Lawyers on Monday welcomed the government’s move to amend laws to expedite settlement of disputes arising out of land records.
They said the inadequate tribunals and judges could not dispose off huge number of cases under the existing law, which maintained that land survey tribunals could hear and dispose off such casesBut inadequate tribunals and lack of judges have resulted in huge case backlogs, causing immense sufferings to the people.
In such a situation, the government has decided to amend the law to expedite settlement of the disputes arising out of land records.
Under the amended law, assistant judges and senior assistant judges will be able to settle such cases.
Law Minister Anisul Huq said “We have decided to amend the law to resolve the case backlogs and mitigate public sufferings. The assistant judges and other judicial officials are going to get power to settle land record disputes.”
About the government’s move, former secretary of the Supreme Court Bar Association Dr Momtaz Uddin Ahmed Mehdi said “Currently, a land survey tribunal comprises of a joint district judge who hears the cases relating to land record disputes.”
As no judges below the rank of joint district judge can hear the land record disputes, the land survey tribunals are overburdened with case backlogs, he said.Barrister AKM Ahsanur Rahman said the government has rightly decided to empower assistant and senior assistant judges to settle land record cases to reduce case backlog.
None below the joint district judge can handle the land record related disputes under the current system causing the backlogs.
The assistant judges will be empowered to settle cases of the land worth Tk 2 lakh and senior assistant judges Tk 4 lakh, if the law is amended. The joint district judges will have power to settle cases of the land worth any value beyond Tk 4 lakh.
The amended law is likely to be passed in the upcoming winter session of the parliament.
Land Survey Tribunals are hard hit by backlog of cases causing public suffering due to lack of judges and other logistics.
A total of 44 tribunals out of 64 districts in the country are in a fix due to a massive pile of cases.
Starting in 1984, the Bangladesh Land Survey (BSR) started its operation and was continuing. Many land owners were angry due to the mistakes and irregularities of the officials concerned.
As a result of the irregularities and mistakes made by land officials along with wrong maps and documents, the process got cumbersome. Besides, names of many owners were misspelled.
Land Survey Tribunals were established in the country to settle suits arising out of the final publication of the last revised record of rights.
Sardar Amins as well as the Revenue Officers on many occasions prepared the land record of rights completely with false details by resorting to illegal means. People, who are not real owners of land, got the record of rights by managing the officials concerned.
As per law, Land Survey Tribunal and Land Survey Appellate Tribunal are supposed to be constituted. Land appellate tribunal has not been constituted anywhere.
People who are aggrieved with the order of the land survey tribunals have to file writ petition with the High Court challenging decisions of the land survey tribunals.
As the High Court is burdened with other cases, it takes long time to settle land related writ petitions.
In 2012, the government increased the number of tribunals from 32 to 44. These tribunals are not capable of settling cases timely of all the 64 districts. Besides, the number of judges in every tribunal is not adequate to deal the large number of cases.
Around 2.5 lakh cases were pending with the land survey tribunals across the country as of 2017. The number of cases has hiked to 3 lakh now.
Some districts witnessed land survey just two years ago. But tribunals there are burdened with innumerable cases. A data shows that 44, 152 cases are pending with tribunal in Kishoreganj; 32, 676 in Mymensingh; 21, 863 in Netrokona; 17, 951 in Jamalpur; 10, 809 in Tangail; 9,126 in Chandpur; 7,438 in Dhaka; 6, 983 in Satkhira; 6, 476 in Sherpur; and 6,222 cases.
Aggrieved parties have to file writ with the High Court challenging the tribunals’ decision in absence of land appellate tribunals.
As per existing system, a judge in the land survey tribunal case settle 165 cases annually. Around 33 years are needed to dispose off the existing cases in Dhaka.