, 1972). Being a part of the ancient Indian subcontinent, the history of Bangladesh is as old as the history of both India until 1947 and Pakistan until 1971. Bangladesh became independent on March 26, 1971, under the name Bangladesh, meaning the “land of Bengal” or “Country of Bengals”. Bangladesh seceded from Pakistan on December 16, 1971, when Pakistani troops in East Pakistan surrendered to a joint command of Bangladesh and India. The historic speech containing the Declaration of Independence on March 7, 1971 by the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman has recently been listed as documentary heritage by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

Though Bangla, the national language in Bangladesh, is the seventh most common language with speakers from some Indian states of West Bengal, Assam and Tripura, the citizens of independent Bangladesh, known as Bangladeshis, are very proud of their Bangla language. When the present Bangladesh was part of Pakistan (East Pakistan), the rulers based in the then-West Pakistan (present Pakistan) declared Urdu as the only state language. Masses of people protested the decision and on February 21, 1952, some students sacrificed their lives and hundreds were injured to establish Bangla as the state language. Since then, the day has been being celebrated as ‘Language Martyrs’ Day’. Thus, Bangla is the only language in the world for which people sacrificed their lives. To represent the event, the UNESCO has observed International Mother Language Day on February 21, every year since 2000.

Three sites, i.e., the historic Mosque in the City of Bagerhat, ruins of the Buddhist Vihara at Paharpur and the Sundarbans, largest ever mangrove forest in the world are listed in the UNESCO World Heritage list. Seven other sites are included in the organization’s tentative list: Archaeological Sites on the Deltaic Landscape of Bangladesh, Archaeological Sites of Lalmai-Mainamati, Cultural Landscape of Mahasthan and Karatoya River, Mughal Mosques in Bangladesh, Mughal and Colonial Temples of Bangladesh, the Architectural Works of Muzharul Islam: an Outstanding Contribution to the Modern Movement in South Asia, and Mughal Forts on Fluvial Terrains in Dhaka.

Bangladesh is the second largest Muslim state with 165 million people. The country is now recognized as a model for the world because of its number of achievements nationally and internationally. It is the second largest exporter of the readymade garments in the world after China, the second largest jute producer after India, fourth largest inland freshwater fish producer, with 3.7 million tonnes of vegetables in a year it is third fastest vegetable producer after China and India and eighth largest producer of mango in the world. United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organisation expected Bangladesh to be the world’s fourth largest rice producer in 2017. The country is becoming a major player in pharmaceutical sector with 20% growth and exports medicines to 100 countries because of patent exemption requirements till 2032. It supplies the second highest number of online workers, after India.

From being the largest least developed country in terms of population and economic size, the country is in the right direction to attain the status of developing country because of her remarkable progress in poverty reduction and human development even with daunting challenges. Bangladesh reached the World Bank’s lower-middle income status in 2015 and is on track to graduate from the list of the United Nation’s least developed countries in 2026. The country, after successfully meeting several targets of Millennium Development Goals, e.g., reduction of poverty gap ratio, attainment of gender parity at primary and secondary education, and reduction of mortality rate of below five years age, etc., has committed to implement the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.

The government functions and activities are run by 58 ministries and divisions along with 353 departments. There are four levels in the local government administration and the country is divided into eight divisions and 64 districts, 495 upazillas, and 4554 union parishard.

For Bangladesh National Portal, visit here Bangla, English.

2. Location and Geography

Bangladesh lies in the northeastern part of the Indian subcontinent—which is located in southern Asia. With more than 900 rivers including tributaries, Bangladesh is known as the land of rivers and had some of the most confusing territories on the planet. Bangladesh is almost completely surrounded by India, except for a short frontier with Myanmar in the southeast and a coastline along the Bay of Bengal in the south. Bangladesh, with 95 to 119 enclaves (known as Chitmahals) inside India, had the second largest numbers of enclaves in the world after India. Until August 1, 2015 when Bangladesh and India formally exchanged 162 enclaves, this situation was portrayed as the ‘world’s craziest border’ or ‘the weirdest border dispute in the world’.

Read an article on Bangladesh and India enclave exchange at the Migration Policy Institute.

The country consists mainly of the deltaic plains of the Ganges and Brahamaputra rivers and a small portion of the country bordering Myanmar. The 120km beach in Cox’s Bazar located in the southern part of the country on the Bay of Bengal is the longest unbroken stretch sea beach in the world. Bangladesh has an area of 55,598 square miles (143,998 sq. km). It is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Dhaka, with a history of more than four hundred years as the capital of the then-Bengal, is the national capital and the largest city.

3. Constitution

The Constitution of Bangladesh was adopted on November 4, 1972, and has undergone 16 amendments to date. Originally the Constitution provided for a parliamentary form of government. However, the Constitution was thoroughly amended by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution in 1975 and a Presidential form of government was introduced. Major changes were further introduced in the Constitution by the Fifth, Seventh and Eighth Amendments; and the Twelfth Amendment to the Constitution brought back the original Parliamentary form of government. However, very recently, the Supreme Court declared the Fifth, Seventh and Thirteenth Amendments to the Constitution illegal. Consequently, as after being inspired by the order of the Supreme Court, the Parliament of Bangladesh, through the Constitution (Fifteenth Amendment) Act, 2011 (Act XIV of 2011), revised the whole Constitution significantly.

Women’s rights and the principles of gender equality come under the Fundamental Principles of State Policy and are protected by Article 10, i.e., participation of women in national life as well as under Articles 26 to 29 of the Part on Fundamental Rights, affirming equality of all citizens before the law. Rights of minority groups have been protected by Article 41, which reiterates that religions may be practiced in peace and harmony (subject to law, public order and morality).

4. Constitutional Status of Islamic Law

The constitutional status of religion in Bangladesh is ambiguous. While Article 41 to the Constitution of Bangladesh, 1972 recognises the freedom of religion subject to law, public order and morality, Article 2A to the Constitution of Bangladesh, 1972 was amended in 2011 through the provisions of the Constitution (Fifteenth Amendment) Act, 2011 (Act XIV of 2011), which provides that the state religion of the Republic is Islam, but the State shall ensure equal status and equal right in the practice of the Hindu, Buddhist, Christian and other religions. Interestingly, the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution has also amended the provisions on ‘secularism’. The Preamble to the Constitution has acknowledged that the high ideals of nationalism, socialism, democracy, and secularism inspired our heroic people to dedicate themselves and our brave martyrs to sacrifice their lives in the national liberation struggle and these shall be the fundamental principles of the Constitution. Secularism is also included as one of the fundamental principles of state policy in article 8(1) of the Bangladesh Constitution. Finally, an attempt has been made to clarify the relationship between secularism and freedom of religion in article 12 of the Bangladesh Constitution, 1972. It states, “The principle of secularism shall be realised by the elimination of - (a) communalism in all its forms; (b) the granting by the State of political status in favour of any religion; (c) the abuse of religion for political purposes; (d) any discrimination against, or persecution of, persons practicing a particular religion.”

While the Government generally respects this provision in practice, religion exerts a powerful influence on politics, and the Government is sensitive to the Muslim consciousness of its political allies and the majority of its citizens. Citizens generally are free to practice the religion of their choice; however, policies are normally ineffective in upholding law and order and are often slow to assist members of religious minorities who have been victims of crimes. Although the Government states that acts of violence against members of religious minority groups are politically or economically motivated and cannot be solely attributed to religion, human rights activists reported an increase in religiously motivated violence.

5. Government

The President, while the Head of State (article 48(2), the Bangladesh Constitution, 1972), holds largely a ceremonial post to appoint the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice (articles 56 and 95, the Bangladesh Constitution, 1972); the real power is held by the Prime Minister, who is the Head of Government. The President is elected by the legislature (Members of Parliament) for five years (Articles 48(1) and 50, the Bangladesh Constitution, 1972). The President's circumscribed powers were substantially expanded during the tenure of a Caretaker Government, which is now repealed by the provisions of the Constitution (Fifteenth Amendment) Act, 2011 (Act XIV of 2011). Under the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which the Parliament passed in March 1996, a Caretaker Government assumed power temporarily to oversee general elections after dissolution of the Parliament. In the Caretaker Government system, the President had control over the Ministry of Defense, the authority to declare a state of emergency, and the power to dismiss the Chief Adviser and other members of the Caretaker Government. Once a national election was held and a new government and Parliament were in place, the President's powers and position revert to their largely ceremonial role.

Read the article on Caretaker Government in Banglapedia, National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh. Read the Appellate Division Judgement declaring the Constitution (Thirteenth Amendment) Act, 1996 (Act 1 of 1996) void [a large portion of the text is in Bangla language].

The Prime Minister, appointed by the President (Articles 48 (3) and 56(3), the Constitution of Bangladesh, 1972), must be a Member of Parliament (MP) whom the President feels has the confidence of the majority of other MPs (Article 56 (3), the Bangladesh Constitution, 1972). The Cabinet is composed of Ministers selected by the Prime Minister and appointed by the President. At least 90% of the Ministers must be MPs. The other 10% may be non-MP experts, or "technocrats", who are not otherwise disqualified from being elected MPs. According to the Constitution, the president can dissolve the Parliament upon the written request of the Prime Minister (Article 57 (2), the Bangladesh Constitution, 1972).

Find more information about the President of Bangladesh and the Prime Minister’s Office.

6. Parliament – the House of the Nation, the Jatiya Sangsad

The legislature is a unicameral, 300-seat body. All its members are elected by universal suffrage at least every five years. Parliament amended the Constitution in 2011, making a provision for adding 50 seats reserved for women and to be distributed among political parties in proportion to their numerical strength in Parliament (Article 65(3), the Constitution of Bangladesh, 1972).

All citizens of Bangladesh of and above the age of 18 and of sound mind, resident of a constituency and not convicted of any offence under the Bangladesh Collaborates (Special Tribunal) Order, 1972, who have registered themselves as voters (Article 122, the Constitution of Bangladesh, 1972), form the electorate. Each constituency elects one Member of Parliament on the basis of direct election. All citizens of Bangladesh who have attained the age of 25 is qualified to be elected in the Parliament. Those disqualified include the insane, un-discharged bankrupts, persons who on conviction for a criminal offence involving moral turpitude who have been sentenced to imprisonment for not less than two years unless five years have elapsed since their release, persons owing allegiance to a foreign state, and persons holding an office of profit in the service of the Republic (Article 66 (2), the Constitution of Bangladesh, 1972).

A general election for a new Parliament takes place on the same day in all constituencies. Depending on the size of a constituency and its total number of voters, several polling centres are set up with arrangements for voters to exercise their franchise freely, peacefully and in secrecy. Polling officials in each centre—in the presence of candidates or their nominees—count votes. The result is sent to the Returning Officer in sealed covers together with ballot papers. The Returning Officer, generally the Deputy Commissioner of the district, communicates the result of each constituency to the Election Commission after he has compiled the results in the presence of the candidates or their authorised representatives. Unofficial results start being announced in various media from the evening of the Election Day. The Election Commission declares the result of the general election formally a few days later through the publication of the names of winning candidates in the official Bangladesh Gazette. Members-elect are administered an oath of office by the outgoing Speaker.

The Parliament of Bangladesh runs its business according to the Rules of Procedure. The Rules of Procedure contains detailed provisions as to Summoning, Prorogation and Dissolution of Parliament and Seating, Oath and Roll of Members, Election of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker and nomination of a Panel of Chairmen, Powers and functions of the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker, Sittings of the House, Arrangement of Business and Orders of the Day, President's Address and Messages to and from the House, Questions and Short Notice Questions, Motion for adjournment on a matter of public importance, Discussion on matters of urgent public importance for short duration, Calling attention to matters of urgent public importance, Legislation, Amendment of the Constitution, Petitions, Procedure in Financial Matters, and all other issues necessary in order to run the business of the Parliament.

7. Law Making Process

Article 80 of the Bangladesh Constitution, 1972 provides that every proposal in the Parliament for making a law shall be made in the form of a Bill and When a Bill is passed by the Parliament it shall be presented to the President for assent. The Parliament can make any law which is not inconsistent with the Constitution since any law inconsistent with the Constitution, to the extent of inconsistency, is void (Article 7(2), the Constitution of Bangladesh, 1972). See the Legislative Process followed in Bangladesh Parliament. Read the Bangladesh Secretariat Instructions, 2014 [in Bangla].

As a English common law country, Bangladesh’s Supreme Court has the power not only to interpret the Constitution (articles 103(2) (a) and 110, the Constitution of Bangladesh, 1972) and the laws made by the Parliament, but it can also declare them null and void when they are found inconsistent with any of the provisions of the Constitution and enforce fundamental rights of the citizens (articles 7 (2) and 44, the Constitution of Bangladesh, 1972). Although founded on the English common law system, the laws of Bangladesh take a statutory form, which are enacted by the legislature and interpreted by the Supreme Court.

The word ‘law’ is defined in Article 152 of the Bangladesh Constitution, 1972. It says that “law” means any Act, ordinance, order, rule, regulation, byelaw, notification, or other legal instrument, and any custom or usage, having the force of law in Bangladesh. Under this definition, the Act of Parliament, the Ordinance and President’s Orders are treated as primary legislation, whereas rules and regulations are considered as secondary legislation. It may be relevant to mention here that seven regulations which were enacted during the British time by the Governor-General in Council by virtue of the Regulating Act, 1773 were considered as primary legislation and were included in the Bangladesh Code. Bangladesh Law Commission commissioned studies and published two reports, report no. 109 (2011) and report no. 116 (2012), regarding the historical background and status of these regulations.

Besides, article 111 of the Constitution of Bangladesh, 1972 provides that the law declared by the Appellate Division shall be binding on the High Court Division and the law declared by either division of the Supreme Court shall be binding on all courts subordinate to it. Therefore, the statutory laws, secondary legislation and judgment laws or precedent along with customs and usage all form the sources of law in Bangladesh.

9. Codification of Laws

There are strong legal obligations for the codification, translation, and publication of existing Bangladeshi laws. Section 6 of the Bangladesh Laws (Revision and Declaration) Act, 1973 (Act no. VIII of 1973), provides that, "all Acts of Parliament, Ordinances and President's Order in force in Bangladesh shall be printed in chronological order under the name and style of Bangladesh Code."

The emergence of Bangladesh as an independent, sovereign country called for necessary amendments, adaptations, and the repeal of certain laws as well as the enactment of new laws and translation of laws into Bangla version to meet the changed and changing political, social and economic needs of the new country. Commensurate with this requirement, the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs started examining the existing laws for adaptation, codification and publication for said purposes. Accordingly, Bangladesh Code, Volumes I-XI were published containing the laws enacted between 1836 to 1938. But due to the lack of proper leadership, manpower, and sound organizational support, the process had proceeded no further. As a result, laws enacted after 1938 were kept scattered and unattended to, which used to create unbearable suffering to all people having interest in Bangladesh laws including lawyers, judges, students of laws, journalist and so on. Fortunately, during the political government led by BNP (2001-2006), with the support of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs started the codification of Bangladesh Code, which saw the light of the day during the tenure of Dr. Fokruddin Ahmed, who took the oath of office as Chief Adviser (Prime Minister) of the Caretaker Government of Bangladesh in 2007. This is undoubtedly a milestone in the legal history of Bangladesh. The oldest and the shortest (with only one section and without any preamble or long title) law as applicable in Bangladesh is the Districts Act, 1836. However, as of today, no effective steps have been taken to compile the existing rules, regulations, by-laws, notifications, statutory orders, etc. in a single place like the Bangladesh Code.

Pertinent to mention here that though Bangla is the State language of Bangladesh (article 3, the Constitution of Bangladesh, 1972), even after the independence in 1971 till 1987 all laws were enacted in English and hence most of the educated people who are non-familiar with the technical legal terms remain ignorant of the provisions of law, let alone the position of illiterate people. In 1987, by the enactment of the Bangla Bhasha Procholon Ain, 1987 (Act No. 2 of 1987) [The Introduction of Bangla Language Act, 1987], it was provided that, from now on, all laws shall be enacted in Bangla. As a result, from then on, all laws have been enacted in Bangla with some exceptions where English authoritative translations of few laws are also made by the Drafting Wing of the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs. The list of some of these laws includes, inter alia, the Trademark Act, 2009, the Right to Information Act, 2009, the Money Laundering Prevention Act, 2012, etc. Similarly, some of the laws which were originally enacted in English were subsequently translated in Bangla. The list of some of these laws includes the Mines Act, 1923, the Census Order, 1972, the Administrative Tribunal Act, 1980, etc. Later on, the Government, with the help of United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has started, under its Access to Justice Project, the translation of the laws in Bangladesh Code. Once this Project is successfully completed, it can be anticipated that all laws of the land shall be bilingual and available in both Bangla and English.

10. Bangladesh Gazette

Bangladesh Government Press widely known as BG Press is the lying-in house of Government Publications and for classified materials like Reports, Budget, Bills, Acts, Ordinances, Rules, Regulations, Statutory Orders, Resolutions, leaflets, Posters, etc. Synchronizing with the geo-political change and rearrangements those came on the map of this area BG Press has got its present infrastructure, manpower, technology back-up and product range. A good number of Presses established in different parts of British India including the East Bengal Government Press at Alipur, Calcutta (now Kolkata). During the partition of British India as an independent Government print-house of State it was temporarily shifted in the previous Central Jail, (Nazimuddin Road), Dhaka. It came into operation by 1948 with a few mounds of lead type-metal and two worm-out printing machines. Then in 1953 it was again shifted and permanently established at the present venue. By the year 1956 it was introduced as East Pakistan Government Press (EPGP) and then the manpower strength was 1400. After the emergence of Bangladesh as an independent country in 1971, the EPGP was renamed as Bangladesh Government Press (BG Press).

The Heidelberg Bangladesh Law Translation Project: This site contains the English translation of laws enacted in Bangla between 1985-1995. Although, the effort made should be welcomed, the translation of laws under this Project should not be considered as a proper legal translation, rather from the reading of the laws it appears that the translation of laws was either generated using computer software or done by people without sufficient knowledge on legal translation and legal drafting.

11. Judicial System

The Judiciary of Bangladesh consists of a Supreme Court, Subordinate Courts and Tribunals established under the provisions of different statutes.

11.1. The Supreme Court of Bangladesh

The Supreme Court of Bangladesh is comprised of the Appellate Division and the High Court Division. It is the apex Court of the country; other Courts and Tribunals are subordinate to it. The Supreme Court has the jurisdiction to interpret the Constitution and other laws of the land and it is the guardian of the Constitution. The Constitution provides for detailed provisions as to the appointment, tenure, powers and functions of the judges of the Supreme Court.

The Appellate Division, the highest Court of Appeal, has the jurisdiction to hear and determine appeals from judgments, decrees, orders or sentences of the High Court Division, review its own judgments and orders. It has rule making power for regulating the practice and procedure of each Division and of any Court subordinate to it (Article 103, the Constitution of Bangladesh, 1972). Under article 106 of the Constitution, 1972, the Appellate Division, with the request of the President, has the power to give its opinion on a serious question of law having public importance.

The High Court Division has both appellate as well as original jurisdiction. It hears appeals from orders, decrees, and judgments of subordinate Courts and Tribunals. It has original jurisdiction to enforce the fundamental rights of the citizens upon Writ Applications under articles 44 and 102 of the Constitution. It has further original jurisdiction, inter alia, in respect to company and admiralty matters arising out of various statutes. The High Court Division, in special circumstances, also has powers and jurisdiction to hear and dispose of cases under article 110 of the Constitution and has control over all Courts and Tribunals subordinate to it. The Supreme Court is also a Court of Record and can try contempt cases (article 108, the Constitution of Bangladesh, 1972). Visit the Supreme Court website for more information.

Find more details on History of Supreme Court of Bangladesh and Rules of the Supreme Court.

11.2. The Subordinate Courts and Tribunals

A wide variety of subordinate courts (69) and tribunals (8) have been created by various statutes. The powers, functions and jurisdictions of these courts and tribunals are also determined by respective statutes. The major bulk of the cases, both civil and criminal, are tried and heard in such courts and tribunals. Apart from subordinate civil and criminal courts, there are also administrative appellate tribunals, the cyber tribunal, the labour appellate tribunal, etc.

11.2.1. Civil Courts

The Civil Courts are created under the Civil Courts Act of 1887 (Act XII of 1887). According to section 3 of the Civil Courts Act, 1887, there are following classes of Civil Courts, namely:

From the list of the courts above, the three courts at the bottom are consider as the court of first instance having the powers, functions, and jurisdictions in respect to subject matter, territory and pecuniary value determined by or under statutes. The remaining two courts at the top are generally subordinate courts of Appeal in Civil matters. However, the court of District Judge functions, to a very limited extent, as a court of first instance.

11.2.2. Criminal Courts

The criminal court within the subordinate judiciary are established under section 6 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 (V of 1898), which stipulates that there shall be the following categories of criminal courts:

Section 6 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898, further says that there shall be two classes of Magistrate, namely:

The Judicial Magistrates are classified into four categories, namely:

Pertinent to mention here that the words “Chief Metropolitan Magistrate" and "Chief judicial Magistrate" shall include "Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate" and "Additional Chief judicial Magistrate" respectively.

Among Executive Magistrates, there appear two Magistrates who are to be appointed by the Government as:

Beside these criminal courts, the Government can appoint a person to work as a Special Magistrate to deal with cases situate generally in any local area outside a Metropolitan area. (Section 12 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898). For details on the jurisdiction of various courts, please see the Judicial Portal.

There are many other specialized courts and tribunals, which are established under the provisions of different statutes. For example, Environment Courts are established under the Environment Court Act, 2010 (in Bangla), Acid Crime Tribunals are established under the Acid Crime Control Act, 2002 (in Bangla), Labour courts are established under the Bangladesh Labour Act, 2006 (in Bangla), and Nari-O-Shishu Nirjatan Daman Tribunals established under the Nari-O-Shishu Nirjatan Daman Ain, 2000 (in Bangla), etc.

Apart from these subordinate courts, the Village Court Act, 2006 was enacted with the aim to establish village courts in the Union Parishads to resolve petty disputes and to provide wider access to dispute resolution services for rural people at the community level, as the formal justice system is overburdened with legal cases. This is not a new initiative; rather it was introduced by the colonial administration, and the current efforts are promoted by the international development partners.

12. Bangladesh Judicial Service Commission & Judicial Administration Training Institute

There is a Judicial Service Commission, officially known as the Bangladesh Judicial Service Commission (BJSC), was structured under the provisions of the Bangladesh Judicial Service Commission Rules, 2007. The BJSC is primarily responsible to assess the suitability of persons for appointments at the entry level of the Bangladesh Judicial Service and to conduct periodical examinations for probationer Assistant Judges/Judicial Magistrates.

The Judicial Administration Training Institute (JATI) was created by the Judicial Administration Training Institute Act, 1995, which provides for the establishment of a training institute, a statutory public authority in nature, to work as focal point for training of members of judicial service and certain other professional connected with the judicial system.

13. Law Reports

Being a common law country, the Constitution of Bangladesh provides that the law declared by the Appellate Division shall be binding on the High Court Division and the law declared by either division of the Supreme Court shall be binding on all courts subordinate to it (Article 111 of the Bangladesh Constitution, 1972). The Supreme Court declares the law by way of judgment, order and decisions, etc. These judgments, order and decisions are reported in different law reports. Therefore, these law reports play an important role in the study of law, legal research, and legal practices, etc.

In Bangladesh, the law reports are published according to the provisions of the Law Reports Act, 1875. There are at least seven printed law reports now in Bangladesh, the most popular one is the Dhaka Law Reports (popularly known as DLR) which started its publication in 1948. Bangladesh Legal Decisions (BLD) is published under the authority of the Bangladesh Bar Council. The other law reports are Bangladesh Law Chronicles (BLC), Law Guardian (LG), the Lawyers (Appellate Division Cases/ ADC), Bangladesh Law Times (BLT), and the Mainstream Law Reports (MLR). Even after the establishment of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh in 1972, a law report was published for a few years under its supervision. But that did not continue for long. These Law Reports basically contain the judgments, orders and decisions of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh with some legal articles and statutes. It should be noted that some of the judgments delivered by the Appellate Division and High Court Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh are available on the website of the Supreme Court.

See some judgements delivered by the Appellate Division and the High Court Division. Supreme Court Online Bulletin (SCOB) is an online law report published by the Supreme Court of Bangladesh compiling important judgments from the Appellate Division and High Court Division.

Since 2008, Chancery Research and Consultants Trust (CRC-Trust), a socio-legal consulting group has maintained the first Bangladesh Online Case Law Database, the Chancery Law Chronicles. Exciting features of the website include judgments of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, legal dictionary (both judicial and legislative), glossary, explanation of Latin terms and phrases, abbreviations, directory of various categories of government organizations, Law Journal, blog, delegated legislation, newly enacted Laws, policies of the Government of Bangladesh, various official and legal forms, etc.

Bangladesh Bar Council, a statutory autonomous body constituted under the Bangladesh Legal Practitioners and Bar Council Order, 1972 (President’s Order No. 46 of 1972) is the central body to regulate different activities of legal profession including enrolment, professional misconduct etc. The Council is headed by the Attorney-General of Bangladesh and run by a committee of 15 members.

After passing out successfully in the enrolment examination conducted by the Bangladesh Bar Council, a candidate shall be known as advocate but needs to enroll himself/herself in one of the District Bar Associations of his choice to practice as a lawyer. There is a District Bar Association in every administrative district of the country. An association of lawyers in the Supreme Court is known as Bangladesh Supreme Court Bar Association.

The Attorney General of Bangladesh and other members from his team (Additional Attorney Generals, Deputy Attorney Generals and Assistant Attorney Generals), as appointed under article 64 of the Constitution of Bangladesh, 1972 and the Bangladesh Law Officers Order, 1972 represent the government in the Supreme Court. The office of Public Prosecutor and Government Pleaders represent the government in the subordinate courts. The Solicitor’s Office takes care of and monitors litigations by or against the government in different courts of the country including Supreme Court.

15. Bangladesh Law Commission

The law of the land in a dynamic society requires that it be constantly reviewed by an authority, which is manned by individuals possessing an adequate and thorough knowledge of law and the society in which it operates. Reflecting this, different countries at different times felt the need to establish a law reform agency; Law Commissions have been set up to fulfill this need. In 1996, by the enactment of the Law Commission Act, the Law Commission in Bangladesh started its journey. Visit the Law Commission of Bangladesh to learn more.

16. Arbitration Law in Bangladesh

Bangladesh has repealed both the Arbitration (Protocol and Convention) Act of 1937 and the Arbitration Act of 1940, and has enacted a new arbitration law, "The Arbitration Act, 2001". The Act is principally based on the UNCITRAL Model Law in International Commercial Arbitration (1985). The new arbitration law consolidates the domestic and international arbitration regime in Bangladesh.

The Act provides that an arbitral tribunal may rule on its own jurisdiction, unless otherwise agreed by the parties in terms of the following questions: (a) whether there is a valid arbitration agreement; (b) whether the arbitral tribunal is properly constituted; (c) whether the arbitration agreement is against public policy; (d) whether the arbitration agreement is capable of being performed, and (e) what matters have been submitted to arbitration in accordance with the arbitration agreement.

Chapter VI of the Arbitration Act, 2001, entitled "Conduct of the Proceedings," provides in Article 24 that the arbitral tribunal shall not be bound by the Code of Civil Procedure and the Evidence Act of Bangladesh, and that the arbitral tribunal shall follow the procedure to be agreed on by the parties. In terms of setting aside arbitration awards, Chapter VIII of the Act, entitled "Recourse against arbitral awards" is similar to Chapter VII, Article 34 of the UNCITRAL Model Rules. It also provides that Bangladesh courts may set aside awards if they are satisfied that (i) the subject matter of the dispute is not capable of settlement by the arbitration under the law for the time being in force in Bangladesh; (ii) if the arbitral award is prima facie opposed to the law for the time being in force in Bangladesh; (iii) the arbitral award is in conflict with the public policy of Bangladesh or (iv) the arbitral award is induced or affected by fraud or corruption.

The Bangladesh International Arbitration Centre, the first international arbitration institution of the country, is registered as a not-for-profit organization and commenced operations in April 2011 under a license from the Government and with the sponsorship of three prominent business Chambers of Bangladesh, namely, International Chamber of Commerce-Bangladesh (ICC-B), Dhaka Chamber of Commerce & Industry (DCCI) and Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce & Industry (MCCI), Dhaka.

For more about the Bangladesh International Arbitration Centre, visit here.

Read the Report of the Law Commission of Bangladesh on the Arbitration Act, 2001.

17. Intellectual Property Law

By integrating former "Patent Office" and "Trademarks Registry Office" the Department of Patents, Designs & Trademarks (DPDT) was created in 2003 under the Ministry of Industries of the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh to protect industrial property. Relevant laws are:

Various relevant forms relating to patents, design, trademark, and geographical indication are also available. The Copyright Office of Bangladesh, a quasi-judicial body, is an affiliated body under the Ministry of Cultural Affairs entrusted to register copyrightable creations, assist the Copyright Board in disposing appeal cases, conduct taskforce operation to prevent piracy and function as the focal point of World Intellectual Property Organization in Bangladesh. A copyright registration flowchart is available [in Bangla].

At present, a good number of public universities in Bangladesh offer law degrees at both undergraduate and graduate levels, including the University of Dhaka, University of Rajshahi, University of Chittagong, Islamic University, Kushtia, Jagannath University, Dhaka, Jahangirnagar University, Dhaka, Khulna University, Barishal University, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Science And Technology University, Gopalganj, Noakhali Science and Technology University, Jatiya Kabi Kazi Nazrul Islam University, and National University, Gazipur. All public universities except National University offer a four-year LL.B. (Hons.) degree at the undergraduate level. National University offers a 2-year LL.B. (Pass) degree at the graduate level through its different affiliated private law colleges (around 70) all over Bangladesh.

In the graduate level, a one-year master’s program, i.e., LL.M., both general and specialized, is being offered by all the public universities except Jahangirnagar University, Dhaka that has very recently opened Department of Law & Justice under the Faculty of Law. Evening LL.M. programs (one year and two years) is being offered by the only public university in Bangladesh i.e., University of Rajshahi. Besides, around 30 private universities offer a four-year LL.B. (Hons) and one- or two-year LL.M. programs.

The following website(s) on Bangladeshi Laws may be of help to a legal researcher:

20. Law Libraries

The following are the popular law book suppliers in Bangladesh:

The following are contact details for the law reporters in Bangladesh:

General sites:

Government Ministries and Departments: There are over 35 ministries in Bangladesh, and some of these ministries are divided into Divisions. Under these ministries there are also many departments. The main roles and functions of these Ministries are distributed according to the Allocation of Business among the Different Ministries and Divisions.

Statutory Public Authorities: Statutory public authorities are those authorities, which are created by the provisions of different laws of the land. Information on these statutory public authorities can be found in the following websites: