South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

The government yesterday placed in parliament a bill seeking amendments to the vested property act for returning the seized property to the real owners.

Tabled by Land Minister Rezaul Karim Hira, the proposed amendments say the government will prepare and publish district- wise list of returnable vested property within 210 days of enforcement of the amended law.

The government will also publish a list of vested property, not included in that of returnable vested property but recorded as vested property in the name of the government.

Both the lists will be kept open for public view at land offices at union and municipality levels.

If anybody claims ownership of any vested property not included in the list of returnable property, s/he will have to submit the claim to the upazila, district and metropolitan committee concerned within 30 days of publication of the list.

The bill proposes formation of committees at upazila, district and metropolitan levels consisting of government officials and localdignitaries. Lawmakers of the respective areas will be advisers to the committees.

As proposed, a high-powered central committee headed by the land secretary will be formed.

The land minister and state minister will be adviser to the central committee.

The field level committees will scrutinise the applications and investigate claims of ownership of any vested property, and submit their recommendations to the central committee for disposal of the matter.

The land minister mentioned that although the vested property act was made in 2001, it is yet to be implemented.

He said it is necessary to return the vested property to the real owners to ensure social order and justice.

The bill was sent to the parliamentary standing committee on the land ministry for scrutiny.

The vested property, termed enemy property before the independence of Bangladesh in 1971, was left behind by the Hindus after the 1947 partition of India and India-Pakistan war in 1965.

The government took its ownership as per the enemy property act after the independence, and renamed the act as the Vested Property Act in 1974.

There are about 6.43 lakh acres of land documented as vested property, of which about 1.97 acres are returnable.

The previous Awami League government, just before the end of its tenure in 2001, framed a new law — the Vested Property Return Act.

It had also fixed a 180-day time limit to prepare a list of property documented as vested property to take steps to return wrongly seized land.

The subsequent BNP government amended the act, replacing the 180-day deadline with an indefinite period. But the list was never completed.

Source: The Daily Star – 08.12.2010