The High Court Division has directed the government to pay sufficient compensations to owners of vested properties now under the government’s possession.
In its full verdict released last week, the court also directed the government to rename the properties it uses for various purposes including as offices and educational institutions after the owners.
On November 23, 2017, a bench of Justice Obaidul Hassan and Justice Krishna Debanth had delivered a short verdict after disposing of a public interest litigation writ petition of freedom fighter and retired joint secretary Md Abdul Hye.
The full verdict, posted on the Supreme Court website, contains nine directives and five observations.
In its observation, the bench called Vested Property Return Act’s sections 6(Ga) and (Gha) as discriminatory as the empowered the government not to return vested properties under use 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.
The court said that vested properties having no legal claimants alone ‘should be utilized by the government’ for human development activities.
Subrata Chowdhury, Supreme Court lawyer and a leader of the movement for the return of the vested properties to the claimants urged the government to implement what he called ‘a landmark verdict’.
The bench also asked the government not to make
attempts in the future to declare any property as vest property.
The government was also directed to set up more than one tribunal, in each district only to hear and dispose of applications claiming ownership of vested properties.
The court directed the tribunals to dispose of the applications within time frames prescribed in the law.
The court directed the government to speedily implement these tribunals’ decrees unless there were pending appeals.
The bench directed the government not to delay implementation of 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 tribunals’ decrees.
The bench called the enactment of the Enemy Property (Continuance of Emergency Provisions) (Repeal) Act 1974 as a ‘historical mistake’.
The bench 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 observations said that the persons engaged with the task of listing the property as vested property by act of 1974 ‘are liable to be held responsible for doing illegal works’.
It said that the persons who were engaged in listing properties as vested property during 1980-2004 for flouting the Supreme Court’s verdict delivered earlier, ‘are liable to be prosecuted for the contempt of the court’.
Land ministry’s legal adviser Manzill Murshid told New Age that he suggested the ministry to appeal against the verdict following which many claimants would demand compensations for their properties.
The HC verdict said that the properties which were described as enemy property were later on vested in the government in 1972.
The HC said that in 1974, vested property law was enacted with an intention to dispose of the vested properties to the persons who were the original owners of the properties.
It said, in February 1969, the Pakistan government promulgated Enemy Rules defining the enemy territory, the persons who had been staying in India during 1965 India and Pakistan War, their properties were declared enemy property and the properties were taken over by the then East Pakistan Government.
It said, that though emergency rule was repealed after the cessation of the War between Pakistan and India, the Ordinance was promulgated.
The HC said that the territory which was treated as enemy land under the ordinance of 1969, after 26th March 1971 that land became friendly land.
The HC said that the territory described as enemy territory according to Ordinance 1969 cannot be treated as enemy territory after 26th March 1971.
Lawyers Mohammad Imtiaz Farooq and M Syed Ahmed appeared for the petitioner.
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