By Our Reporter
Justice Sekana has Thursday, 26th March 2020 declared the acts of Departed Asians Custodian Board (DAPCB) illegal, when they re-instituted an investigation of repossessed properties.
This followed an Application for judicial review lodged in by Manharlal Thakkar, through Ebbert Byenkya, Kihika & Co. Advocates under Miscellaneous Cause No. 379 of 2019, challenging the Acts of the Custodian Board. Thakkar was issued with a Repossession Certificate on 28th November 1991 and acquired partial interest in the suit property on the basis of Letters of Administration.
However, in 2019, the Custodian Board wrote a letter to the Applicant requiring it to submit its re-possession Certificate and all other related documents for purposes of carrying out investigations. The investigations were termed as a verification exercise. The Custodian Board needed to know if the property was rightly re-possessed.
However, the High Court has held that it was illegal for the Custodian Board to try and re-open the re-possession exercise concluded 28 years ago under the guise of verifying the authenticity of documents accompanying the re-possession.
He further held that the Minister became functus officio having issued the Repossession Certificate. The Expropriated Properties Act did not leave a window for which a minister’s decision would be changed except by way of Appeal under section 15 of the Act. Therefore, the Custodian Board had a right to appeal against the decision of the minister rather than investigate the authenticity of Thakkar’s Repossession Certificate.
“It would be wrong and unjust to return property which the military regime took over lawfully and refuse to return property which was illegally taken over. This court can not approve of such an injustice and which runs contrary to the purpose of the Act. It’s the function of judicial review, in a democratic society to draw a fine balance between the conflicting claims of an individual and the administration,” the ruling read in part.
This may serve as relief to most owners of repossessed properties who have always been summoned by Custodian Board to explain the acquisition process.
Also, by default this decision shall have an impact on the ongoing Parliamentary investigations into repossessed properties by Makindye East MP Ibrahim Biribawa Kasozi led COSASE committee.