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Abdul Mannan’s Laws, Unlaws, Above-Laws, Outlaws and In-Laws: An Insightful Observation

By: Mohammad Jashim Uddin

A parliamentarian is an expert in interpreting and applying the “Rules of Order” for meetings of deliberative assemblies. These rules, such as Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised, enable groups to efficiently and fairly discuss and determine actions to be taken.

      The Parliamentarian does not rule! Parliamentary law gives to the chair alone the power to rule on questions of order and on the proper application of the rules. The role of the parliamentarian during a meeting is purely an advisory and consultative one, helping the presiding officer to respond to points of order and parliamentary inquiries. Only on the most involved matters should the presiding officer ask the parliamentarian to give an explanation directly to the assembly.

But here is a question how many of the parliamentarians know what and how they can contribute to the country! Even it is doubtful how many of them are really aware about their areas of interference and limitations. It happens because many of them are not willing to read the previous proceedings and successful ancestors’ struggle and thoughts and philosophy. As a result, we see there is a cold-war and sometimes it turns into a blood-shed between the parliamentarians and members of the local governments.

It is really strange when one intends to enlighten themselves reading the books of parliamentarians, they become disappointed not to getting sufficient books from them. Some parliamentarians have written few books. Bangabandhu Sheikh Majibur Rahman maintains his diary that had been published as books. Late Moudud Ahmed was very famous for writing and analysing the acts and articles of the constitution. Shah Muazzem Hossain wrote some books. Nowadays Sheikh Hasina is very active in writing, but the other makes the people disappointed mostly. Whereas, Late Abdul Mannan was different because of his thoughts and writing. As a Parliamentarian, he tried to interpret the constitution and the activities of the parliament from different perspectives. His Laws, Unlaws, Above-Laws, Outlaws and In-Laws is one the examples where he talks about the interest of the common people and how some amendments hamper the normal progress of Bangladesh.

Undoubtedly, a parliamentarian should have knowledge about the constitution, rules of business, local and international economic, political and the other affairs. Simultaneously, they must have knowledge about local and international culture, religion, and literature because these enrich one to interpret any critical situations and contribute to the development of laws. Abdul Mannan had such kinds of knowledge. Interpreting any articles and observations he used some verses from different poets and playwrights. To discuss the objectives of the books he quoted from G B Shaw’s famous line “The art of Govt. is the organization of idolatry.” According to him, “It gives us a scope to deuce the art of jurisprudence is the ultrafine engineering the subjectified interpretation of laws.”

The book has six chapters excluding Index, and interestingly, ‘Index’ has been used as prologue so that no one can be misguided. The chapters are: ‘Laws’, ‘Unlaws’, ‘Above-Laws’, ‘Outlaws’, ‘In-laws’, and ‘Conclusion’. Instead of ‘Introduction’, he wrote ‘A Few Words’, where starts with the limitations of human being saying, “Allah is Great and above all it is the people who are to reveal the truth to Him and nothing but the truth. That is why, perhaps, Shakespeare [wrote] ‘All professions are conspiracies against the laity.’ Of this phenomenon of philosophical doctrine outsprouts a general inference that even jurisprudence cannot absolve itself from taking part in conspiracies against the laity.”

In ‘Laws’, defining the law, he says, “The system of rules which a particular country or community recognizes as regulating the actions of its members and which it may enforce by the imposition of penalties.” The law should only be protected every people. Drawing a historical sketch about the preparing and implementation of law, he says, “At the advent of human being in this world, there had been no laws, no rules and no administration -perhaps there had been no necessity either.”

 As the number of human beings started to multiply and evolution-process began, necessity was obviously as well as evidently becoming imperative and portending towards the formation of societies for living within the bounds of social parameters. Conceptualization towards the framing of laws, rules and setting-up administration thus began to crystalise and blanch in order to ensure a revolutionary effect for evolutionary process of disciplines of laws.

He then tells when people feel that they need to form laws and constitution for discipline. According to him, “Transformation process then began from time immemorial and input in the laws started to pour and creep in to take care of more and more over a long process of time frame, interests and demands of the ‘Ruled’. In other words the process of digression began to coast home from subjectivity to objectivity of a well-knit pro-people stand. “

Moreover, “The laws, what we have today, have a pretty long historical background of human cultivation.” But we know that there are other sets of laws that came down to earth as divine directives e.g. the dictates of the Holy Quaran. In addition, “Cultivated laws are the derivatives of human approach, conscience, commonsense and judiciousness in a propitious and ambient-climatic atmosphere.”

Later he shows a very scientific equation to prove that how laws are dementing mass people, it also tells where to correct and improve. How and why people misinterpret laws is identified here and then he opines, “Such laws thus vary from country to country, so do thus, their implementation and application, naturally interpretations and judgments, quite often, vary on the same or similar issues depending at the times also upon the extraneous influences.”

In reality, nothing will be perfect, but it may, though, seem to be near perfection under compelling circumstances. We may have to live through such scenarios to outdure. Laws and the implementation of justice are two sides of a coin. Through a binary opposite, the author tried to show the importance of transparent laws. He mentions, “As saying go that, ‘Justice delayed, justice denied’, or conversely ‘Justice hurried, justice buried- we have to be, therefore, exclusively and extremely cautious and careful in the matters of laws.”

Bangladesh has come a long way along the course of democracy. Experiencing a lot of digressionsand deviations from the right course of the democratic path for the ill or little studied demography, the last few general elections somehow heralded the dawn of a new era of parliamentary democracy, but democracy in letter and spirit still remains as a far cry.  To support these remarks, his few words can be quoted here. According to him, “No doubt, politics is to impregnate democracy with politicization. But when such politicization is embedded with criminalization, it sprouts a democracy which we may tend to call a criminalized-cum- politicized democracy.”

Corruption is everywhere and most of the people are corrupted. Some are directly and openly involved and the rest are waiting for a favourable environment. But Abdul Mannan identifies the three stages of corruption which are really remarkable obstacles in implementing laws in Bangladesh. The three stages are: a. Business corruption/administration corruption (often related to extortion?, b.  State capture (purchase of administrative decisions by business), and c. Business capture (business’ unlawful control of officials over times).

One would also comprehend that state capture and business capture in a cyclic proves. For example, officials whether bureaucrats or politicians in power, seize control of business and receive pecuniary advantages that are eventually recycled to people them to power through elections; in this way, money plays a dominant role in politics. Then he identifies that politicians tendency buying votes and then ignore them after being elected. Moreover, control over the election commission is the prime obstacles on reducing the corruption because through the election corrupted and unqualified people lead the constitution. So, they will only fulfil their desire, and never think of the mass people’s interest. Then he talks about the “Further to amend Article 96 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh.”

Next chapter is “Unlaws” where he starts with the clarification of unlaws.  According to him, “Unlaws mean break of laws. The Consultation has its roots in Parliament and Parliament is sovereign. All laws are, one way or the other, derivatives or offsprings of the Constitution at least to extent that all must conform to the Constitutional provisions within their parameters.”

Then he explains how unlaws work. For example, he sets ‘The Moon Cinema Hall Case’ how some politicians change the ‘Article 48, Article 55, Article 148 and so on”, After that, he in details explains most of the constitutional amendments including the motto of Bangladesh. Then he presents how and why again and again ‘nationalism, socialism, democracy and secularism’ have been changed and affected. Article 38 has given everyone to form association, union and like some other organizations, but how and why these rights have been controlled is discussed here.

Very interestingly, he presents how a word can make someone confused to understand the constitution. For example, the words ‘amendment, and amend’ have multiple application in different dictionaries, but what one should be accepted is not mentioned in our constitution. As a result, there is a scope to misinterpret its application. For example, about the selecting process of the Chief of the Caretaker Government is one of them.

The Third Chapter is ‘Above-Laws”. Quoting Thomas Fuller’s “Be you ever so high, the law is above you”, he starts the chapter, and says, “No one is above Board or above Laws.” Here he talks about the details about the caretaker government how again and again Article 123(3) has been violated and how some people think that they are above-laws.

Chapter four is “Outlaws” where he talks about the extra-judiciary killings. According to him, “Outlaws are those persons who are engaged in activities and operate their actions ultravires of the Constitutional provisions and in clear violation of the laws in vogue. Generally, concept is that since the outlaws do not follow the dictates of laws, they can squarely be replied by similar coins that do not fall within the parameters of laws.”

To explain the above-laws, he cites a verse of Samuel Johnson’s poem “Liberty is, to the lowest rank of every nation, little more than the choice of working or starving.” Moreover, he believes that “tit for tat’ methodology i.e. operation is executed beyond the scope of laws. In other words, it is accomplished through extra-judicial killings and that too with a lot of misgivings like that under the grab of cross-fire or encounters perhaps without having understood the difference between cross-fire and encounters. Sometimes most innocents die for nothing reminding us of Shakespeare’s : Murder most foul, as in the best it is;/ But this most foul strange and unnatural.” 

He is fully against extra-judicial killings and cross-fire. That’s why, he says, “Extra-judicial killings may lead to destroying the judiciary system or encouraging further the activities of the outlaws. A state must behave like a state and formulate administrative policies, laws and judiciary system to take care of the outlaws through actions of the statecraft within the ambit of laws.”

The next chapter is “In-Laws”. In-laws has been used with multi-connotations in this presentation as a relation to encompass the whole spectra of multi-diagonal relationship towards development of some gains, of one-kind or the other, though: i. Politicians of administration; ii. Criminalization of politics; iii. State capturism; and iv. Political party affiliationism.  

According to him, “Our cultural heritage has given a special attachment as well as treatment to a relation what we call as ‘cordiality and affection to son-in-law’.”  This chapter, therefore, talks about the degree of favouritism tricking through the laws, albert in disguise, in many cases hoodwinking the rest of the society.

Then he says, “Favouritism and nepotism take place in many many-a-field like: job appointments, postings, transfers and promotions; exoneration in criminal cases for offences, doling out undue business, allowing bails (realize from custody) through influences, withdrawal of cases in the name of undoing political harassment. In other words the matter relates to a host of issues. Unless and until we are unable to tackle these issues seriously, it is a far away cry to do away with corruption, even to a degree.”

In ‘Conclusion’, he summarizes his insightful observation and expresses his thoughts and urges everyone to be aware about their voting and choosing any candidate. Moreover, his philosophy and thoughts are expressed in his dedication where he writes “To all those innocent who, have, hitherto, suffered by the weighted of Laws due to wrong interpretation and application or abuse with or without prejudice.”


The Reviewer is an Associate Professor and Chairman of English at Northern University Bangladesh.

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