The Cabinet on Monday gave its final approval to the draft of two pieces of legislation: the ‘Debottor (endowment) Property Management Act, 2013’ and the ‘Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Land Dispute Resolution Commission Amendment Act, 2013’. The approval was given at the regular weekly Cabinet meeting held at the Secretariat. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina chaired the meeting.
After the meeting, Cabinet secretary Muhammad Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan told reporters that the drafts of both the laws will be sent to Parliament soon for passage.
“The draft of the proposed ‘Debottor (endowed) Properties Act’ has been enacted with the aim of preventing the grabbing of Hindu properties dedicated to deities, with the provision of imprisonment for one year and fines of Tk. 5,000 to Tk. 50,000 as financial penalties for misuse of and for spreading wrong information about such properties. It was the longstanding demand of the country’s Hindu community,” he said.
The Act was given approval in principle on December 12, 2012, by the Cabinet.
“The provision of management and development and the handover process are clearly mentioned in the proposed law,” Bhuiyan said, adding that “a central management board will be constituted to look after the endowed properties of the Hindu community”.
The vice chairman of the Hindu Religious Welfare Trust will be the chairman of the management board, while a new post of administrator will be created for running the affairs of the board. The administrator will be a joint secretary of the government, who will be drawn from the Hindu community. The administrator will also act as member secretary of the management board, he said.
Similar boards will be formed at the district level, which will be headed by the respective deputy commissioners.
The boards at the central and district levels will prepare a list of Hindu religious places of worship and endowed properties, he explained. It will help the government protect such properties and prevent misuse of those. The authorities concerned will take steps to recover the occupied properties from those who have grabbed them, he added.
CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission (Amendment) Act 2013:
The Cabinet also approved the draft of the ‘Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Land Dispute Resolution Commission Amendment Act, 2013’, which finally amends the sole authority of the commission’s chairman to take decisions.
“The meeting also decided to remove the provision of preparation of guidelines within six months of the passage of the law. This is because though the law was enacted in 2001, the authority has failed to prepare the guidelines for implementing the law,” Mosharraf said, further adding, “However, the Cabinet has decided to prepare the guidelines within the next three months. The authorities concerned have been ordered to prepare the draft and submit it to the Cabinet division for its approval.”
The Cabinet secretary further said that according to the amendment, the power to take a decision has been distributed among the members of the commission, which earlier was solely concentrated in the hands of the chairman. Pursuant to the amendment, the unanimous decision of the commission will be the final decision.
“However, if the commission fails to take a unanimous decision, the opinion of the majority of the members, including the chairman’s opinion, will be accepted as the final decision,” he added.
Describing the formation of the full commission, he said the five-member commission will be formed under the leadership of a retired Judge of the Appellate Division, who will be its chairman. Other members of the commission are: the divisional commissioner of Chittagong, the representative of CHT regional council chairman, chairman of the district council concerned, and the circle chief of the tribal communities concerned.
According to the amendment, it is not mandatory for the chiefs to attend meetings of the commission. They can send their representatives, who nevertheless must have the authority to take decisions.
The Cabinet secretary said the meeting decided to empower the commission for settling the disputes over land that have been given on illegal lease, occupied by others and distributed to settlers who have been illegally settled. The commission will able to dispose of the disputes under the law relating to CHT.
-With The Independent input