Land Bill of Bhutan, 2012

The 9th session of the 1st parliament of Bhutan opened on the 8th of June, 2012. This is the second last parliament session for this elected government. The last session, probably to be held in the winter will be mostly be an exchange of pleasantries. If the government has to make a mark, this is probably their last shot.

A host of important issues are up for discussion for this session. Of all the discussions, most Bhutanese will be following the Land Amendment Bill very closely.

The following is a reprint from KUENSEL regarding the proposed land bill 2012. What are your views? How are you going to be affected?

Land (Amendment) Bill of Bhutan, 2012

Proposed amendments are a plenty in the new land bill 2012 that is scheduled for discussion in the first week of July at Parliament, the ninth session of which began yesterday.

Of many, some of the salient changes the exhaustive and detailed land Act (amendment) bill entail are in the composition of the National Land Commission that will have mostly government members in it.

The existing land Act, the commission for which comprised secretaries of agriculture, works and human settlement, finance, home and the erstwhile trade and industry ministries, with gyalpoi zimpon as the chairperson.

Under the proposed amendment in the Act, the new establishment will comprise either ministers of the ministries listed above, or senior officials therein, appointed by the prime minister, who will be the chairperson or a minister of a relevant ministry that he appoints.

Following that, the other change is in the minimum size of plot that can be registered in a thram, which has increased from 10 decimals under the previous Act to 13 decimals in the bill that is up for amendment.

Although the bill allows for Bhutanese to own land anywhere in the country, it comes with certain ceiling as to the land holding.

The land ceiling for a family, organisations and other entities has been decided at 25 acres consisting of one of more land categories of wetland, dry land, residential, industrial, commercial, institutional, recreational and cash crop lands.

The minimum ceiling has been decided at five acres, based on consideration that it is the minimum agricultural land holding required for sustaining an average family.

The ceiling, however, does not apply to government institutions, institutions under the purview of zhung dratshang, community owning land for social and religious purposes, industrial land beyond 25-acre ceiling, crown property held by the monarch and royal family members.

Both kidu and resettlement land, the bill states should be registered in the thram within 360 days from the day of issue of kasho, in case of kidu land, and issue of approval from the government, in case of the latter.

Following recent practices of people selling kidu and resettlement land, the bill spells out that, except for surrender of such land to government, it should not be sold or gifted or donated within 10 years of its allotment.

Thereon, the bill states only up to 60 percent of such land would be allowed for transaction.

Coming to allotment of urban plots, which, if the government wished to do, from its own plot or after acquisition of one from private land, the bills states that it ought to be done in a fair and transparent manner.

For such transaction, however, it requires the government to seek the King’s approval.

Perhaps bearing in mind the issues emerging from the cadastral resurvey, a new provision has been added in the amendment bill in relation to difference in the area of a plot, following a cadastral resurvey of agricultural land.

The bill stated that, if the area measured after cadastral resurvey was in excess of that recorded in the thram (land record), the issue would be submitted to His Majesty to grant as kidu to the thram holder, if his land holding is less than five acres, allow the thram holder to buy the excess land at existing rate, if his total holding is more than five but less than 25 acres, or revert to state the excess land if the thram holder’s land holding exceeded 25 acres.

In case a cadastral resurvey showed that an area measured was less than that recorded in the thram, the matter would be submitted to the King to grant an equal area to the difference as kidu from a nearby government land in another area within the gewog.

But to qualify for that, a thram holder should have a land holding of less than five acres.

In the context of present scenario of rapid development across the country where people converted wetland into dry ones, the bill requires that landowners in rural areas without a house and having only inherited wetland can apply for conversion of a plot of 13 decimal from his or her registered wetland.

Sokshing rights, unless they have been converted into community forests or falling within thromde (municipal) areas, is being restored to the owner of the land on which it grows.

This story from Sangay Tshomo