Bangladesh Legal System
The People’s Republic of Bangladesh (গণপ্রজাতন্ত্রী বাংলাদেশ; Gônoprojatontri Bangladesh), is a sovereign country in South Asia. The Legal system of the country is a mixed legal system of mostly English common law and Islamic law. However, unlike other common law jurisdictions, Bangladesh’s Supreme Court has the power to not only interpret laws made by the Parliament, but to also declare them null and void and to enforce fundamental rights of the citizens. The acts of legislation of Bangladesh take a statutory form, which are enacted by the legislature branch and interpreted by the higher courts of the country.
The roots of the Bangladeshi legal system go back to ancient times on the Indian subcontinent.
The system developed gradually, passing through various stages in a continuous historical
process. The process of evolution has been partly indigenous and partly foreign. The current legal
system emanates from a “mixed” system in which the structure, certain legal principles, and
specific concepts are modeled on both Indo-Mughal and English law.(1)
Bangladesh became an independent and sovereign nation on December 16, 1971. In order to
ensure legal continuity, the Laws Continuance Order of 1971, effective as of March 26, 1971,
legalized and made effective all the existing laws inherited from Pakistan, subject to the
Proclamation of Independence of 1971. Thereafter, Presidential Order No. 5 of 1972 set the
judiciary of the country in motion with the appointment of the judges of the High Court.
Subsequently, Presidential Order No. 91 of 1972 established the Appellate Division. According to
the Constitution of Bangladesh,(2) the apex of the judiciary is the Supreme Court, which comprises
the Appellate Division and the High Court Division. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court,
who is appointed to the Appellate Division, is constitutionally known as the Chief Justice of
Further acts and ordinances were introduced in later years. These include the Ombudsman Act
(Act XV of 1980), the Administrative Tribunals Act (Act VII of 1981), the Income Tax
Ordinance (Ordinance XXV of 1984), the Land Reforms Ordinance (Ordinance X of 1984), the
Family Courts Ordinance (Ordinance XVIII of 1985), and the Companies Act of 1994. Pursuant
to the recommendations of a Law Committee set up in 1976, the Law Reform Ordinance of 1978
amended civil and criminal procedural laws, laws related to court fees, and the law on arbitration.
At present, a permanent Law Commission in Bangladesh suggests suitable changes to existing
laws, as necessary, so that the national laws can meet the demands of modern times.
The Bangladeshi court system is based on the British model. The judicial system consists of a
Lower Court and a Supreme Court, both of which hear civil and criminal cases (Chapters I, II, and III of Part VI, Constitution of Bangladesh). The Lower Court consists of administrative courts (magistrate courts) and session judges. The Supreme Court’s High Court Division hears original cases and reviews decisions of the Lower Court, and the Appellate Division hears and determines appeals of judgments, decrees, orders, and sentences of the High Court Division. The highest court of appeal is thus the appellate court of the Supreme Court. At the level of local government, the country is divided into divisions, districts, sub-districts, unions, and villages.
The Supreme Court serves as the guardian of the constitution and enforces the fundamental
rights of citizens. It consists of a Chief Justice and a number of other judges, all appointed by the
president. A judge can remain in office until the age of sixty-five. The Chief Justice and the
Judges appointed to the Appellate Division sit only in that Division; other judges sit in the High
Court Division. The High Court Division superintends and controls all subordinate courts (at the
administrative levels of district and thana) and functions as the Appellate Court. In addition, it
superintends a number of special courts and tribunals, such as the Administrative Tribunal,
Family Courts, Labor Tribunal, Land, Commercial, Municipal, and Marine Courts. At the district
level, the district court is headed by a District and Sessions Judge, who is assisted by additional
District Judges, subordinate judges, assistant judges, and Magistrates.
In addition to the constitution—the fundamental law of the land—there are civil and criminal
codes. Civil law in Bangladesh also incorporates certain Islamic and Hindu religious principles
relating to marriage, inheritance, and other social matters. The Bangladeshi Constitution
guarantees a fundamental right to every criminally accused person in Bangladesh (whether or not
a citizen) to have a “speedy and public trial” by an “independent” and “impartial” judiciary (Article 35(3), Constitution of Bangladesh).
It is worth noting that a landmark decision on Secretary of the Ministry of Finance v Masdar Hossain (52 DLR (AD) 82 (1999) determined how far the Constitution actually secured the separation of judiciary from the executive organs of the state, and whether the Parliament and the executive followed the constitutional path.
In delivering its judgment in the Hossain case, the Supreme Court of Bangladesh tried to differentiate between the terms “independence” and “impartiality,” saying that it would subscribe to the view of the Supreme Court of Canada in Walter Valente v Her Majesty the Queen (2 RCS 673 ). Valente held that “the concepts of ‘independence’ and ‘impartiality,’ although obviously related, are separate distinct values or requirements. ‘Impartiality’ refers to a state of mind or attitude of the tribunal in relation to the issues and the parties in a particular case. ‘Independence’ reflects or embodies the traditional constitutional value of judicial independence and connotes
not only a state of mind but also a status or relationship to others … particularly to the executive branch of government …”
In essence, the case was decided on the issue of how far the independence of judiciary is guaranteed by the constitution and whether its provisions have been followed in practice. In that context, the court identified five preconditions for judicial independence:
(a) security of tenure; (b) security of salary; (c) institutional independence of subordinate
judiciaries; (d) judicial appointments made by a separate Judicial Service Commission; and
(e) administrative independence and financial autonomy.
It is appropriate to note that Article 22 of the Bangladeshi Constitution contains a fundamental
principle of state policy to the effect that “the state shall ensure the separation of the judiciary
from the executive organs.” However, although the constitutional commitment to this principle is
spelled out clearly, no positive, effective steps have yet been taken to separate the judiciary from
the government administration. Although the Supreme Court gave specific guidelines on how to do so in its judgment, the executive, with the permission of the Supreme Court, postponed
the separation fourteen times.(4)
According to Bangladesh Code of 2007, there are 957 laws in Bangladesh of which 366 are pre indepence laws and 633 have been made after the independence.
Criminal procedure legislation in Bangladesh is primarily derived from the Constitution of Bangladesh (1972), the Penal Code of 1860(PC), the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1898(CrPc), and the Evidence Act of 1872. Other significant legislations include the Special Power Act 1974, The Nari O Shishu Nirjaton Doman Ain 2003, The Acid Throwing Act 2002, The Anti Corruption Commission Act 2004, The Censorship of Films Act 1963, The Pure Food Ordinance 1959, The Arms Act 1864, and The Dowry Prohibition Act of 1980.
According to Bangladesh legislation, law means any Act, Ordinance, Order, Regulation, bye law, notification or other legal instrument and any custom or usage having the force of law.
The World Bank began its engagement on legal and judicial reform in Bangladesh with the Legal and Judicial Capacity Building Project (the project commenced in 2001 and has been extended until December 2008), a Government strategy supporting the reform agenda in this package was adopted in 2000.
Government and other Official Bodies
Legal Research in Bangladesh: a Guide for Lawyers
In a globalized world, lawyers outside Bangladesh may come into contact with Bangladesh law, Bangladesh lawyers or Bangladesh clients, and the last would be better served when their lawyers have an understanding of the essential characteristics and aspects of the Bangladesh legal system. Likewise, in researching Bangladesh law, it is important for non-Bangladesh lawyers not to limit their inquiry to their country sources. In addition, instead of looking for precedents, in Bangladesh lawyers browse first the provisions of the corresponding legislation for an appropriate legal principle applied to the case or Bangladesh law problem.
Any serious legal issue involving Bangladesh must require consultation with a lawyer trained and licensed in Bangladesh. International materials and resources, like this Encyclopedia, however, may provide some familiarity with the basic concepts of the Bangladesh law, a solid starting point and new perspectives and solutions that are not apparent, sometimes, from within a non-Bangladesh legal tradition. Their study may help the non-Bangladesh lawyer to determine the general nature of a problem, and can facilitate a better understanding with the Bangladesh colleague who may be called in to assist.
Where to Start
General Information about Bangladesh and their Legal Tradition
Bangladesh and their People
Historical Background of Bangladesh
Offering a summary of the legal education, including law schools , in Bangladesh.
Development of Bangladesh Law
Report on the development of the law in Bangladesh.
Structures of Bangladesh Law
It offers a description of the structures of the law in Bangladesh.
Sources of the Bangladesh Law
Summary of the sources of Law in Bangladesh.
More about the history of the Bangladesh law here.
Enacted Law in Bangladesh
Read more about the legislation in Bangladesh.
The Bangladesh Constitution
Learn more about the Constitution of Bangladesh.
Bangladesh Codes and Statutes
Bangladesh Statutory Decrees
Outline of the Bangladesh Statutory Decrees.
Scope of the Regulations enacted in Bangladesh.
Observation about the By-Laws in existence in Bangladesh.
Learn more about the customary law of Bangladesh.
Case Law as a Source of Law
Analysis of the Case Law in Bangladesh.
Precedents in Bangladesh
Evaluation of the role of Precedents in the Bangladesh legal system.
Doctrine in Bangladesh
Review of the legal Doctrine in Bangladesh.
International sources of law
See more about the international sources of law in Bangladesh and Asia, including International Treaties.
The Bangladesh Government System
Study of the Government system in existence in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh Constitutional Structure
Overview of the Constitutional Structure in Bangladesh.
Read more about the history of the Government System of the country.
General Characteristics of the Constitution
Human Rights in Bangladesh
Scope of the Civil and Human rights in the country.
The legislative branch proposes laws. Find a description of the Legislative Power in Bangladesh here.
Structure of the Bangladesh Legislative Branch
Observation of the structure of the legislative power in Bangladesh.
Functions and Powers
See more about the role of the legislative power in Bangladesh here.
Read how the Bangladesh legislative procedures work here.
Supervision of the Executive
Learn how the legislative branch supervises the executive branch.
The executive power proposes laws. Read more.
Head of State in Bangladesh
The head of state of Bangladesh is the formal head of the executive, legislature and judiciary of Bangladesh.
Head of Government in Bangladesh
The head of government in Bangladesh is the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, the political leader of the government of Bangladesh.
Bangladesh Council of Ministers
See information about the Cabinet Ministers of Bangladesh here.
Bangladesh Local Governments
Local Organizations of Central Administration
The central administration consists of a number of ministries and other organizations, including local ones. Various departments, offices and divisions are established in each ministry in Bangladesh. See the definition of centralization here.
Outlook of the cities, towns, villages and other communities, including municipal courts (when applicable), and their legal authority in Bangladesh.
The judiciary power interprets and applies laws. Find here a review of the Judicial System in Bangladesh.
Main Features of the Judiciary
Read the most important characteristics of the Judiciary system in Bangladesh here.
Bangladesh Judicial Structure
Report of the Court Organization and Jurisdiction in Bangladesh.
The Courts in Bangladesh may be divided into:
Description of the functioning of high courts in Bangladesh.
Summary of the roles of courts of lesser rank.
Information about rules that influence sentencing in Bangladesh.
Participants in the Administration of Justice
Information about the impartial administration of justice, the independence and status of the judiciary and other issues related to Judges in Bangladesh.
The role of those government officials who represent, in Bangladesh, legal authorities (often prosecuting criminal actions in Bangladesh and Asia).
The practice of law
More about the practice of law in Bangladesh and Asia.
The legal professions
Practitioners (Lawyers and others)
Learn about the legal role of practitioners, specially lawyers.
Notary-Public in Bangladesh
Overview about Public Notaries practising in Bangladesh.
Court reporter – Clerks
Civil Law Procedure
Outlook of the main features of the Bangladesh civil process, including:
Pretrial Proceedings in Bangladesh
Information about what pretrial proceedings consist of.
The Trial in Bangladesh
Review of the judicial examinations in civil or criminal actions in Bangladesh.
Overview of the steps of litigation in Bangladesh, the litigator’s role and the types of civil litigation in the country here.
The Effect of the Judgment
Overview of effects and recognition of a valid judgment delivered by a court of competent jurisdiction in Bangladesh.
Legal Remedies in Bangladesh
Appeals – Judicial Review
Description of the Appeals process and the Judicial Review process of challenging the lawfulness of decisions in Bangladesh.
Criminal Law Procedure
The Investigation of Crime
Scope of the investigation of crimes:
The Prosecution of Crime
Criminal Trials in Bangladesh
Laws and rules of the administration of justice when a person has been accused of a crime.
Appeals – Judicial Review
When a party files an appeal, asking to review the case:
Alternative Dispute Resolution in Bangladesh
Method of resolving disputes out-of-court (ADR).
Family Law in Bangladesh
Guide to Marriage Law, Succession Law and other Family Law topics in Bangladesh.
Contract Law in Bangladesh
Tort Law in Bangladesh
Regulating claims by civil wrongs that result in an injury or harm.
Property Law in Bangladesh
Copyright and Industrial Property
Business Law in Bangladesh
Besides commercial law and the law of corporations and other entities, this guide provides comprehensive information about:
- Business Law in General in Bangladesh.
- Law Governing Conduct of Business.
- Laws on Foreign Capital and Investment in Bangladesh, including incentives.
- Regulation of companies, corporations and other business organizations in Bangladesh.
- Private International Conflict of Laws in Bangladesh and Asia.
Criminal Law in Bangladesh
Family Law in Bangladesh
Family legal issues including:
- Divorce and separation
- Child protection, custody, support and access
- Property Division
Report of the branches of the Administrative law, including Environmental law.
Overview of the labor law and social security in Bangladesh.
Asia Legal Systems
- The Constitutional Systems and Traditions of Asia.
- Asian history and cultural development.
- Reception of transplanted legal systems in Bangladesh and Asia.
- English Glossary and Dictionary of Selected Legal Terms of Bangladesh
History of the Bangladesh Legal System
The Bangladesh legal tradition has been shaped by many different influences, domestic as well as foreign. More than one different legal system has coexisted in Bangladesh at various points in the long country history. The Portal of Bangladesh law provides introductory entries about the background and history of the law of the country.
Bangladesh Law Portal
The Bangladesh Law Portal provides an introductory overview of the history of legal development in Bangladesh, major legal concepts, the structure of Bangladesh government, the Bangladesh judicial and court system, and peculiar characteristic of the response of the Bangladesh legal system to development in Bangladesh.
The Bangladesh Portal presents the main areas of its legal system and the wider aspects of how law is made and reformed. The entries of the Bangladesh Law Portal include consideration of the primary features of the Bangladesh legal system, including the Bangladesh legal history, Bangladesh judicial structure and operation, the Bangladesh Constitution and the legislative and administrative structure and process. The contents of the Bangladesh Portal also include discussion of Bangladesh legal actors (including Bangladesh lawyers), legal education, judges and other participants in the Bangladesh legal landscape.
The Portal introduces legal professionals, students and the general reader to terms and concepts necessary for understanding the Bangladesh legal system, the jurisdiction, organization and authority of courts in Bangladesh, and the Bangladesh judicial interpretation and decision-making. The substantive areas of law such as public law, torts and product liability, property (including intellectual property rights and copyright infringements), and family law are also covered. The Portal also treats the law governing the main business legal topics: contracts, business regulation, companies and taxation. It also examines the civil, criminal and administrative processes, the procedural rights, main court opinions and the various modes of alternative dispute resolution available in Bangladesh.
Useful to the reader of the Encyclopedia as a reference, the Portal provides a table of cases, indices provides even greater detail, a glossary of selected legal terms and many entries provide bibliographies for further reading.
Comparative Law and Legal Systems in Asia
One of the goals of the comparative law is to wrap up the similarities and differences among countries, including Bangladesh. the different legal traditions in Asia and could be able thereby better to understand the Bangladesh law. to the reception of legal systems in Bangladesh and other countries of Asia, with special reference to the reception of foreign law (specially English law and Islamic law) by these countries.
The Asian Encyclopedia of Law provides a survey of the legal systems of almost all the Asian jurisdictions. Being the Encyclopedia a work in progress, the length of the entries may vary considerably. Each country section includes a description of their major subject areas of law, notes on the main compilations (or official codifications), a detailed listing of legislation covering specific topics and resources for enacted laws and judicial decisions (including references to further online sources).
Conclusion about the Legal System of Bangladesh
A good comprehension of the Bangladesh legal system requires knowledge and skill in a number of disciplines. The Bangladesh system itself is the result of developments in law, economy, politics, sociological change and the theories which feed all these bodies of knowledge. The law or Bangladesh may be relevant in a foreign jurisdiction court proceeding involving international transactions. The Knowledge of the Bangladesh traditions and its legal institutions allows a good understanding of the Bangladesh law, its institutions and processes and sets the Bangladesh law and system in a social context.
This guide introduces some of the main procedural and substantive Bangladesh principles, with a more detailed treatment of resources in the major subject areas of the Bangladesh law, with access to primary materials.
The general reader and students may learn some basic legal concepts and principles of the Bangladesh law, to explain how the Bangladesh legal system operates, and to provide a sense of how the systems within Bangladesh have evolved historically in Bangladesh from its origins.
A globally focused guide like this site, including the legal concepts and principles of Asia, cannot
avoid taking many culture-specific elements into account.
1. See M. Shah Alam, “Bangladesh” in Legal Systems of the World: A Political, Social and Cultural Encyclopedia, ed. H.M.Kritzer.
2. Constitution of the Peoples’ Republic of Bangladesh, 1972.
3. See Abul Barkat, Mozammel Hoque, and Zahid Hassan Chowdhury, “State Capacity in Promoting Trade and Investment: The Case of Bangladesh,”
4. Institutional Framework for Legal and Judicial Training in South Asia, World Bank.
About the Author
Salvador Trinxet Llorca is a law writer, professor and lawyer specialized in comparative and international law.
- Legal Systems
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References and Further Reading
Dr. Salahuddin Aminuzzaman, “A Regional Overview Report on National Integrity System in South
Asia,” report produced for Transparency International’s South Asia Regional Workshop, “National Integrity
Systems,” in Karachi, Pakistan, December 18–20, 2004.
- Comparative law in a global context: the legal systems of Asia and Africa, Werner Menski
- Asian legal systems: law, society, and pluralism in East Asia, Poh-Ling Tan
- Philanthropy and law in Asia: a comparative study of the nonprofit legal systems in ten Asia Pacific societies, Thomas Silk
- Law and legal institutions of Asia : traditions, adaptations and innovations, E Ann Black; Gary F Bell
- Law, capitalism and power in Asia : the rule of law and legal institutions, Kanishka Jayasuriya
- Asia-Pacific legal development, Douglas M Johnston and Gerry A Ferguson
- Modern legal systems cyclopedia, Kenneth R Redden and William Emerson Brock
- Constitutionalism in Asia : Asian views of the American influence, Lawrence Ward Beer
- The judicialization of politics in Asia, Björn Dressel
- East Asian Law: Universal Norms and Local Cultures
- Law, Capitalism and Power in Asia : The Rule of Law and Legal Institutions
- Doing Business in Asia (updated regularly)
- Copyright Law and the Information Society in Asia
- Insolvency Law in East Asia
- Intellectual Property Law in Asia
- A Legal Guide to Doing Business in the Asia-Pacific
- Asia-Pacific Development Journal
- Asia-Pacific Journal on Human Rights and the Law
- Asian Law Journal
- Australian Journal of Asian Law
- Columbia Journal of Asian Law
Table of Contents in the Asian Legal Encyclopedia
- Bangladesh Legal System
- Legal Research in Bangladesh: a Guide for Lawyers
- Where to Start
- General Information about Bangladesh and their Legal Tradition
- Sources of the Bangladesh Law
- The Bangladesh Government System
- Legislative Branch
- Executive Branch
- Judiciary Branch
- Participants in the Administration of Justice
- Civil Law Procedure
- Criminal Law Procedure
- Alternative Dispute Resolution in Bangladesh
- Private Law
- Public Law
- Asia Legal Systems
- Further Resources
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This entry was last modified: July 15, 2013