Role of lawyers in formulating laws on the wane

An investigation report on the professions of members of parliament of the 12th national parliament has recently been published in Prothom Alo. A comparative picture on the ratio of businessmen and lawyers as MPs in the parliaments between 1973 and 2024 has been depicted in the report. Here, in a greater sense of businessmen, the industrialists have been included. Results of elections held in 1986, 1988 and 1996 have not been included in the report. Remaining nine elections have been taken into account.

In the election of 1973, the report says, the ratio of businessmen and lawyers was 18 and 31 per cent respectively. The ratio stands at 67 and 8 per cent in 2024. A total of 199 businessmen have been elected in 2024. On the contrary, the ratio of businessmen, politicians and agriculturalists was 24, 26 and 14 respectively. As a result, the title of the report 'policymaking of the state in the occupation of the businessmen' has been given logically. In the report, it has been mentioned that the gradual dominance of businessmen in the national parliament is cornering the politicians in politics. According to the report, the presence of businessmen in the parliament has reached the absolute majority since 2001. Their ratio stands at 58pc, 57pc, 59pc, 62pc and 67pc in 2001, 2008, 2014, 2018 and 2024 respectively.

The dominance of the businessmen in our state power has not taken place all of a sudden. The politicians played roles in controlling the political parties and in the nomination for the elections and in many cases they are still at the helm. So it would not be irrelevant to say that the politicians are gradually bringing the businessmen in the parliament. As a result, the businessmen are in the key role to formulate policy of the state.

Our national parliament is the legislative council of the state. Besides, the legislature also owns the real power in the formation of the executive and the operation. At least the members of cabinet need 90 per cent of MPs. MPs are the only voters for the election of the president. They make the cabinet accountable in various ways including formulating laws, imposing tax and placing various proposals. So the role of businessmen in running the government is irresistible. This is not bad to become a businessman. Every person needs a profession for survival.  Establishment of industries, import, export, purchase and sale all are very important activities.  These are closely related to meeting demands of the consumers and the overall economy.  

The livelihoods are also related to it and the prosperity of the state is not separated from it. This has a positive impact in all sectors including employment. So the people in these businesses are playing an important role. However, there is a debate that the absolute control of this section over the state cannot be fruitful for the state. By taking advantage of this, some of them may be guided by their own interest, such a perception cannot be ignored.

Their representation was 31 per cent in the election held immediately after the liberation war. It is easily understandable that the other members were from diverse professional backgrounds. It can be noted that many new professions flourished in the country in the last 50 years after independence. New entrepreneurs have emerged as per necessity. Their social standing has grown due to their important contribution to the economy. So, it is logical that their representation will grow, but then the question comes, to what extent? Law education and the legal profession have also become diversified. After independence, a section of the lawyers in the court were clerks while now the law graduate professional stands at thousands. There are a lot of professionals with higher law degrees from western countries including from the UK. Hundreds of professionals with a ‘Bar-at-law’ degree, which has been a traditionally honorable degree in this region, are coming to this profession. Then the representation of the legal professionals is not supposed to wane to this degree.

It is relevant to mention that all the heroes of the freedom struggle of the subcontinent and Pakistan movement were higher educated in legal studies. Some of them would earn whopping amounts from the legal profession. Their social standing was also illustrious. They used to make forays into politics leaving the legal profession either permanently or temporarily and would get elected to the parliament. They used to lead the legislatures. Yet the possibility of conflict of professional interest was negligible. No allegation was heard that they established a ‘lawyer’s reign’. Rather many of them would fall in debt while discharging the duty of minister leaving the legal profession. They later paid off the debt by engaging with the legal profession again after the expiration of their tenure as minister.

In continuation of these legendary leaders, the leaders of national and local levels were mainly lawyers. Bangabandhu used to study law at Dhaka University. He lost his studentship for protesting for the rights of the lower-tier staff of the university. He was not awarded the law degree. But almost all of his main companions were law students and some of them were successful lawyers. It’s not that the politics was free from any controversy at that time but we can say that they had a glorious role as lawmakers.

It is not appropriate that a certain group of professionals, be it lawyers, businessmen or others, will have absolute control in the parliament. While the business community in the country has been experiencing such a boom, we are noticing a chaotic situation in the country's financial sector. Defaulted loans have increased too much. It is assumed that no strong initiative to realize the defaulted loans can be taken due to the influence of them. Rather the loans by these quarters were rescheduled at a meager, much to the peril of the banking sector.  

Problems such as inflation, crisis in foreign reserves, money laundering and so on were not so widespread in the past. It is not that all businessmen are benefiting from the current situation. Many respected businessmen in this country did well in business without being loan defaulters. We have been demanding reform in the election system. Even if that happens, it cannot be said that professional representation in the parliament would be changed if the political culture does not change. Unfortunately it is the politicians who are handing over the baton of politics to the businessmen. I would expect everyone would ponder over the issue and try to find a remedy.