However, indigenous leaders expressed their concerns saying that some contradictory provisions have NOT been incorporated properly as per 13-point amendment proposals of the CHT Affairs Ministry and the CHT Regional Council which were consecutively approved by the CHT Accord Implementation Committee (in its 4th and 5th meetings) and Inter-ministerial Meeting held on 30 July 2012 headed by Honorable Law Minister Barrister Shafique Ahmed.
It is observed that out of 13-point amendment proposals, only 10 amendment proposals have been incorporated in the “CHT Land Disputes Resolution Commission Act (Amendment) Bill 2013”. Among them, eight provisions have been placed in conformity with the 13 point proposals and the rest two provisions have NOT been incorporated properly. These include exclusion of the word “practices” in the clauses (a), (b) and (c) of the Sub-section 6(1) and the word “occupied land” in the clause (c) of the Sub-section 6(1).
The word “practices” (usages) is most important in term of land management and administration in the CHT. One of the most crucial examples is mandatory practice to take report or recommendation from the concerned Headman (mouza head) in transferring, settling and acquiring any land of the hill districts whether the concerned land is free from dispute. Considering this importance, CHT Accord of 1997 stipulates to resolve land disputes by the Land Commission in accordance with the existing laws, customs and practices in the CHT. However, government inserted only “existing laws and customs” in the CHT Land Disputes Resolution Commission Act 2001 excluding the word “practices”.
In addition, the 13 point amendment proposals also recommend to omit the proviso of the Sub-section 6(1) which says that this sub-section shall not be applicable in case of Reserved Forests, Kaptai Hydroelectricity Project area, Betbunia Earth Satellite Station, state-owned industries and land recorded with the Government or local authorities.” However, this amendment proposal has NOT been incorporated in the amendment Bill 2013 which was adopted by the Cabinet on 3 June 2013. If this proviso is retained, then most of the land disputes remain resolved.
On the other, the CHT Accord also provides to cancel such lands including fringe land that given in settlement or occupied in violation of the existing laws, customs and practices in the CHT. However, the government excluded the word “or occupied” in the CHT Land Disputes Resolution Commission Act 2001. Despite land disputes of returnee refugees, there are huge lands occupied forcibly in the CHT. So, if this word “or occupied” is not inserted in the Act, around 70% land disputes remain unresolved or out of jurisdiction from disposal of the Land Commission.
Besides, there are three important provisions which have totally been missing in the amendment Bill 2013. One is related to Quorum. Current provision of the CHT Land Disputes Resolution Commission Act 2001 provides to have Quorum with its chairman and other two members. However, among the members of the Commission, chairman of the Hill District Council and circle chief are directly related to land management and administration in the CHT. So, in order to ensure presence of one of them in resolving land disputes, 13 point amendment proposals include to have Quorum with the chairman and other three members. However, the amendment Bill 2013 excluded this important amendment proposal which may hinder in smooth resolving of the land disputes in the CHT.
Another one is new provision for inclusion of the functions of CHT Land Disputes Resolution Commission into the CHT Affairs Ministry instead of the Land Ministry which has NOT been incorporated in the amendment Bill 2013. In fact, in national level, this is the CHT Affairs Ministry on which all matters relating to the CHT affairs have been bestowed to deal. However, the CHT Land Commission has been kept under the jurisdiction of Land Ministry. That is why, the 13-point amendment proposals recommend to insert a new provision (Section No. 21) which includes the functions of the CHT Land Commission into the CHT Affairs Ministry.
Following is the comparative analysis of 13-point amendment proposals and Amendment Bill adopted by Cabinet on 3 June 2013 for your kind information and action.