The proposal to bring the Directorate of Registration under the Ministry of Land from the Ministry of Law – to reduce harassment in land registration – has been in limbo for six years.
The district registrar and sub-registrar offices of the country which handle land registration are under the Directorate of Registration. All activities related to land mutation, land development tax, parcha, or khatiyan for registration are conducted at the AC Land and Settlement offices – which are under the Ministry of Land.
According to people concerned, as these offices under the ministry of land have no connection with the registration office, the sub-registry office cannot examine the documents of land mutation, land development tax, parcha, or khatiyan.
As a result, the sub-registrars fail to identify fake documents and it takes a lot of time to verify documents. Therefore, people face unwanted harassment during land transfers.
In 2015, Shamsur Rahman Sharif, the then-land minister, wrote a letter to the Prime Minister's Adviser Gowher Rizvi, urging him to take necessary steps in this regard.
The letter said that the law and land ministries were once together; when they separated, the land registration office remained under the law ministry.
These three branches need to be brought under the same ministry to speed up land registration work. Although initiatives were taken at different times, they were not implemented, the letter said.
Although the Parliamentary Committee on the Land Ministry made recommendations in 2018 and 2019 to implement this initiative, no work was done.
Mokbul Hossain MP, chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Land Ministry, told The Business Standard, "We also want the registration department to come under the land ministry, because there is no alternative to bringing these three branches under the same ministry to reduce the harassment of the people and speed up the registration process. In almost all countries, the registration department is under the land ministry."
He said implementation of the initiative is taking time due to some complications.
According to people associated with the registration department, the revenue from the registration department is around Tk11,000 crore every year. The law ministry does not want to lose the authority of collecting such a huge amount of revenue.
Law Minister Anisul Haque told The Business Standard, "All efforts are being made to make the registration department up-to-date. The efforts began after the formation of the Awami League government in 2009. The law ministry is working to modernise the department."
He said, "The government can bring the registration department under the land ministry if it wants. However, the law ministry is continuing the ongoing development of this department."
The issue was discussed at several meetings of the Parliamentary Committee on Land Ministry before 2019. Later, the parliamentary committee decided to bring the matter – of bringing the office of the Sub-Registrar under the Ministry of Land – to the prime minister. In view of this, the Ministry of Land prepared a draft for presentation to the prime minister. The draft was presented to the parliamentary committee meeting in April 2019.
A member of the land ministry's parliamentary committee said the proposal was presented to the prime minister in the same year. The prime minister also held a meeting with the two ministries. But no further progress was made after that meeting. However, the prime minister verbally instructed the law minister to take action in this regard.
According to the abstract of the proposal sent to the prime minister by the Parliamentary Standing Committee for Land Registration, both parties concerning the land must prepare about 22 types of information and details of land ownership for the last 25 years to make their papers. They have to submit two copies of the document to the sub-registrar for registration.
However, the handwritten registered copy of the document is sometimes obscure and contains informational errors.
The Sub-Registry Office then sends the details of the land transfer notice to the Assistant Commissioner (Land).
The abstract said almost all the activities before and after the registration of land are related to the office of the Assistant Commissioner (Land). The sub-registrar under the law ministry has no other job than to execute the documents.
The Registration Act of 1908 states that it is the responsibility of the sub-registrar to register the deed of transfer of land. However, in this case, the issue of the verification of the land sellers' ownership by the sub-registrar is neglected. According to Section 53 (c) of the Transfer of Property Act, 1882, ownership of immovable property cannot be transferred without the khatiyan in the name of the land seller.
Therefore, if the registration work is done under the ministry of land, people's suffering will be significantly reduced, the abstract proposal concluded.