East Bengal State Acquisition and Tenancy Act 1950

East Bengal State Acquisition and Tenancy Act 1950 a law relating to tenancies to be held under the state and other matters connected therewith. Prior to its enactment, agrarian law of Bengal mainly consisted of the Bengal permanent settlement regulations of 1793 and the bengal tenancy act 1885. The Permanent Settlement regulations made zamindars owners of their land subject to payment of a fixed amount of their land revenue to the government and they were entitled to collect rent from their subordinate tenants, who were again entitled to create subordinate interests. Permanent Settlement regulations 1793 created a landed aristocracy, which was supposed to be loyal to the British regime. Bengal Tenancy Act of 1885 defined the rights and liabilities of the tenants in relation to their superior landlords.

The permanent settlement outlived its utility and there was a demand for agrarian reform, which culminated in the formation of a Land Reform Commission in 1938 under the chairmanship of Sir Francis Floud. floud commission was assigned to report, amongst other things, whether it was practically desirable for the government to acquire all superior interest to bring actual cultivators into direct contact with the government. The recommendation of Land Revenue Commission remained under consideration of the government and, with a view to implementing the decision, Bengal State Acquisition Tenancy Bill was introduced on 10 April 1947 but no further progress was made because of Partition of Bengal. After Partition, East Bengal State Acquisition and Tenancy bill was framed and published on 31 March 1948. It was then referred to Special Committee of the House. Thereafter the bill was passed and it got the assent on 16 May 1951.

Under the scheme of the Act, the government became the only landlord to acquire all rent receiving interest by phases. By operation of section 3 of the Act, all holders of land became directly tenants under the government and they are described as malik (owner), but all interest in subsoil right to minerals, hats, bazaars, forests, fisheries and ferries are vested in the government. The said law authorises the government to own and manage hats, bazaars, ferries, fisheries, etc.

The Act is composed of 152 sections divided into five parts and nineteen chapters. Chapter 1 deals with definitions. Chapter II contains special provisions for acquisition of interest of certain rent receivers. It enabled the government to acquire all rent receiving interest vested in the government. Chapter III deals with provisions regarding land held in lieu of service. Chapter IV deals with preparation of record of rights by incorporating change in consequence of operation of provisions of State Acquisition and Tenancy Act and the changes caused by transfer and inheritance. Chapter V deals with alternative methods of acquisition of compensation assessment roll and record of right and it came into force in different parts of the country by notifications. Chapter VA deals with the preparation of compensation assessment roll in respect of properties acquired under chapter II. Chapter VI deals with authorities for the preparation of compensation assessment roll. Chapter VII describes the process of revision of compensation assessment roll and decision regarding disputes with regard to compensation. Chapter VIII gives the method of payment of compensation. Chapter IX provides provisions relating to arrears of revenue, rent and excise. Chapter IXA describes special provisions relating to arrears of rent. Chapter X describes provisions relating to indebted rent receivers. Chapter XI deals with law relating to settlement of government land and miscellaneous matters.

Chapter XII deals with the consequences of coming into force of part V of the Act at different parts of the country at different times. Chapter XIII describes the incidence of holding of raiyats, effect of alluvion and diluvion, preemption and restriction of transfer by aboriginal persons. Chapter XIV provides assessment, enhancement and reduction of rent. Chapter XV deals with provisions relating to amalgamation, subdivision and consolidation of holding. Chapter XVI relates to provisions as to rent and its realisation. Chapter XVII relates to procedure for maintenance and revision of record of rights. Chapter XVIII provides for procedure relating to jurisdiction, appeal, revision and review. Chapter XVIIIA relates to special provision for exemption of rent for place of worship, graveyard and Chapter XVIIIB relates to special provision for exemption of land revenue in respect to agricultural land up to 3.52 hectare. Chapter XIX relates to rule making power and the schedule of the act and regulations, which have been partly or wholly repealed.

In consequence of introduction of the State Acquisition Act, there exits no intermediary interest between the government and tenant, the government has become the only landlord and the cultivators were relieved of the baneful effect of subinfeudation and intermediate class. The service tenures in vogue in Bengal, more particularly in the district of sylhet, were done away with. Acquisition of rent receiving interest has been done under a scheme of payment of compensation to zamindars and intermediary interest holders. Initially, the law had imposed ceiling in land holding at 13.48 hectare, which was increased threefold but by further amendment. The said ceiling was later reduced to 8.79 hectare per family. The law had abolished zamindari system but a hierarchy of revenue officials substituted it with the Board of Land Administration at the top and revenue officers, now called Assistant Commissioners (Land), at the bottom. Collector and Deputy Commissioner acted as the heads of revenue administration at the district. An Additional Deputy Commissioner (revenue), one revenue deputy collector, and a number of tahsildars, kanungos and surveyors assist Deputy Commissioner or collector. The enactment was followed by legal battles in the court, particularly of the zamindars and landholders, who did not immediately give in, and the government had to resort to innumerable amendments to eliminate the intermediary interest holders between the government and the tenants.

Bangladesh is a delta land and is constantly washed by innumerable rivers. The present law deals with the question of new formation by accretion and reformation in old situ. Earlier accretion to any holding from public navigable river used to enhance the holding of the landholder. The reformation in old situ within 20 years would revert to the old tenant. But after liberation of Bangladesh, accretion enhanced the domain of the government and in case of diluvion, the tenant is entitled to abatement of rent and in case of reformation of situ within 30 years, old tenant is given priority in resettlement if the land regained exceeds the ceiling imposed by law. However, under the act, only the landless cultivators are entitled to get settlement of government land gained by accretion or otherwise.

Under State Acquisition of Tenancy Act, khatiyan is prepared in the names of respective tenants directly under the government and the Act provides for a process of updating khatiyan in the names of the persons by transfer, inheritance, and settlement from government. That Act provides a process of pre-emption of land by a co-sharer of contiguous tenant if the transfer is made to any stranger. The Act also provides a scheme of precedence of any co-sharer by inheritance against any co-sharer by purchase. This provision of pre-emption was first introduced as a part of general law incorporated in Bengal Tenancy Act of 1885 relating to agricultural tenancy. However, pre-emption for non-agricultural tenancy is governed by the provision of non-agricultural tenancy act.

The statute also provides for periodical field survey of land and updating the record of right through such periodical settlement operations. It may be mentioned that this law has no application for chittagong hill tracts, which constitute almost one tenth of Bangladesh and is governed by Chittagong Hill Tracts Regulation 1900 and subsequent amending laws. Areas of Chittagong Hill Tracts are excluded from the operation of State Acquisition and Tenancy Act by gazette notification dated 30 November 1955. The gazette notification also stipulated restriction on transfer by the tribal people of different areas of the country. A member of a tribe can transfer his property to another one of the same or a different tribe at his will but he cannot do so to a non-tribal person without the permission of the revenue authority. [Abdul Quayum]