If we scrutinise only article 27 of the constitution of Bangladesh, it should be enough to understand that every citizen stands equal and must get equal protection of law. Articles 28 and 29 read with article 27 expand the concept of equality and create scope of inclusivity. However, to understand the meaning, interpretation and also the restrictions of the Articles mentioned, we must closely examine the contents embodied within them.
Reading article 27 alone might raise a few questions in a reader’s mind, ‘will the people working not as hard share equal results?’ Or ‘what about the whole concept of competition we use everywhere?’. The answer is, it actually talks about a human being in general and their statuses as a human being. And if article 28 is brought in the equation it clarifies further that regardless of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth, citizens are to be treated equally by the State.
Now, one can bring up a saying of Aristotle which goes, ‘the worst form of inequality is trying to make unequal things equal’, so is the Constitution allowing unequal treatment among unequal citizens? Do the provisions in articles 28 and 29 which talk about positive discrimination in favour of women, children and backwards, stand against the principles of equality? This can be answered easily if we look into the history and societal structure of Bangladesh. Had they been treated equally and given the equal opportunity to prove themselves to be on the same footing as the privileged stratum of the society, they would have been at the same place. Hence there is room for ensuring measures to bring the suppressed groups in equal footing with others. Every time we see a person classified as dalit getting discriminated on ground of his/her being dalit or a woman getting denied of entry into a certain company despite being capable, these are clear violation of Constitution itself and the human rights which actually have their roots embedded in International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) under which Bangladesh, as a signatory has obligations, with a few exceptions. Article 26 of ICCPR talks about the right to equality before law and equal protection, which is in consonance with our Constitution.
Despite having countless safeguards rooted in international laws, conventions and specifically in the Constitution we see a surge of infringements on the rights of the deserving who need attention of the law. It is mainly because of the lack of awareness and the mechanisms that has been built by the usurpers throughout history to make it difficult for backward and oppressed classes to come forward.
Franz Kafka illustrates a metaphorical scenario in the parable ‘Before the law’ that the law is being guarded by a corrupt doorkeeper who builds a façade that law is easily accessible but when you need the access, it will always tell you, the admittance in the realm of law isn’t possible at the moment without giving any particular explanations. And will keep you giving false hope till the day you die. This can be used to get an idea why even after having so many provisions to empower the different classes in Bangladesh, many are nowhere even close to achieving their rights.
The writer is a student of Law, University of Dhaka.