A legal official in Grenada has called for changes to be made to the Possessory Title act to tighten the loopholes that provide an opportunity to persons to illegally take control of lands that do not belong to them.
The official who did not want to be identified told THE NEW TODAY that the Possessory title act in its present form is giving persons “an easier way” to lay their hands illegally on property that belongs to other people.
“What used to happen before is that when you had a Statutory Declaration done (for land) prior to the Possessory title act coming into being – you had to go down to Inland Revenue first to see who the owners of the land were but the Possessory Title act overrides all these things,” she said
“… What is happening is that the Possessory Title act provides for you to make an application to the Court to get possession of the property that you are applying for – the land could be in somebody’s name,” she added.
According to the legal official, officers at the Inland Revenue in the Ministry of Finance could spot errors in the transaction but have no authority not to uphold the judgment of a court.
“If the court rules in somebody’s favour that the Possessory Title should go to X person name that is what happens and by the time the court gives the ruling it is too late now because if anybody has to undo anything they have to go back to the court in order to do any kind of adjustment,” she said.
The Possessory Title act became the subject of public discussion in recent weeks following reports that Crown lands on St John’s Street were sold to an Indian businessman for an estimated EC$2.2 million by a female who came in possession of the property under the Possessory Title act.
The lands were vested in the state-owned Grenada National Lottery Authority (GNLA) by the 2008-13 National Democratic Congress (NDC) government of then Prime Minister Tillman Thomas.
The Indian businessman ran into problems with the title for the land when he attempted to sell it to another of his colleague.
The legal official pointed out that a number of roadblocks are put in the way of persons who might be affected by attempts being made by others to get Possessory title of lands that are in boundary with some persons.
She said it is much easier to get information about a divorce matter in the Supreme Court Registry than from proceedings involving a Possessory Title application.
She indicated that staffers at the Registry often inform persons that if they are not a party to the matter then they will not be allowed to see the file.
She said the act provides for a Registry and anyone should be able to go there to look at a Registration for Possessory Title in the Deed and Land Registry and also with the Chief Technical Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture or the person assigned for lands in the ministry.
“I don’t think that some of these lawyers that are doing the Possessory Titles are following these things fully,” she told THE NEW TODAY.
“Somebody might put up (in newspaper advertisement) they are taking possession of a parcel of land – you may just be in boundary – all you want to see is the plan to see whether or not you are affected by that sort of thing and you are not allowed because when you go to the Registry they are telling you that you have to file an Appearance in order to see the file and I don’t think that is fair to the person,” she said.
She went on to say: “Sometimes you are not really affected but once you have sight of the plan… you can know if you are affected.”
According to the legal official, if an advertisement for Possessory Title appears in a local newspaper and there is no accompanying plan but just a Description of the property a person who might be affected cannot do anything with that.
“They need to amend this thing (Possessory Title act) and make sure that the law is revised,” she remarked.
The legal official also complained that the Possessory Title act which came into force to assist poor persons to gain legal title to land they have been occupying for several years is at a disadvantage.
She noted that most of the cases in court involving the Possessory Title act involve family land and that a richer family member can easily pay a lawyer a $10, 000.00 fee to get all the lands belonging to the family as other members do not have the finance to mount a challenge.
This happens often, she said even if it is known in the community that the poor family member has been occupying the land for several years and suggested that the authorities need to look at this situation carefully.