Court blocks custodian board from probing land

Sunday March 29 2020

Probe. Association of the Expropriated

Probe. Association of the Expropriated Properties’ Owners Association led by the chairman Muhammad Allibhai appear before the subcommittee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises investigating the Custodian Board at Parliament on September 11, 2019. FILE PHOTO  

By ANTHONY WESAKA

The High Court in Kampala has barred the Departed Asians Property Custodian Board from reinvestigating the ownership of a piece of land in Mbarara District that it issued out 28 years ago.

Justice Musa Ssekaana on Thursday ruled that the custodian board overstepped its mandate when it purported to reinvestigate the ownership of the land in question and yet its owner is known to be Mr Manharlal Thakkar.

The land in question is comprised in Plot 2, Buremba Road LRV 454, Folio 18, Mbarara District.

“The respondent (custodian board) overstepped its authority or acted unlawfully when it tried to investigate the applicant’s interests in the suit property after 28 years without any justification or in accordance with the law,” Justice Ssekaana ruled.

“Since the respondent (custodian board) is found to have acted illegally, this court would afford the applicant (Mr Manharlal), an order of prohibition against the respondent (custodian board) from investigating the authenticity of the repossession certificate issued to the applicant in excess of its powers,” he added.

The judge further issued an order restraining all the agents of the custodian board from engaging in verification or any other action adverse to the interests of Mr Manharlal in respect to his Mbarara land.

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The lawyers of the petitioner, Mr Ebert Byenkya and Mr Anthony Bazira, had in their submissions to court, argued that the then Finance minister, issued a certificate of repossession to Harilal Gagulal Thakkar and their client as co-owners of the said property on November 28, 1991.

They further argued Section 4 of the Expropriated Properties Act, provides for application of a certificate of repossession and that where the line minister was satisfied with the merits of the application, a certificate of possession would be issued and that is what happened to their client.

“As evidenced from the affidavit, a repossession certificate was issued to Harilal Gugulal Thakkar and Monharlal Tribhovandas Thakkar as co-owners of the suit property,” the petitioner’s lawyers argued in their submissions before court.

The custodian board did not file a response to the law suit despite being served. The court went on to order both parties to file written submissions and still the custodian board did not.

Background

Under the decree No. 27 and 29 of 1972, all property for non-citizens of Asian origin was vested in government upon their expulsion from Uganda.
The laws on the management of expropriated property were eventually consolidated into Asians Property Custodian Board with power to manage the assets until 1982 when the Expropriated Properties Act was enacted.

The Expropriated Properties Act was enacted to remedy the evil committed by the decrees by returning all the property that was expropriated to the former owners.

Upon its enactment, the property which had been expropriated during the military regime of Idi Amin, was vested in the hands of the Finance minister on behalf of government to facilitate return to its former owners.

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