Through the State Acquisition and Lease Act (STA) of 1950, the long-standing traditional system of zamindari was abolished and people’s ownership of land was established. Article 90 of the law stipulates that a person can hold a maximum of 375 bighas of land since the implementation of this law. This ‘375 bighas’ refers to both agriculture and non-agriculture since Article 2(16) defines land as cultivated, uncultivated or covered with water at all times of the year, and includes benefits derived from land, houses or buildings and also things attached to the land, or permanently attached to anything attached to the land. Now, if a person violates this law and owns more than 375 bighas of land, then after 375 bighas of that land, the rest of the land will come under the authority of the government. [section 90(5)].

According to Section 3 of Bangladesh Land Holding Limitation Order (BLHLO) 1972, a maximum of 100 bighas of land can be held by one family or body. In this law, 100 bighas means both agricultural and non-agricultural land (Article 2(e)). Apart from the special rights given in this law and the exceptions mentioned, if there is an excess of 100 bighas of land, the excess amount of land shall be ceded to the government (Section 3).

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In previous laws, land was intended for both farming and non-farming, but the Land Reform Ordinance 1984 sets only a limit on the acquisition of farmland. According to article 4, a person can hold agricultural land up to 60 bighas. If someone acquires more than 60 bighas of agricultural land, the excess amount goes to the government (Article 4(3)).

There are three types of limits in these three laws, and it is not particularly easy to understand how much land a person can currently hold. To solve this problem, these laws must be interpreted collectively. In the 1950 law, the limit is set at 375 bighas of land (both agricultural and non-agricultural). In the 1972 ordinance, the limit was reduced to 100 bighas (agricultural and non-agricultural), which is important and takes precedence over all other laws. Therefore, it can be said that the limit of 375 bighas which was fixed in the law of 1950 is now reduced to 100 bighas according to the BLHLO 1972.

Again, in the LRO 1984, the maximum limit of agricultural land was set at 60 bighas and this 1984 law also took precedence over other laws under section 3.

Thus, a tenant or a family or a community can now hold a maximum of 100 bighas of agricultural and non-agricultural land, while out of these 100 bighas, agricultural land can be held up to 60 bighas. But the limit of land ownership in these laws is only applicable in general cases, in case of exceptions or in some cases, the government can relax this limit (eg for enterprises, cooperative societies, for agriculture , etc.) mentioned in these laws.

In Bangladesh, among all others, land is one of the main causes of discord or conflict. To control land grabbing and for better land management, the authorities must strictly enforce these laws and, at the same time, strong mechanisms must be used to cede surplus land to the government.

The author is a law student at the University of Dhaka.

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