Constitution of the Union of Burma
THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNION OF BURMA
Rangoon, Supdt, Govt. Printing and Stationery, Burma 1948.
WE, THE PEOPLE OF BURMA including the Frontier Areas and the Karenni States, Determined to establish in strength and unity a SOVEREIGN INDEPENDENT STATE, To maintain social order on the basis of the eternal principles of JUSTICE, LIBERTY AND EQUALITY and To guarantee and secure to all citizens JUSTICE social, economic and political; LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith, worship, vocation, association and action; EQUALITY of status, of opportunity and before the law, IN OUR CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY this Tenth day of Thadingyut waxing, 1309 B.E. (Twenty-fourth day of September, 1947 A.D.), DO HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION.
Form of State
Article 1. Burma is a Sovereign Independent Republic to be known as “the Union of Burma.”
Article 2. The Union of Burma shall comprise the whole of Burma, including
- (i) all the territories that were heretofore governed by HIS BRITANNIC MAJESTY through the Governor of Burma, and
- (ii) the Karenni States.
Article 3. The sovereignty of the Union resides in the people.
Article 4. All powers, legislative, executive and judicial, are derived from the people and are exercisable on their behalf by, or on the authority of, the organs of the Union or of its constituent units established by this Constitution.
Article 5. The territories that were heretofore known as the Federated Shan States and the Wa States shall form a constituent unit of the Union of Burma and be hereafter known as “the Shan State.”
Article 6. The territories that were heretofore known as the Myitkyina and Bhamo Districts shall form a constituent unit of the Union of Burma and be hereafter known as “the Kachin State.”
Article 7. The territories that were heretofore known as the Karenni States, viz., Kantarawaddy, Bawlake and Kyebogyi shall form a constituent unit of the Union of Burma and hereafter known as “the Karenni State.”
Article 8. All powers, legislative, executive and judicial, in relation to the remaining territories of the Union of Burma shall, subject to the provisions of section 180, be exercisable only by, or on the authority of, the organs of the Union.
DEFINITION OF “STATE.”
Article 9. In this Chapter and in Chapters III and IV, the term “State” means the executive or legislative authority of the Union or of the unit concerned according as the context may require.
Article 10. There shall be but one citizenship throughout the Union; that is to say, there shall be no citizenship of the unit as distinct from the citizenship of the Union.
- (i) Every person, both of whose parents belong or belonged to any of the indigenous races of Burma;
- (ii) every person born in any of the territories included within the Union, at least one of whose grand-parents belong or belonged to any of the indigenous races of Burma;
- (iii) every person born in any of territories included within the Union, of parents both of whom are, or if they had been alive at the commencement of this Constitution would have been, citizens of the Union;
- (iv) every person who was born in any of the territories which at the time of his birth was included within HIS BRITANNIC MAJESTY’s dominions and who has resided in any of the territories included within the Union for a period of not less than eight years in the ten years immediately preceding the date of the commencement of this Constitution or immediately preceding the 1st January 1942 and who intends to reside permanently there in and who signifies his election of citizenship of the Union in the manner and within the time prescribed by law,
shall be a citizen of the Union.
Article 12. Nothing contained in section 11 shall derogate from the power of the Parliament to make such laws as it thinks fit in respect of citizenship and alienage and any such law may provide for the admission of new classes of citizens or for the termination of the citizenship of any existing classes.
RIGHTS OF EQUALITY
Article 13. All citizens irrespective of birth, religion, sex or race are equal before the law; that is to say, there shall not be any arbitrary discrimination between one citizen or class of citizens and another.
Article 14. There shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters of public employment and in the exercise or carrying on of any occupation, trade, business or profession.
Article 15. Women shall be entitled to the same pay as that received by men in respect of similar work.
RIGHTS OF FREEDOM
Article 16. No citizen shall be deprived of his personal liberty, nor his dwelling entered, nor his property confiscated, save in accordance with law.
Article 17. There shall be liberty for the exercise of the following rights subject to law, public order and morality: -
- i. The right of the citizens to express freely their convictions and opinions.
- ii. The right of the citizens to assemble peaceably and without arms.
- iii. The right of the citizens to form associations and unions. Any association or organization whose object or activity is intended or likely to undermine the Constitution is forbidden.
- iv. The right of every citizen to reside and settle in any part of the Union, to acquire property and to follow any occupation, trade, business or profession.
Article 18. Subject to regulation by the law of the Union trade, commerce and intercourse among the units shall be free:
Provided that any unit may by law impose reasonable restrictions in the interests of public order, morality, health or safety. Article 19.
- (i) Traffic in human beings, and
- (ii) forced labour in any form and involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted,
shall be prohibited.
Explanation. – Nothing in this section shall prevent the State from imposing compulsory service for public purposes without any discrimination on grounds of birth, race, religion or class.
RIGHTS RELATING TO RELIGION
Article 20. All persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess and practise religion subject to public order, morality or health and to the other provisions of this Chapter.
- Explanation 1. – The above right shall not include any economic, financial, political or other secular activities that may be associated with religious practice.
- Explanation 2. – The freedom guaranteed in this section shall not debar the State from enacting laws for the purpose of social welfare and reform.
- (1) The State recognizes the special position of Buddhism as the faith professed by the great majority of the citizens of the Union.
- (2) The State also recognizes Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and Animism as some of the religions existing in the Union at the date of the coming into operation of this Constitution.
- (3) The State shall not impose any disabilities or make any discrimination on the ground of religious faith or belief.
- (4) The abuse of religion for political purposes is forbidden; and any act which is intended or is likely to promote feelings of hatred, enmity or discord between racial or religious communities or sects is contrary to this Constitution and may be made punishable by law.
CULTURAL AND EDUCATIONAL RIGHTS
Article 22. No minority, religious, racial or linguistic, shall be discriminated against in regard to admission into State educational institutions nor shall any religious instruction be compulsorily imposed on it.
- (1) Subject to the provisions of this section, the State guarantees the rights of private property and of private initiative in the economic sphere.
- (2) No person shall be permitted to use the right of private property to the detriment of the general public.
- (3) Private monopolist organizations, such as cartels, syndicates and trusts formed for the purpose of dictating prices or for monopolizing the market or otherwise calculated to injure the interests of the national economy, are forbidden.
- (4) Private property may be limited or expropriated if the public interest so requires but only in accordance with law which shall prescribe in which cases and to what extent the owner shall be compensated.
- (5) Subject to the conditions set out in the last preceding sub-section, individual branches of national economy or single enterprises may be nationalized or acquired by the State by law if the public interest so requires.
RIGHTS IN RELATION TO CRIMINAL LAW.
Article 24. No person shall be convicted of crime except for violation of a law in force at the time of the commission of the act charged as an offence, nor shall he be subjected to a penalty greater than that applicable at the time of the commission of the offence.
RIGHTS OF CONSTITUTIONAL REMEDIES
- (1) The right to move the Supreme Court by appropriate proceedings for the enforcement of any of the rights conferred by this Chapter is hereby guaranteed.
- (2) Without prejudice to the powers that may be vested in this behalf in other Courts, the Supreme Court shall have power to issue directions in the nature of Habeas Corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto and certiorari appropriate to the rights guaranteed in this Chapter.
- (3) The right to enforce these remedies shall not be suspended unless, in times of war, invasion, rebellion, insurrection or grave emergency, the public safety may so require.
Article 26. Every citizen, whether within or beyond the territories of the Union, shall be entitled to claim the protection of the Union in his relations with foreign States.
Article 27. Except in times of invasion, rebellion, insurrection or grave emergency, no citizen shall be denied redress by due process of law for any actionable wrong done to or suffered by him.
Article 28. The Parliament may by law determine to what extent any of the rights guaranteed by this Chapter shall be restricted or abrogated for the members of the Defence Forces or of the Forces charged with the maintenance of public order so as to ensure fulfilment of their duties and the maintenance of discipline.
Article 29. The Parliament shall make laws to give effect to those provisions of this Chapter which require such legislation and to prescribe punishment for those acts which are declared to be offences in this Chapter and are not already punishable.
Relations of the State to Peasants and Workers
- (1) The State is the ultimate owner of all lands.
- (2) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the State shall have the right to regulate, alter or abolish land tenures or resume possession of any land and distribute the same for collective or co-operative farming or to agricultural tenants.
- (3) There can be no large land holdings on any basis whatsoever. The maximum size of private land holding shall, as soon as circumstances permit, be determined by law.
Article 31. By economic and other measures the State may assist workers to associate and organize themselves for protection against economic exploitation.
The State shall protect workers by legislation intended to secure to them the right of association, to limit their hours of work, to ensure to them the right to annual holidays and to improve working conditions, and as soon as circumstances permit by promoting schemes for housing and social insurance.
Directive Principles of State Policy
Article 32. The principles set forth in this Chapter are intended for the general guidance of the State. The application of these principles in legislation and administration shall be the care of the State but shall not be enforceable in any court of law.
Article 33. The State shall direct its policy towards securing to each citizen –
- (i) the right to work,
- (ii) the right to maintenance in old age and during sickness or loss of capacity to work,
- (iii) the right to rest and leisure, and
- (iv) the right to education.
In particular the State shall make provision for free and compulsory primary education.
Article 34. The State shall pay special attention to the young and promote their education.
Article 35. The State shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker and less advanced sections of the people and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.
Article 36. The State shall regard the raising of the standard of living of its people and the improvement of public health as among its primary duties.
- (1) The State shall ensure that the strength and health of workers and the tender age of children shall not be abused and that they shall not be forced by economic necessity to take up occupations unsuited to their sex, age and strength.
- (2) The State shall specially direct its policy towards protecting the interests of nursing mothers and infants by establishing maternity and infant welfare centres, children’s homes and day nurseries and towards securing to mothers in employment the right to leave with pay before and after child birth.
Article 38. The State shall promote the improvement of public health by organizing and controlling health services, hospitals, dispensaries, sanatoria, nursing and convalescent homes and other health institutions.
Article 39. The State shall take special care of the physical education of the people in general and of the youth in particular in order to increase the health and working capacity of the people and in order to strengthen the defensive capacity of the State.
Article 40. The State shall ensure disabled ex-Servicemen a decent living and free occupational training. The children of fallen soldiers and children orphaned by wars shall be under the special care of the State.
Article 41. The economic life of the Union shall be planned with the aim of increasing the public wealth, of improving the material conditions of the people and raising their cultural level, of consolidating the independence of the Union and strengthening its defensive capacity.
Article 42. The State shall direct its policy towards giving material assistance to economic organizations not working for private profit. Preference shall be given to co-operative and similar economic organizations.
Article 43. All useful arts and sciences, research and cultural institutes and the study of Pali and Sanskrit shall enjoy the protection and support of the State.
- (1) The State shall direct its policy towards operation of all public utility undertakings by itself or local bodies or by peoples’ co-operative organizations.
- (2) The State shall direct its policy towards exploitation of all natural resources in the Union by itself or local bodies or by peoples’ co-operative organizations.
Article 45. There shall be a President of the Union hereinafter called “the President” who shall take precedence over all other persons throughout the Union and who shall exercise and perform the powers and functions conferred on the President by this Constitution and by law.
Article 46. The President shall be elected by both Chambers of Parliament in joint session by secret ballot. Subject of the provision of this Chapter, election to the office of the President shall be regulated by an Act of the Parliament.
- (1) The President shall not be a member of either Chamber of Parliament.
- (2) If a member of either Chamber of Parliament be elected President, he shall be deemed to have vacated his seat in that Chamber.
- (3) The President shall not hold any other office or position of emolument.
- (1) The President shall hold office for five years from the date on which he enters upon his office, unless before the expiration of the period he resigns or dies, or is removed from office, or becomes permanently incapacitated.
- (2) No person shall serve as President for more than two terms in all.
Article 49. No person shall be eligible for election to the office of President unless he –
- (i) is a citizen of the Union who was, or both of whose parents were, born in any of the territories included within the Union, and
- (ii) is qualified for election to the Union Parliament.
Article 50. The first President shall enter upon his office as soon as may be after his election, and every subsequent President shall enter upon his office on the day following the expiration of the term of office of his predecessor or as soon as may be thereafter, or in the event of his predecessor’s removal from office, resignation, permanent incapacity or death, as soon as may be after his own election.
Article 51. The President shall enter upon his office by making and subscribing publicly in the presence of both Chambers of Parliament assembled and of the judges of the Supreme Count, the following declaration: -
“I … do solemnly and sincerely promise and declare that I will maintain the Constitution of the Union and uphold its laws, that I will fulfil my duties faithfully and conscientiously in accordance with the Constitution and the law, that I will diligently avert every injury and danger to the Union and that I will dedicate myself to the service of the Union.
Article 52. The President shall not leave the Union during his term of office save on the advice of the Union Government.
Article 53. The President shall summon the Parliament for the purpose of electing a new President, during the three months preceding the expiration of his term of office.
- (1) The President may be impeached for –
- (i) high treason;
- (ii) violation of the Constitution; or
- (iii) gross misconduct.
- (2) The charge shall be preferred by either Chamber of Parliament subject to and in accordance with the provisions of this section.
- (3) A proposal to either Chamber of Parliament to prefer a charge against the President under this section shall not be entertained except upon a notice of resolution in writing signed by not less than one-fourth of the total membership of that Chamber.
- (4) No such proposal shall be adopted by either Chamber of Parliament save upon a resolution of that Chamber supported by not less than two-thirds of the total membership thereof.
- (5) When a charge has been preferred by one Chamber of Parliament, the other Chamber shall investigate the charge or cause the charge to be investigated.
- (6) The President shall have the right to appear and to be represented at the investigation of the charge.
- (7) If, as the result of the investigation, a resolution be passed, supported by not less than two-thirds of the total membership of the Chamber of Parliament by which the charge was investigated or caused to be investigated, declaring that the charge preferred against the President has been sustained and that the office, the subject of the charge, was such as to render him unfit to continue in office, such resolution shall operate to remove the President from his office.
RIGHT OF SECESSION
Article 201. Save as otherwise expressly provided in this Constitution or in any
Act of Parliament made under section 199, every State shall have the right
to secede from the Union in accordance with the conditions hereinafter
Article 202. The right of secession shall not be exercised within ten years from the date on which this Constitution comes into operation.
- (1) Any State wishing to exercise the right of secession shall have a resolution to that effect passed by its State Council. No such resolution shall be deemed to have been passed unless not less than two-thirds of the total number of members of the State Council concerned have voted in its favour.
- (2) The Head of the State concerned shall notify the President of any such resolution passed by the Council and shall send him a copy of such resolution certified by the Chairman of the Council by which it was passed.
Article 204. The President shall thereupon order a plebiscite to be taken for the
purpose of ascertaining the will of the people of the State concerned.
Article 205. The President shall appoint a Plebiscite Commission consisting an equal number of members representing the Union and the State concerned in order to supervise the plebiscite.
Article 206. Subject to the provisions of this Chapter, all matter relating to the exercise of the right of secession shall be regulated by law.
AMENDMENT OF THE CONSTITUTION
Article 207. Any provision of this Constitution may be amended, whether by way of variation, addition, or repeal, in the manner hereinafter provided.
- (1) Every proposal for an amendment of this Constitution shall be in the form of a Bill and shall be expressed as a Bill to amend the Constitution.
- (2) A Bill containing a proposal or proposals for the amendment of the Constitution shall contain no other proposals.
- (1) Such Bill may be initiated in either Chamber of Parliament.
- (2) After it has been passed by each of the Chambers of Parliament, the Bill shall be considered by both Chambers in joint sitting.
- (3) The Bill shall be deemed to have been passed by both Chambers in joint sitting only when not less than two-thirds of the then members of both Chambers have voted in its favour.
- (4) A Bill which seeks to amend –
- (a) the State Legislative List in the Third Schedule, or
- (b) the State Revenue list in the Fourth Schedule, or
- (c) an Act of the Parliament making a declaration under paragraph (iv) of sub-section (1) of section 74 removing the disqualification of any persons for membership of the Parliament as representative from any of the States, shall not be deemed to have been passed at the joint sitting of the Chamber unless a majority of the members present and voting, representing the State or each of the States concerned, as the case may be, have voted in its favour.
- (5) A Bill seeks to abridge any special rights conferred by this Constitution on Karens or Chins shall not be deemed to have been passed by the Chambers in joint sitting unless a majority of the members present and voting, representing the Karens or the Chins, as the case may be, have voted in its favour.
Article 210. Upon the Bill being passed in accordance with the foregoing provisions of this Chapter, it shall be presented to the President who shall forthwith sign and promulgate the same.
Article 211. The Union of Burma renounces war as an instrument of national policy, and accepts the generally recognized principle of international law as its rule of conduct in its relation with foreign States.
Article 212. The Union of Burma affirms its devoting to the ideal of peace and friendly co-operation amongst nations founded on international justice and morality.
- (1) Every international agreement to which the Union becomes a party shall be laid before the Parliament.
- (2) No international agreement requiring or likely to require legislation in order to give effect thereto shall be ratified except with the approval of the parliament.
- (3) No international agreement involving a charge upon the revenues of the Union shall be ratified unless the terms of the agreement shall have been approved by the Chamber of Deputies.
Explanation. – This section shall not apply to inter-governmental agreements or conventions of a technical or administrative character.
Article 214. No international agreement as such shall be part of the municipal law of the Union, save as may be determined by the Parliament.
FORM OF OATH OR AFFIRMATION
(See Section 72.)
I ..................... having been chosen a member of the Chamber of Deputies/Nationalities do solemnly swear (affirm) that I will maintain the Constitution of the Union and uphold its laws, and that I will faithfully discharge the duty upon which I am about to enter. 5
COMPOSITION OF THE CHAMBER OF NATIONALITIES
(See section 87)
Of the 125 seats in the Chamber of Nationalities –
- (a) twenty-five seats shall be filled by representatives from the Shan State;
- (b) twelve seats shall be filled by representatives from the Kachin State;
- (c) eight seats shall be filled by representatives from the Special Division of the Chins;
- (d) three seats shall be filled by representatives from the Karenni State;
- (e) twenty-four seats shall be filled by representatives of Karens;
- (f) fifty-three seats shall be filled by representatives form the remaining territories of the Union of Burma. 5
STATE REVENUE LIST
[See Section 96]
- Land Revenue:
- (i) Land revenue proper.
- (ii) Rents and fees of fisheries.
- (iii) Royalty on petroleum.
- (iv) Royalty on minerals and taxes on mineral rights.
- (v) Royalty on rubber.
- (vi) Capitation and Thathameda taxes.
- Duties of Excise on the following goods manufactured or produced in the State and countervailing duties at the same or lower rates on similar goods manufactured or produced elsewhere in the Union:
- (i) Alcoholic liquors for human consumption
- (ii) Opium.
- (iii) Indian hemp and other narcotics; non-narcotic drugs.
- (iv) Medicinal and toilet preparations containing alcohol or any substance included in item (ii) or (iii) above.
- Fees taken in Courts subordinate to the High Court.
- Taxes on trades and employments.
- Taxes on animals and boats.
- Taxes on entertainments, amusements, betting and gambling.
- Taxes under the State Motor Vehicles Taxation Acts.
- Irrigation dues.
- Interests on advances made from the State revenues and on State investment.
- Contributions from component parts to the State.
- Contributions from the Union.
- All fees, fines, sale proceeds and rents of property belonging to the State, recoveries of over-payments and payments for services rendered in connection with any or all matters enumerated above and also in connection with the following: -
- (a) Administration of justice.
- (b) Jails and convict settlements.
- (c) Police.
- (d) Education.
- (e) Medical.
- (f) Public health.
- (g) Agriculture.
- (h) Veterinary.
- (i) Co-operative societies.
- (j) Registration of births, deaths and marriages.
- (k) Civil works.
- (l) Receipts in aid of superannuation of State employees.
- (m) Stationery and printing.
- (n) Unclaimed deposits.
- (o) Treasure trove.
- (p) Tolls.
- (q) Extraordinary receipts.