The Jatiya Sangsad ("National Parliament"; Bengali: জাতীয় সংসদ Jatiyô Sôngsôd), often referred to simply as the Sangsad or JS and also known as the House of the Nation, is the supreme legislative body of Bangladesh. The current parliament of Bangladesh contains 350 seats, including 50 seats reserved for women, which are apportioned on elected party position in the parliament. Elected occupants are called members of parliament or MP. The 10th National Parliamentary Election was held on 5 January 2014. Elections are held every five years unless the parliament is dissolved before that time.
The leader of the party (or alliance of parties) holding the majority of seats becomes the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, and the head of the government. The President of Bangladesh, the ceremonial head of state, is chosen by Parliament. Since the December 2008 national election, the current majority party is the Bangladesh Awami League. It is led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Parliament's powers are restricted by Article 70 of the Constitution of Bangladesh, which bans MPs from voting against their party or crossing the floor. MPs risk losing their seats if they turn against the party line. Hence, free votes and no-confidence motions to remove prime ministers have not been possible in the Bangladeshi parliament.
The Constitution of Bangladesh designates the official name of the legislature Jatiya Sangsad (জাতীয় সংসদ) in Bengali and House of the Nation in English. The term Sangsad (Bengali pronunciation: [ˈbːsɔŋsɔd̪ɔ]), a Bengali word for "The Parliament", is derives from the Sanskrit word Sansad (lit. the gathering or assembly). The Bengali word Jatiya means National, hence, the name Jatiya Sangsad translates to National Parliament. The legislature is commonly known as Parliament and often referred to simply as the Sangsad or JS.
The term "Member of Parliament" (Bengali: সংসদ সদস্য; Sansada sadasya) refers to both the 300 elected members and the 50 nominated women members of the Sangsad. The title is almost always shortened to the initialism "MP" and often referred to simply as the Sānsada (Bengali: সাংসদ; lit. the Parliamentarian) in Bengali. Members of Parliament are entitled to use the prefix "The Honourable".
The Constituent Assembly of Bangladesh was established in 10 April 1972 after the Bangladesh Liberation War to prepare a democratic constitution and served as its first Parliament as an independent nation. The Assembly approved the Constitution on November 4, 1972, and it took effect on December 16 and the Constituent Assembly became the Provisional Parliament of Bangladesh until the first elections under the new Constitution took place in 1973.
Until 10 July 1981 the Constituent Assembly, the first and second Parliament held their sittings in the building that now houses the Prime Minister's Office and which is often referred as the old Sangsad Bhaban (old Parliament House). The opening ceremony of the present Parliament House was performed on 15 February 1982. The last session of the second Parliament was held in the new house on 15 February 1982.
The maximum strength of the Parliament envisaged by the Constitution of Bangladesh is 350, which is made up by election of up to 300 members to represent 300 parliamentary constituencies and 50 seats reserved for women, which are apportioned on elected party position in the parliament. The electoral districts are referred to as "Nirbācanī ēlākā" (Bengali: নির্বাচনী এলাকা) in Bengali, which can be literally translated to English as "electoral area" though the official English translation for the term is "constituency". The term "Nirbācanī ēlākā" is used while referring to an electoral district in general. The constituencies are arranged as to coincide with the administrative Districts of Bangladesh, distributed among the proportion to their population. Number may various from 2-20 member every districts. The seats are indicated as Districts.xxx (e.g. Panchagarh-1 or Jessore-6). When referring to a particular legislatorial constituency, it is simply referred to as the name of the Constituency with, in Bengali (e.g.-'Panchagarh-1' or simply 'Seat:1' Constituency). Each constituency is represented by a single member of Parliament, and is elected by the first-past-the-post system.
Article 66 of the Constitution makes membership open to any citizen of Bangladesh and only to citizens above the age of 25 (dual citizenship is possible for civilians in Bangladesh, but not for MPs).
Members are elected by direct polls in their respective constituencies. Whoever wins the most votes, regardless of turnout or proportion, wins the election. Members are elected for a term of 5 years; the entire Parliament dissolves 5 years after the swear-in. Members can be re-elected indefinitely. They may be independent or affiliated with a political party.
Members must not have served time in prison for more than 2 years to be eligible, unless they served this period five years prior to the elections.
Article 67 states that members absent without leave for 90 consecutive sitting days will lose their membership. Any ambiguity regarding membership will be resolved by the Bangladesh Election Commission. Attending sessions without being a member (even if memberships are cancelled in retrospect) is fined by a BDT1,000 ($14) fine per day, per Article 69.
The only case of floor crossing in Bangladesh was when majority members M.A. Mannan and Mahi B. Chowdhury defected from the Bangladesh National Party to form a new party, Bikolpo Dhara. Fresh by-elections were held soon after the seats were vacated. Mahi B. Chowdhury retained his seat under the new party, whereas Mannan failed.
As most candidates are elected by the funding, support and brand name of the party, resignation from the party is considered to void the choice of the people. The prime objective of banning floor crossing is to prevent members from joining other parties for personal gains. This is crucial in marginal majorities, where a few majority members voting against the majority essentially changes the government party in power.
The ban on floor crossing stunts the members from speaking out against bad policies pitched by their party. This is considered harmful for parliamentary democracy, as the ban forces members to agree with their party leaders regardless of their own opinions or the opinions of their constituents.
It is usually the custom for prominent politicians, especially party leaders. During the last election Awami League leader Sheikh Hasina, prominent AL figure (and later President of Bangladesh) Zillur Rahman, BNP leader Khaleda Zia and Jatiya Party leader H M Ershad all were candidates in the maximum possible number of constituencies.
The President of Bangladesh appoints a cabinet with the Prime Minister and other ministers from among the Members. The Prime Minister must be a parliamentarian, and so must at least 90% of the Ministers. The President must appoint a Prime Minister who, in his opinion, commands the confidence of the majority of the House. The cabinet remains answerable to the Parliament.
The President of Bangladesh is elected by the Parliament through open ballot voting. As a result, the opposition party seldom nominates a candidate and the governing party nominee is uncontested. Current President Abdul Hamid and previous presidents Zillur Rahman, Iajuddin Ahmed, A. Q. M. Badruddoza Chowdhury and Shahabuddin Ahmed were all elected unopposed. The Parliament can also impeach the President by a two-thirds majority.
The Parliament can form parliamentary standing committees as it sees fit, for the purposes of examining bills, reviewing law enforcements and any other matter of public importance. The de facto power of the committees have always been nominal; the de jure power too is ambiguous, especially after the Supreme Court ruled that it was not answerable to summons from parliamentary committees.
Parliament is generally regarded as a rubber stamp body as MPs cannot cross the floor, have free votes, or pass motions of no confidence due to Article 70 of the Constitution of Bangladesh. Political scientists, judges in the Supreme Court, public intellectuals, newspapers and journalists, civil rights activists and members of parliament have demanded reform of the article. Critics argue Article 70 tramples freedom of speech and freedom of conscience in parliament, in violation of the constitution's fundamental rights. Additionally, it significantly limits the checks and balances on the Prime Minister's power, as there are few means by which s/he can be legally dismissed.
Article 78 of the Constitution provides immunity for the speeches, actions and votes of the Members done within parliamentary sessions, and members are not answerable for any such actions to the court. The parliament itself is vested with the power to provide indemnity to anybody in service of the nation under Article 46. This allowed the 2nd parliament in 1979 to ratify the Indemnity Ordinance that provided indemnity to the murderers of Sheikh Mujib.
|Legislature||Majority||Leader of House||Opposition||Leader of the Opposition|
|1st Parliament||Bangladesh Awami League||Sheikh Mujibur Rahman||None||None|
|2nd Parliament||Bangladesh Nationalist Party||Shah Azizur Rahman||Awami League||Asaduzzaman Khan|
|3rd Parliament||Jatiya Party||Mizanur Rahman Chowdhury||Awami League||Sheikh Hasina|
|4th Parliament||Jatiya Party||Kazi Zafar Ahmed||Coalition opposition||A. S. M. Abdur Rab|
|5th Parliament||Bangladesh Nationalist Party||Khaleda Zia||Awami League||Sheikh Hasina|
|6th Parliament||Bangladesh Nationalist Party||Khaleda Zia||Bangladesh Freedom Party||None|
|7th Parliament||Bangladesh Awami League||Sheikh Hasina||BNP||Khaleda Zia|
|8th Parliament||Bangladesh Nationalist Party||Khaleda Zia||Awami League||Sheikh Hasina|
|9th Parliament||Bangladesh Awami League||Sheikh Hasina||BNP||Khaleda Zia|
|10th Parliament||Bangladesh Awami League||Sheikh Hasina||Jatiya Party||Rowshan Ershad|
The parliamentary groups of the Jatiya Sangsad are groups of Members of parliament organized by political party or by coalition of parties. The leadership of each groups consists of a parliamentary party leader, deputy leader, whips and a parliamentary working committee. The size of a group determines the extent of its representation on legislative committees, the time slots allotted for speaking, the number of committee chairs it can hold, and its representation in executive bodies of the parliament.
The Parliament executive bodies include the Speaker of the Jatiya Sangsad, the House Committee and Parliament Secretariat. The House Committee consists of the Parliament Speaker, Deputy Speaker and Whips. Every major political party appoints a whip who is responsible for the party's discipline and behaviour on the floor of the house. The Committee is the coordination hub, determining the daily legislative agenda and assigning committee chairpersons based on Parliamentary group representation. The Parliament Secretariat, headed by a Senior Secretary, is in charge of all its administrative duties, including its clerical, broadcasting and information activities.
Most of the legislative work in the Parliament is done in the standing committees, which exist largely unchanged throughout one legislative period. The Parliament has a number of committees, with small numbers of Members appointed to deal with particular topics or issues. The Committee on Ministry (CoM) are committees which are set down under the Parliament's standing orders. The number of Committee on Ministry (CoM) approximates the number of Ministries of Bangladesh, and the titles of each are roughly similar (e.g., defense, agriculture, and labor). There are, as of the current tenth Parliament, 50 standing committees. The distribution of committee chairs and the membership of each committee reflect the relative strength of the various Parliamentary groups in the house.
The parliament is housed in the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban (জাতীয় সংসদ ভবন Jatiyô Sôngsôd Bhôbôn), located at Sher-e-Bangla Nagar in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka. Designed by the American architect, Louis Kahn, the building is one of the largest legislative complexes in the world, comprising 200 acres (800,000 m²).Louis Kahn designed the entire Jatiya Sangsad complex, which includes lawns, lake and residences for the Members of the Parliament (MPs). The main building, which is at the center of the complex, is divided into three parts – the Main Plaza, South Plaza and Presidential Plaza.
The Sangsad Library or Parliament Library claims to be the richest libraries in Bangladesh, holding over 85,000 books and many more reports, parliamentary debates, government gazettes, journals, magazines and newspapers. The Library is housed in Sangsad Bhaban in Sher e Bangla Nagar, Dhaka. The Library was established in 1972, after the immediate formation of the Constituent Assembly of Bangladesh to support the lawmakers and their staff. The Library is administered by the Parliamentary Librarian, a statutory officer responsible for the control and management of the facility, reporting to the Deputy Speaker and the Library Committee. Although the Library is open to the public, only current and former members of Parliament, secretariat staff, and authorized researchers may check out books and materials.
The Sangsad Bangladesh Television (publicly known as Sangsad TV) is a digital television channel in Bangladesh. It broadcasts parliamentary activity following its establishment under a Broadcasting Act 2011. Prior to the establishment of the Sangsad TV, the Sangsad's programming was produced by the Ministry of Information and relayed in its Bangladesh Television.