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Legal History of Turkey


Turkey officially called the Republic of Turkey occupies a transcontinental Eurasian country i.e. partly in Europe and partly in Asia with the capital of Ankara is a type of multiparty republic with one legislative house (Grand National Assembly of Turkey). It has Turkish as the official language of the country and secular country whose state has no religion of its own.

Historical Background:

The Ottoman Empire of Turkey was based on the ideology of monarchy and theocracy which lead the first constitutionalist movement in the 19th century. The adoption of the 1876 Constitution – Kanun-u Esasi created changes by the introduction of the parliament with transformation in the absolutist nature of the empire. The due defeat of the empire in First World War which took a revolution influence to create a modern state in 1919 under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk who was the founder of the Turkish Republic.

Principle of Constitution:

The Constitution of Turkey of 1924 maintain the principle of supremacy of constitution and enshrines all fundamental rights such as freedom of thought, conscience, speech, press, contract, work, property, an association which was later amended in 1928 and 1937 to eradicate religious preference of the majoritarian community to deepen modernization and secularize system of government. Various measures like the unification of the educational system, wearing hats, the abolition of title, the prohibition of wearing certain garments evolves a rational outlook in social and cultural aspects of the citizens.

The 1961 Constitution was prepared by a constituent assembly consisting of military leaders and elected civilians. It established the Constitutional Court which limits the overflow of powers of government and acts as a guardian of fundamental right and liberty through rule of law and separation of power among three branches following the system of check and balance.

The Constitution was amended in 1971 and 1973 under military coup on 12 March 1971 to expand the power of the executive and strengthen public order through the mechanism of terror and violence and curb the role of the judiciary in safeguarding fundamental rights of the citizens. It demolishes the constitutional supremacy into political instability and threatened public order during the second half of 1970. Subsequently, the Turkish armed force intervened on 12 September 1980 composed of Chief of General Staff and four commanders to restore democracy and constitutional legal structure of the country. The National Security Council exercised extraordinary powers until 1983 adopted various laws by making a new constitution and redesigning the legal order of Turkey.

Article of the Constitution:

The constitution of 1982 expressed the Turkey Republic as a democratic, secular, and social state governed by the rule of law to secure peace, justice, national solidarity, and preservation of human rights.

Article 7: Legislative powers are vested upon the Grand National Assembly on behalf of Turkish Nation which cannot be delegated with the strength of 550 deputies elected by universal suffrage elected after every five years. Article 83 grants immunity to deputies for freedom of speech and freedom from arrest during his term of office. The Assembly is granted the power of amending laws, supervise council of ministers, adopt budgetary laws, declaration of war, approval for ratification of international convention and declaration of amnesty by 3/5 majority of its membership.

Article 8: Executive power and function shall be exercised by the president of the Republic and the council of ministers in accordance with the provision of law. It strengthens the role of president as head of state and government with executive branch and status of Prime Minister within the council of ministers. President is elected for a term of five years from among its members above 40 years of age but can be impeached for high treason with at least 1/3rd of total members of the assembly. The council of ministers is collectively responsible before the parliament.

Article 9: Judicial power is exercised by independent courts on behalf of the Turkish Nation specifically in the 1924 constitution. Judges are independent in discharging their duties in accordance with Constitution, laws, and public opinion, and no authority or individual can give order to court in the exercise of judicial powers, make recommendations, or circular to them. No question can be asked against them in the legislative assembly. Article 146-160 mentions the Constitutional Court, Supreme Court, Council of State, Military Supreme Court, Supreme Military Administrative Court, Court of Conflict, and Court of Account.

Article 13: All fundamental rights must be in accordance with the letter and spirit of the constitution for the protection of national security, sovereignty, republic, public order, public interest, morality and health, and such right must not be in derogation of democratic social order with stated aim but restricted under the situation of war, mobilization, martial law, state of emergency and even in this situation individual right to life and integrity, no compulsion to reveal his religion and accused should be proved guilty by the judgment of the court.

The presidential system was adopted by the referendum in 2017 with a new system of the presidential election and abolished the office of Prime Minister and its power has been transferred to the president. Recep Tayyip Erdogan is the first president elected by direct election and establishes Turkey as a unitary centralized state. It is interesting to note that homosexuality is legalized in Turkey.


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