A very brief take on how our colonial laws and colonial civil service system is contributing towards colonial hangover by our fellow for Law, Rights, and Justice, Arpeeta Shams Mizan.
What is colonial governmentality? How is the 1923 Official Secrets Act a colonial law?
Governmentality means the strategy of governing that a government develops to control and discipline its people. Foucault coined this term. Colonial governmentality refers to the specific strategies deployed by colonial governments to dominate and regulate the natives. These laws are drafted with purposes of domination and control. Most importantly, these laws put government and people as oppositions to each other. whereas government should be the keeper of the people, in colonial states, governments deemed native people as subjects of subjugation. The Criminal Tribes Act 1871 is a fantastic example.
As such, laws promulgated by the British Raj were designed to satisfy such demands. The 1923 Act in section 5 says, inter alia, any communication not in the interest of the State is deemed punishable. The phrase “in interest of the State” is vital. The interest of a colonial state was in ruling the colony, because the colony served as a resources. Thus, the interests of such state were very much in conflict with the interest of the people residing in those colonies. However, this needs to be distinguished from a sovereign state and its government. A supposedly (!) democratic government has vested interest in protecting the people. the interest of the people is not different from the State here, because the state is the people and the government is validated by people’s support. as such, laws like 1923 Act are very much against the spirit of a postcolonial state.
Moreover, colonial laws have a certain characteristic of 1) being tautological and 2) using #vaguewords. The section 2 of the 1923 Act that defines “document” suffers from both these lacunas. Section3 and 5 rely on vague words in terms of setting down an offence. Moreover, it does not define anywhere what is “#InterestOfTheState”.
These laws were drafted at a period when there was nothing called personal freedom. In post ww2 #humanrights era, freedom of information is valued for public interest, and any information that might “#embarrass” any government is deemed protected and publishable if that information is needed for public’s interests. Right to health is one such public interest and indeed, attaining standard of health is a FPSP in Bangladesh constitution. Thus, colonial laws are not only archaic but pretty much anti-human rights in nature. The 1923 Act is often used for punishing journalists not just in BD but also in other British colonised states like India and Pakistan.
Our laws have not been #decolonised. Our legal system, especially our administration, is very much the pollbearers of coloniality. They suffer from serious #colonialHangover and as cuh relish the subjugating powers granted by such laws. As such, as long as we have laws like the 1923 Act, which contravene the spirit of the constitution and pit government’s interest against public interest, things will not change for the better.