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Abrupt use of the wide and vague legal word is a considerable reason behind the abuse of law and arbitrary exercise

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Bangladesh has inherited many of its consisting laws from the British by adoption and some are promulgated after the independence of Bangladesh. But unfortunately, in many of our existing laws, the legal wordings have been used are very technical and vague in sense and these can be used in a very wide horizon. This abrupt use of the technically wide and vague legal wording in legislation has brought a threat to the protection of the law guaranteed by the Constitution of Bangladesh. These have opened the door for the abuse of law and created scopes for arbitrary exercise by authorities in recent years.  

Interpretation of law is an essential tool for defining true sense and identification of the means and measure of any law but it is basically allowed when the law specifically and clearly does not specifies anything or to find out the true objective of the enactment. More clearly it can be said that when the legislation clearly states anything specifically there lies no scope but to follow the literal interpretation. So here basically, the whole thing is dependent on the wordings of the statute and intention of the legislature. The word used in the statute mostly determines the fate and scope of its application. So if open-ended words, wide technical and vague words are very commonly used in a statute without any specific criteria it can give scope for malice application of the statute through following its literal meaning. Along with that in some cases by interpreting the used black and white word the application of the law can also be extended on establishing at court that it is in conformity with the intention of the legislation.

In the elaboration of the matter if we see the most used some laws of our country one of them obviously would be the Special Powers Act, 1974. In this said Act the definition of the ‘Prejudicial act’ in Section-2(f) is articulated in such a way that every possible circumstance can be included in its ambit and to say more specifically if concerned authority wishes easily it is possible for him to arrest any person in allegation of prejudicial act and harass any person by falling him under this provision. Since its enactment, the wide scoped definition of this term reflected what consequences most of the people of the country is aware of it. Moreover that, the application of this law by mostly using the term mirrored how the wording of the law can open the way for abuse of law, arbitrary exercise and can be used to apply in general violating the protection of the law guaranteed by the Constitution of Bangladesh. Another example of such can be mentioned is the articulation of Section-54 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898. By this, the police have been given unfettered power to arrest anyone by using the term ‘on the reasonable ground in consideration of police or on suspicion’. This wording is found vague in the consideration that the scope of the word ‘suspicion’ is very wide and it is a variable term. Moreover that there are no special criteria that are mentioned to determine on what grounds and constituting fact would be considered as suspicious. Though the apex court of Bangladesh passed directions in this regard but in fact the wording of the law always has been enough to arrest anyone indiscriminately on the wish of the authority concerned by showing any reason considered reasonable to him and it has been scoped by the literal wording of the statute. This is another example of how the vague and wide scoped wordings of any statute may give any authority unhindered power to exercise its power by abusing the intent of the law and gives authority to arbitrary exercise. Similarly, we find the same in the Digital Security Act, 2018 which is very recent legislation of Bangladesh where “anything that is hurtful to religious sentiments, anything that hurts an image of a person or the state” has been mentioned as an offence. Here the use of the words are so wide and subject to vary because of the beliefs and thoughts of people. So in that situation, such wide and vague language without any specific criteria may create scope for abuse of the law, may lead authorities to act arbitrarily and as well as it is sufficient to make any person victim of malice intention of any party.

Nevertheless, these provisions leave a wide scope of discretion. From the following of the trends in legal practice now to some extent it has been established that in exercising discretionary power there is no guideline and not even followed. It often tends towards arbitrary exercise. In this condition, if the words, sentences are kept in vagueness and wide scoped technical words are used abruptly then it might worsen the condition of the rule of law. This might pave the way for arbitrary exercise, abuse of law and most importantly it would be a threat to the protection of the law guaranteed by the Constitution of Bangladesh.   

In recent many year, it is often alleged that the abuse of law and arbitrary exercise in most of the cases are followed by the mentioned some laws and more specifically by using the said provisions. Albeit these are few examples but there are many other laws in Bangladesh where such condition exists. Here it is important to mention that many countries which had been once under the British Colony and after being independent state adopted the British promulgated laws as their law they have amended the laws with the passage of time and in some cases reframed the laws where the laws created inconsistency or reflected ‘British ruling mechanism’ during colonial ruling. For example, we can mention our near country India. But unfortunately though so many years left after independence of Bangladesh we could not yet properly correct our laws which would not create absurdity and would not be deviated from the establishment of rule of law regime and ensuring protection of law by use of clear and understandable words, sentence in legislations and also aimed at equal application of law.      

Therefore, at this point, it is crucial to look at this matter while any enactment is made in the future and to take steps to amend the current laws where there are such wide and vague words that have been used. The proper use of the specific word and ignoring the wide, vague word or language with specific criteria may ensure the protection of the law guaranteed by the Constitution of Bangladesh. Moreover, it may narrow down the scope of arbitrary exercise by the authorities and chances for the abuse of law.

 

Writer:

Monjur Shariya Bhuiyan

LL.M Student, Bangladesh University of Professionals.

 

Sources:

  • Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh
  • Code of Criminal Procedure,1898
  • Digital Security Act,2018
  • Special Powers Act,1974
  • The Interpretation of Statutes. Author- Prof. T. Bhattacharyya. Publisher- Central Law Publication. ISBN- 9789384852696, Edition- 10th, 2017.
  • Interpretationof Statutes and Documents. Author, Mahmudul Islam. Publisher, Mullick Brothers. ISBN, 9848272356. Edition, 1st, 2015. 

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