Friday, August 10, 2012

Two Books on Civil Laws Affecting the Christian Community in Bangladesh

On my visit to Bangladesh in January, 2012, I came across two books on civil laws that directly affect the Christian community in Bangladesh. These two books deal with laws that were not available in print to the public until their recent publication. The British, when ruling the greater India (present India, Bangladesh and Pakistan), had codified these laws.

I present below some details on these books.


1. Ain Shohaika (a helpful guide to laws) by James Hilton (Dhaka: Shalom Foundation, Road 17, House 12, Nikunja-2, Khilkhet, Dhaka-1217, Bangladesh; 2011; Price Tk. 200=US $ 2.50).

Since the printed version of the laws, affecting the Christian community, are not available, Christians in general were ignorant of their rights and responsibilities codified in the civil laws regarding their marriage, divorce, and succession. The author of this book says that in law, ignorance is not a bliss, it is neither an excuse. That’s why James Hilton’s book has filled a long-time want for the first time. In future, these laws need to be extensively analysed and interpreted by competent persons for better understanding of them by the Christians as well as lawyers. 

The Content of the Book: The first part of the book, written in Bengali, gives a synopsis of the specific laws affecting Christians (Christian Marriage Act of 1872, Christian Divorce Act of 1869, Christian Succession Act of 1925, and The Evidence Act of 1872, The Foreigners Act of 1946). It also briefly gives some additional information on other relevant laws -- enacted in Pakistan and Bangladesh periods -- (e.g. the effect of conversion on marriage; Muslim Family Laws; Muslim Women and Divorce; Hindu Family Laws; Garo Family Laws; The First Information Report (F.I.R.); Granting Bail; Defamation; Crimes Related to Religions; Bangladesh Penal Code; Laws Relating to Sale and Purchase of Land; General Diary (G.D.); Muslim Family Laws, Domestic Court and Abuse of Women; Trial of Complaint; State Acquisition and Tenancy Act; Pre-emption; and Enemy Property. 

The second part of the book provides the original codified laws in English (Christian Marriage Act of 1872; The Divorce Act of 1869; and The Succession Act of 1925).

James Hilton, the author of this book, has an M.A. in History and Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) degree from Dhaka. He was a long-time government civil servant both in Pakistan and Bangladesh periods. He served as a Deputy Magistrate and Collector, and later as a Magistrate in different districts and sub-divisions and rose to the status of a Joint Secretary in the Secretariat in Dhaka before his retirement in 1991. He was then the Executive Director of World Vision of Bangladesh for six years and a Regional Consultant for Asia-Pacific Region of World Vision International for one-and-a-half years. Later he has been volunteering his services for several Christian religious and social service organizations in Dhaka.


2. Christan Uttoradhikar Ain (Christian succession laws) by Advocate Paul D’Costa (Dhaka: Heaven & Holy Prakashon, 165-A First Rajabazar, Tejgaon, Dhaka-1215; 2011; Price: Tk. 270=U.S. $ 3.35). 

This 183-page book in Bengali has been written basing on the Succession Act of 1925. It also provides analysis and interpretation of the laws. 

The Content of the Book: This book includes the Succession Act of 1925, Intestate Succession, Rules in Cases of Intestate Other Than Parsis, Distribution Where There Are Lineal Descendants, Distribution Where There Are No Lineal Descendants, Christian Succession Act in Bangladesh, Relations Among Christian Successors, Wife’s Portion in the Succession Act, Chlildren’s Share in the Succession Act, General Questions on This Act, Garo Succession Laws, Deficiency of the Succession Act and Reflections on It, and Interview of Other Christian Lawyers and Experts on the Christian Succession Act.

This book is an important addition in the published law books in Bangladesh and Christians now have an easy access to these laws.

Paul D’Costa has an M.A. and Bachelor of Laws degrees from Dhaka. He has been writing for various journals and publications. He has written two other books, Doinondin Jiboney Ain Shohaika (Helpful guide to laws in daily life) and Unnoyon Protiti (An insight into development). He is a practicing lawyer and a notary public. He is also involved as a legal adviser to some Christian organizations in Dhaka.

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