Legal History of Bangladesh

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History & Development of Legal System in Bangladesh: Hindu Period to Pakistan Period

Md. Ziadul Islam Chowdhury Sadi
Department of Law
University of Dhaka

Legal System has developed gradually in Bangladesh with her growth as a nation over the centuries. Before the advent of British rule this part of the country was under Mughal rule. The Mughals seized power from the Turko-Afghan sultans who ruled the country since the beginning of the 13th century. It was under the Hindu ruler (Aryans) for 1500 years before and after the beginning of Christian era when they conquered the land by vanquishing the indigenous people. During the Turko-Mughal rule the country formed the eastern part of Subah Bangla and, during the British rule, eastern part of the province of Bengal.

Historical development of Legal System of Bangladesh:

Legal history of Bangladesh can conveniently be studied under five important periods — Hindu Period, Muslim Period, British Period, Pakistan Period and after independence (or Bangladesh period).


Introduction & Sources of Law
Legal system in Bangladesh under Hindu period is also known as Aryan legal system because during Hindu period law and legal system were mainly developed by Aryans who migrated from central Asia[1]. After coming to India the Aryans followed certain norms in their conduct with one another. The rules of conduct (achar) of each class included religious observances which were binding, and violation of the same was expiated by the rituals of penance (prayaschitta). The Brahmins, the priestly class, helped the wrongdoers in performing those rituals. Those rules of conduct were called dharma and included duties and obligations. In course of time it became the dharma of the king to compel the people to observe their rules of conduct and the Brahmins, as the repository of knowledge of those rules, advised the king in administering the same. Legal obligations and their violations were subject matter of litigation (vyavahara). The king and the judges appointed by the king decided the litigations. It was the obligation of the subjects to obey the command and law laid down by the king. As military chief he had the power to coerce people to obey his orders. The king maintained social order by awarding punishment (danda) to the violators of the law. Dandaniti or the rules about punishment was an essential part of the education of the king After Bengal came under Aryan rule, the system of law of the Aryans as modified by local customs and usages was in operation. During the rule of the Pal’s the chief justice was called Mahadandanayaka or Dharmadhikar and during the rule of Chandras Varmans and Sen’s he was known as Mahadharmadhyaksha. That system of law was also known as Hindu law. Laws compiled by Gautama, Budhyana, Apastamba, Harit, Vaisishtha, Visnu Manu, Yajnavalkya, Narada, Brihaspati, Katyanya etc were the main sources of the new legal system. In Bengal Jimutabahana's Dayabhaga, a digest of all codes of hindu law was followed in respect of inheritance and partition of joint property and in the rest of India Vijnaneshwar's Mitaksara, a commentary of the code of Yajnavalkya was followed.

Administration of Justice:
(1). Organization of Court Structure:
I. King’s Court: During Hindu Period, the King was regarded as the fountainhead of the justice. He was respected as the Lord of Dharma and was entrusted with the supreme authority of the administration of justice in his kingdom. The King’s Court was the highest court of appeal as well as an original court in cases of vital importance to the state. In the King’s Court king was advised by learned Brahmins, the Chief Justice and other judges, ministers, elders and representatives of the trading community.

II. The Chief Justice’s Court: Next to the King’s Court was the Chief Justice’s Court (Pradvivaka) which consisted of the Chief Justice and a board of judges to assist the Chief Justice. All the judges were from...
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