Even after 45 years of its adoption, the original Constitution, as adopted in 1972, holds great appeal among many Bangladeshis. It is worth remembering that on the eve of the 2014 national parliamentary elections, Syed Ashraful Islam, the then General Secretary of Awami League stated his party would make every effort to return to the 1972 Constitution if elected to power again.
One could easily sense that many Bangladeshi politicians, professionals, and intellectuals, especially those who are in close proximity to legal profession and legal education, share a keen sense of pride for the Constitution.
Now, the question is, how could a nation, which is so enthusiastic about its Constitution, allow the framers to go unsung?
On April 1, 1972, the Constituent Assembly formed the Constitution Drafting Committee, comprising 34 members, and entrusted to it the task of preparing a draft Constitution that the Assembly would ultimately consider. The committee held its first meeting on April 17 and went on to work throughout April and May at a stretch until June 3, when the first draft was ready.
The committee approved the draft on June 10, but went on to work on linguistic improvement with the help of Professor Syed Ali Ahsan, Dr Mazharul Islam, and Dr Anisuzzaman. The committee concluded its work on October 11 by settling the text of the Constitution bill and submitted it to the Constituent Assembly along with a report.
Everyone (save the cynics) will admit that the way the Constitution Drafting Committee had brought about the draft Constitution just in less than two months is simply stunning. Sadly enough, many Bangladeshis do not know how a daunting feat such as this one was accomplished in so little time, even with less logistical support.
Many people do not even know who were on the Committee with the exception of a few luminaries like Dr Kamal Hossain, Syed Nazrul Islam, Tajuddin Ahmed, AHM Kamaruzzaman, M Amir-Ul Islam, Serajul Haq, and Suranjit Sen Gupta.
The members of the Constitution Drafting Committee were freedom fighters, top organisers of our liberation war, and the progenitors of independent Bangladesh. Honouring them as the framers of the Constitution will glorify importance of the Constitution in everyone’s eye
Arguably, next to the country’s independence, our greatest achievement is the Constitution. In effect, the Constitution is the tangible result of our struggle for independence.
No doubt, the experience of overlong unconstitutional regime during Pakistan era prompted the Father of the Nation, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to trigger the Constitution-making process immediately after his return to country.
If the Constitution embodies the vision and direction of the Father of the Nation, it is the Constitution Drafting Committee who midwifed that vision into reality.
The members of the Constitution Drafting Committee were freedom fighters, top organisers of our Liberation War, and the progenitors of independent Bangladesh. Honouring them as the framers of the Constitution will glorify importance of the Constitution in everyone’s eye.
Although a few of them were decorated with national commendations, the citations do not refer to their contribution to the Constitution-making process.
At this point, one might justly anticipate why the Constitution Drafting Committee had not yet been decorated despite such a great achievement.
One reason could be that among the members of the committee were persons like Khandker Mushtak Ahmed who later went astray to become one of the plotters of the tragic incident of August 15, 1975.
Given that, it would still not be prudent to remain indifferent to those members of the committee who remained loyal to the spirit of the national liberation struggle all through their lives.
One solution could be that instead of decorating the committee as a whole, only the deserving members thereof could be honoured individually with citation specifically recognising their respective contribution to the making of the Constitution. It will lessen the debts that the nation owes to them.
The government has honoured many foreign nationals and organisations with accolades for their contribution to our struggle for liberation.
We must not forget that the members of the Constitution Drafting Committee were the worthiest sons of the soil and the nation owes to them no less than others.
Kawser Ahmed is an Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh.