The Constitutional court works!

27 Mar, '07

If you wish to see anyone in Bahrain having an immediate epileptic fit, just mention the numbers 8/1970 and stand back and watch the antics! Feel free to laugh or cry with them.

What you have done is infer that the poor mug has lost a parcel of land.

A parcel of land probably bought on a 10-year installment plan for which he has to sacrifice a lot in order to make the payments so that they might, one day, build a dream home on or leave for descendants or indeed keep as a safe investment. That law gives the government the absolute right to appropriate that parcel of land with everything on and in it (be it a built property, water resources, plants, etc.) for a price determined by a supposedly independent pricing committee, the members of which are all appointed by the Ministry of Municipalities! I have never heard of a “fair” compensation for any appropriate land yet.

There is another law – I could not find a reference to yet – which allows the government to appropriate up to 30% of any parcel of land without offering any compensation to the owner! This is even more damning and I think parliament is discussing a law to repeal it (or supposed to discuss it at least – when they finish from burning Shaikha Mai on the stake that is).

Therefore it is rather shocking to read the news reports this morning (Arabic) in which they carried an unprecedented move by the Constitutional Court yesterday when it issued a decision negating the constitutionality of Law by Decree number 8 of 1970 (Arabic) which dealt with the appropriation of land by the government for “public interest”.

This is very good news of course and one that I hope will continue to be the hallmark of the Constitutional Court. Ensuring its independence and protecting the constitution elevates the level of trust citizens will have in the country as a whole, as they are sure now that they can look to the highest court in the land to protect their interest and stand with them against unconstitutional laws.

Well done! More good news please.

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  1. Global Voices Online | 28 Mar, '07
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  1. billT says:

    Thats really a good thing. You think we can borrow the Constitutional Court to discuss our income tax?

  2. flavio says:

    what does this mean? does this mean that any one who had his land taken for ‘public interest’ would get it back? or compensated? or does it mean that they will have no right to do that again any time soon?

    and about the 30% thing, I actually heard about it, that can be too much, but sometimes you actually need to take land from people say 15-20% to make roads and water/electricity hubs etc. But people should get compensated for that even if they had 1% of the land taken from them.

  3. mahmood says:

    I guess the door to litigation is now open for every land appropriation since the inauguration of the law on 1st September 1970.

    As for the compensation issue, I completely agree. Even if the government takes one single square inch it should compensate the owners for that appropriation. Otherwise there is no point in saying that private property is protected constitutionally.

  4. Trump says:

    Flavio

    Sometimes, though, the land is taken by the state at the time of subdivision from a large plot to many smaller plots to allow for roads. In that case no compenation is due as the value of the sum of the plots once subdivided always exceeds the original total. In some countries in addition to losing land to the state at subdivision time owners have to pay tax on the profit generated from the change of use so it all depends on the individual case at the time.

    I would guess on the compenation issue in al lot of cases it was the large landowners who lost the land in the first place and they probably don’t need compensating.

  5. Ali says:

    There is another law – I could not find a reference to yet – which allows the government to appropriate up to 30% of any parcel of land without offering any compensation to the owner!

    Amiri Decree-Law No. 3/1994, Article 1/5*

    * Search for:
    المرسوم بقانون رقم 3 لسنة 1994 بشأن تقسيم الأراضي المعدة للتعمير

  6. flavio says:

    Trump

    People who own large pieces of land might not need compensating, but what about people who own a small piece of land? What if that small piece of land is the only property they own and depend on? they would risk loosing upto 30% of the land. yes, I know that when roads are done, land prices go up, but the way I look at it is that the land owner used to own 100% of his land, now he owns 70% of it, for me that is totally unfair. Taxes is another issue, I dont want to change the topic of this post, but Bahrain does need taxation of some sort..

  7. Well, at least someone’s been listening & reading through blogs such as yours! Congratulations & good luck…

  8. mahmood says:

    Trump you’re right of course as far as the planning of larger plots in order to create allotments, compounds or individual houses. That’s fine and the government should not compensate people for those areas appropriated in order to create roads in new plots. Even then it should not be a blanket rule, but should be applied to individual cases to see if it is actually fair to compensate the land-owners for the appropriation.

    That same law – as far as I understand – applies to all situations and not just new developments. Therefore, the government can decide that they want to widen a road which my house happens to be beside, they would advertise the plan in the Official Gazette for a couple of months and as per law, that would deem that I have accepted not only the appropriation of 30% of my plot which everything that is on it, but also the valuation the committee has decided upon. All without my participation nor knowledge!

    Yes, the government needs to do these things sometimes, cities develop and roads need to be built. These are facts of life. What they should do however is at least make the process fairer and the compensation adequate to allow the land/home-owner to relocate or rebuild to at least the same standard of his house/neighbourhood etc.

  9. Dilmun says:

    Thank you Trump.. Flavio the “Subdivision Law” does not apply to small plots, it only applies to big plots that need to be subdivided into many smaller ones…In any case, watch development of housing projects, and roads come to a standstill. This is going to be an interesting time.

    There is such a concept “Planning Gain” where land increases in value because of infrastructure and zoning. Land owners will then have to “PAY” for the additional gain in the price of their land because of the installation of public goods. You can thank God we don’t have hear for now. I think it is fair when your land value goes up (Total Land Value), and the Government needs to cut up roads/schools/libraries/parks. Otherwise they’d be no development would there? There is still a ton of unplanned land, with no access or infrastructure. As long as the process is transparent and public, the Government should work in the interest of the PUBLIC + make sure nobody is losing any money on the total worth of their land.

    A final note, subdivisions should be segregated smaller lands 15% or so, and bigger lands upto 30% it makes sense too. It would help to have a system with zoning types and the respective road width that goes along with it – so we don’t end up creating another Juffair. But anyway …

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