Acquisition and Requisition

Acquisition and Requisition Every country has provisions for acquiring land or any other private property in the public interest. In most ancient scriptures mention has been made of edicts regarding compensation for acquired property. The extent of acquisition of land depends on the role a state plays. Where the state's role in general economy and socio-cultural activities is pervasive, the extent of acquisition must also be great. In states where there is no private ownership or the amount of property under private ownership is small, the need for acquisition of property is also limited.

There were instances of acquisition of land in the interest of the state right at the initial stage of the British colonial regime. Acquisition and requisition of land were made to construct government offices, railways, roads etc. However, the process was carried out through special acts and orders. The first piece of legislation on acquisition and requisition of property was enacted in 1894 and was called The Land Acquisition Act, 1894.

After the country gained independence in 1947, land was needed for the construction of government offices, schools and colleges, hospitals and railway stations. In order to deal with the situation, existing laws were amended and a number of new acts were promulgated at different stages, e.g., The Emergency Requisition of Property Act, 1948; The Civil Defence Act; The Rehabilitation Act, 1956. Under the Rehabilitation Act the government acquired different private buildings, abandoned houses, and landed property. Among the other Acts, Rules, Ordinances and Regulations on acquisition and requisition enforced by the government, the most important ones were: The Municipal Committee (Property) Rules, 1960; The Union Council (Property) Rules, 1960; The Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation Ordinance, 1961; The Acquisition of Waste Land Act, 1950; The Chittagong Hill Tracts (Land Acquisition) Regulations, 1958; The Cantonment (Requisition of Immovable Property) Ordinance, 1948.

The Acquisition and Requisition of Immovable Property Ordinance, 1982 provides a new definition of property. According to this definition, property includes any structures on land or any right over such property. Acquisition or requisition of property which is used for religious worship, or as a graveyard, cremation ground, orphanage, hospital or public library is prohibited.

Procedure for requisition Whenever it appears to an organisation that it needs to occupy any land or movable property, it should first apply in writing to the Ministry of Land through the concerned ministry requesting for requisition and transfer of the land or the movable property in question. A detailed statement specifying whether the land mentioned in the application is needed for public or private purpose, the area of the land, sketch-map, purpose for which it could be used etc should be submitted as well. The Ministry of Land examines the application and sends it to the concerned Deputy Commissioner for necessary action. The Deputy Commissioner then authorises the Additional Deputy Commissioner (Land) to prepare and execute a plan of action for requisition. The Additional Deputy Commissioner in turn issues a public notice regarding the requisition with a view to settling matters relating to payment of compensation to the owner or owners of the property or any other person or persons entitled to compensation, and any other related issues. He makes arrangements for payment of compensation determined on the basis of the average market-value of the property during the preceding twelve months.

When a movable property is required temporarily for a public purpose or in the public interest, the Deputy Commissioner may requisition it by an order in writing. In case of requisition of movable property as well, compensation shall be paid to the owner or owners of the property determined in accordance with legal provisions. Also, in case of requisition of movable property, the decision taken by the government is deemed to be final. Any person who contravenes or attempts to contravene an order, or who obstructs the enforcement of an order, is punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three months, or with a fine which may extend to taka three thousand, or with both.

Assessment of compensation The owner of the property is entitled to compensation determined in the prescribed manner. This includes compensation for all structures, buildings, corridors, huts, trees or standing crops thereon. Any person can make an objection to a requisition by a written application within 15 days from the date of receipt of notice. The Deputy Commissioner, after giving the applicants an opportunity of being heard, prepares a report.

In case of requisition or acquisition of any private movable or immovable property for a public purpose, any objection on the part of the owner of the property stands legally void. It is a punishable offence to cause any obstruction to the requisition process. No Court would entertain any suit or writ petition or application seeking injunction against such requisition. However, one can resort to arbitration claiming appropriate compensation. An application for arbitration is to be submitted within thirty to forty-five days from the date of service of notice. The government appoints a judicial officer of the rank of subordinate judge or a senior judicial officer as Arbitrator. An appeal can be lodged against the award of the arbitrator to an Arbitration Appellate Tribunal.

The Movable Property Requisition (Compensation) Rules, 1990 makes provision for constituting a Compensation Assessment Committee in each district for determining compensation for any requisitioned vehicle, vessel or bus, truck, minibus etc. In case of requisition of a vehicle or vessel, the order of requisition should clearly state the period of requisition, purpose of requisition, and the amount of compensation to be awarded.

Against the backdrop of the devastating floods of 1988, the government enforced Act ix of 1989 and started acquiring pieces of land in Dhaka city. Under the provisions of this Act the Dhaka City Protection Embankment was constructed in Mirpur and Mohammadpur in the western parts of Dhaka. In December 1994 the government passed a rule in order to amend the provisions for determining compensation under the Acquisition and Requisition Act. According to this Rule, in case of an arbitration suit lodged against the compensation determined by the Deputy Commissioner an increase of only an additional ten per cent of the compensation can be awarded by the Arbitrators. Similarly, the Arbitration Appellate Tribunal should limit its award to within this additional ten per cent. [Shahida Begum]