Christian Law a code of laws drawn primarily from the provisions of the Christian Marriage Act of 1872, the Divorce Act of 1869, and the Succession Act of 1925, which are still kept in force in this country regulating such matters as marriage, divorce and succession of the Christian community. By contrast, for Muslims and Hindus in Bangladesh these matters are regulated by the laws of their respective religious scriptures, although modified to some extent by the state statutes. The Basic aspects of the Christian law are described below.
Marriages of Christians of all denominations, who are Bangladeshi citizens, are solemnized under the provisions of the Christian Marriage Act of 1872. In specific terms, marriage between two persons, one or both of whom is or are Christian(s), is solemnized by a person who has received Episcopalian ordination, or who is a clergyman of the Church of Scotland or a Minister of Religion licenced under this Act. Marriage as such should be solemnized in presence of a Marriage Registrar or by any other person appointed/licenced under this Act. Any person intending to marry is required to make a declaration by appearing before a Minister of Religion to the effect that he/she finds no impediment of kindred or affinity or other lawful hindrance to such marriage, and is also required to give a notice to the Minister of Religion with necessary particulars. The Minister thereafter issues a certificate that a notice has been given. After the issuance of such a certificate, marriage between the persons named in the certificates may be solemnized in presence of two witnesses according to such forms or ceremonies as the Minister thinks fit. All marriages solemnized by a Minister, except in respect of marriages of Native Christians, are to be registered.
A Christian marriage can also be solemnized by a Marriage Registrar in accordance with the formality of giving a notice in presence of at least two witnesses. Without the consent of the guardian, marriage between one or both of the minors cannot be solemnized in presence of a Marriage Registrar. Marriages between Native Christians solemnized by a clergyman, or Minister of Religion, or a Marriage Registrar, are to the registered in a separate book of register. There is an age limit for marriages between native Christians. In addition, a native Christian having a husband/wife still alive cannot marry another native Christian.
Divorce of a Christian marriage cannot be effected by pronouncement of divorce to the marriage by either party or by mutual agreement except by a decree of the court. The provisions for dissolution of a Christian marriage by a decree of the court have been included in the Divorce Act of 1869. Under provisions made in this Act, any husband may present a petition to the court of a district judge or to the High Court Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh praying for dissolution of his marriage on the ground of his wife being guilty of adultery. Similarly, any wife may present such a petition to either of the two courts for dissolution of her marriage on any one of such grounds as: (i) that the husband after marriage has converted himself to any religion other than Christianity, and married another woman; (ii) that the husband is guilty of incestuous adultery; (iii) that the husband is guilty of bigamy with adultery; (iv) that the husband is guilty of marriage with another woman and adultery; (v) that the husband is guilty of rape, sodomy or bestiality; (vi) that the husband is guilty of adultery coupled with cruelty; (vii) that the husband is guilty of adultery coupled with desertion, without reasonable excuse, for two years or more. If the court is satisfied on evidence about the alleged ground and satisfied that the petition is not a collusive one or there is no connivance or condonation of the alleged act of adultery, a decree for dissolution of marriage is granted.
A district judge may pass a decree for dissolution of marriage nisi subject to confirmation by the High Court Division. A bench of three judges of the High Court Division, by a majority opinion, may confirm such a decree nisi after hearing or making further inquiry or taking further evidence. After dismissal of a petition for dissolution of marriage by the district judge, the petitioner may present a similar petition before the High Court Division. A bench of three judges of the High Court Division, by a majority opinion, may also pass a decree for dissolution of marriage on a petition filed before the High Court Division. Either of the aforesaid two courts may also pass a decree of nullity of a marriage on anyone of such grounds as: (i) that one of the parties is impotent; (ii) that the parties are within the prohibited degree of consanguinity or affinity; (ii) that either party was insane at the time of marriage; (iv) that the former husband or wife of either party was living at the time of marriage, and such marriage was then in force.
Again, the husband or wife may also obtain a decree for judicial separation from either of the two courts on the grounds of adultery, cruelty, or desertion, without reasonable excuse, for two years or more. The court may reverse such a decree for judicial separation on the ground that it was obtained in his/her absence, and that there was reasonable excuse for the alleged desertion. The court may also pass an order for protection of the property of a deserted wife. Similarly, it may also pass a decree for restitution of conjugal rights when either the husband or the wife has, without reasonable excuse, withdrawn from the companionship of the other.
Succession Intestate and testamentary succession to the property of a Christian citizen of Bangladesh are regulated by the relevant provisions of the Succession Act of 1925. For example, when a Christian dies leaving no will, his or her property devolves upon the surviving husband or widow, lineal descendants and kindred. By a valid contract made before the marriage, a widow may exclude herself from the share of her husband's estate. Where a Christian dies intestate leaving a widow or husband and lineal descendants, one third of his or her property goes to the widow or husband, and two thirds to the lineal descendants. Where a Christian dies intestate leaving a widow or husband, and kindred only, one half of his or her property goes to the widow or husband and the other half to the kindred. Where a widow or husband, other than a widow or husband of a Native Christian who left no lineal descendant, is surviving the intestate, he or she will get property up to the value of taka five thousand and in the residue, if any, his or her above share in the property of the deceased.
Where an intestate dies surviving him or her by a child or children his or her property belongs to his or her surviving child, if there is only one, or is divided equally among all the surviving children. Where an intestate dies leaving no surviving child but leaving a grandchild or grand-children, his or her property goes to his or her surviving grandchild, if there is only one, or is divided equally among all the surviving grand-children. Where an intestate dies leaving great grand-children or remote lineal descendants, the surviving lineal descendants who are nearer in degree to the intestate get shares in the property in the manner of a child or children. But where an intestate dies leaving a child or children, or grandchild or grand-children by a predeceased child or children, etc, all of them shall inherit the property left by the intestate as if the predeceased child or children was or were surviving the intestate.
Where an intestate leaves no lineal descendants, but his or her father is living, his or her property shall go to the father. Where an intestate's father is dead but mother, brother and sister are living, they succeed to the property in equal share, but children of a predeceased brother or sister also get shares in such property to the extent of their father or mother. Where only the mother of the intestate is living, without brother, sister, or children of any brother or sister, the entire property will go to the mother. Where intestate leaves neither lineal descendants, nor father nor mother, his or her property goes equally to the brother, sister, and children of the predeceased brother or sister who also get equally the share of their parents as if they were living. Where the intestate has left neither lineal descendant, nor parents nor brother nor sister, the property goes equally among those of his or her relatives who are of nearest degree of kindred to him or her.
A Christian can also dispose of his or her property by making a will to take effect after his or her death. Detailed provisions have been made in the Succession Act of 1925 regarding execution, attestation, revocation, alteration and revival of a will and its construction. The Act has also made provisions for the grant of probate, letters of administration and the administration of the assets of the deceased. [Kazi Ebadul Hoque]