POST TIME: 17 September, 2018 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 17 September, 2018 01:10:03 AM
Vested Property Act cases linger on
1 lakh cases pending as special tribunals not set up in five months of HC order
Muhammad Yeasin

Vested Property Act cases linger on

The government is yet to set up tribunals to settle cases under the vested property law, even though five months have passed after the High Court (HC) issued directives in this regard. Litigants alleged that these cases were being disposed of poorly, although the government has formulated a law for their quick settlement. According to the law, a court has to dispose of a case filed under the Vested Property Act within a year. But the cases were not being settled within the specific time, sources said.

At least one lakh cases filed under the Vested Property Act were now pending with various courts across the country, they added. At present, the courts of senior assistant judges and joint district judges are tasked with disposing of the cases. However, these courts had to settle other important cases as well, the sources said, adding that the courts of additional district judges and district judges also disposed of the cases under the Act as additional duties.

Vested Property Act Prevention Movement leader advocate Subrata Chowdhury claimed that it would take more than 50 years to settle the cases if the government did not set up separate tribunals for their settlement.

“We're waiting for the government to implement the HC directives. We hope that it would do so soon for the greater interest of the litigants,” he said.

In April this year, the HC had directed the government to pay sufficient compensation to the owners of vested properties that were now under the government’s possession.

In its full verdict, which contained nine directives and five observations, the court ordered the government to rename the properties it used for various purposes, including as offices and educational institutions, after the owners.

On November 23, 2017, the HC bench of Justice Obaidul Hassan and Justice Krishna Debanth delivered a short verdict after disposing of a public interest litigation writ petition filed by the freedom fighter Md Abdul Hye.

In its observation, the HC bench called Vested Property Return Act’s Sections 6(Ga)

and (Gha) as discriminatory as they empowered the government not to return vested properties that were used to run charities, offices, schools, college and industries. “We are of the view that, no doubt, the two sections curtailed the rights of the persons whose properties were declared as enemy or vested property,” the court said.

It further said vested properties that had no legal claimants could only be utilised by the government for human development activities.

The bench also asked the government not to attempt to declare any property as vested property in future.

The government was also directed to set up more than one tribunal in each district to hear and dispose of applications claiming ownership of vested properties. The court also directed the tribunals to dispose of the applications within the timeframes prescribed in the law.

It asked the government to speedily implement decrees of these tribunals unless there were pending appeals. It directed the government not to delay the implementation of the tribunals’ decrees on the plea of filing appeals.

The bench asked the government to set up a special Appellate Tribunal in each district to hear appeals against the tribunals’ decrees.

The bench called the enactment of the Enemy Property (Continuance of Emergency Provisions) (Repeal) Act, 1974 as a “historical mistake”.

The bench also said that “all actions regarding listing any property within territory of Bangladesh as enemy property or vested property after March 23, 1974 are illegal”.

The court observed that persons engaged with the task of listing properties as vested as per the 1974 Act “are liable to be held responsible for doing illegal work”. It said that the persons who were engaged in listing properties as vested during 1980–2004 had flouted an earlier Supreme Court’s verdict and were therefore “liable to be prosecuted for contempt of court”.

The HC also said that in 1974, the vested property law was enacted with the intention to dispose of the vested properties to the persons who were their original owners.

It further said that in February 1969, the Pakistan government had promulgated Enemy Rules defining the properties of persons who had been staying in India during the 1965 Indo-Pak war as enemy property. These properties were then taken over by the then East Pakistan government.