Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a cardiac arrhythmia which is characterized based on the irregsular beating of atria, resulting in, the abnormal atrial patterns that are observed in the electrocardiogram (ECG) signal. The early detection of this pathology is very helpful for minimizing the chances of stroke, other heart-related disorders, and coronary artery diseases. This paper proposes a novel method for the detection of AF pathology based on the analysis of the ECG signal. The method adopts a multi-rate cosine filter bank architecture for the evaluation of coefficients from the ECG signal at different subbands, in turn, the Fractional norm (FN) feature is evaluated from the extracted coefficients at each subband. Then, the AF detection is carried out using a deep learning approach known as the Hierarchical Extreme Learning Machine (H-ELM) from the FN features. The proposed method is evaluated by considering normal and AF pathological ECG signals from public databases. The experimental results reveal that the proposed multi-rate cosine filter bank based on FN features is effective for the detection of AF pathology with an accuracy, sensitivity and specificity values of 99.40%, 98.77%, and 100%, respectively. The performance of the proposed diagnostic features of the ECG signal is compared with other existing features for the detection of AF. The low-frequency subband FN features found to be more significant with a difference of the mean values as 0.69 between normal and AF classes.