The judicial system, modeled after the British system, is similar to that of neighboring countries. Besides the 1972 constitution, the fundamental law of the land, there are codes of civil and criminal laws. The civil law incorporates certain Islamic and Hindu religious principles relating to marriage, inheritance, and other social matters.
The constitution provides for an impartial and independent judiciary. After the 1982 coup, the constitution was suspended, martial law courts were established throughout the country, and Lieut. Gen Ershad assumed the power to appoint judges. The constitution was reinstated in November 1986.
The judicial system consists of a Low Court and a Supreme Court, both of which hear civil and criminal cases. The Low Court consists of administrative courts (magistrate courts) and session judges. The Supreme Court also has two divisions, a High Court which hears original cases and reviews decisions of the Low Court, and an Appellate Court which hears appeals from the High Court. The upper level courts have exercised independent judgment, recently ruling against the government on a number of occasions in criminal, civil and even political trials. The trials are public. There is a right to counsel and right to appeal. There is also a system of bail. An overwhelming backlog of cases remains the major problem of the court system.
The government, with the help of the World Bank, has undertaken an ambitious project to reform the judicial system. Changes include the creation of "Legal Aid Committees" to provide assistance to the poor, as well as the establishing of Metropolitan Courts of Sessions in Dhaka and Chittagong. In March 2001, the World Bank announced the approval of a US $30.6 million credit to assist Bangladesh in making its judicial system more efficient and accountable. A permanent Law Commission has been created to reform and update existing laws, and the government is committed to establishing a Human Rights Commission as well as an Office of the Ombudsman.