Sunday, 24 October 2010

Housing plots for the cricketers: Public land should not be available for private gifts

BLHouse Collection
The Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina while according a reception to the victorious Bangladesh Cricketers at her official residence the other day announced the gift of a housing plot in the capital and a car to every player of 20-member team.

Cheques for Taka one lakh each presented by Exim Bank Ltd. and South East Bank Ltd. were handed over to members of the team. The premier also handed over the key of a car given to acting captain of the team Sakib Al Hasan by the Exim Bank.

The reception followed the triumphant 4-0 victory of the Tigers in the one-day series against the New Zealand cricket team which they whitewashed.

The whole nation pulsated with joy as the Bangladesh side won the four one-day international matches one after another. One match of the 5-match series was washed away by rain.

A welfare trust fund will be created to help the players with financial support after their career or during their injury time, the premier declared. It is however not clear where in the city the cricketers would be given a housing plot each. In the land hungry capital it would be really difficult to find 20 plots of land for the members of the team.

Surely there will be more successes in the arena of sports and successful players will be hoping to be so generously rewarded. But the question is how long the government would be able to make such generous presents from the limited state-owned landed property.

A High Court Division of the Hon'ble Supreme Court last week upheld a government notice served last year cancelling the lease of a house inside the Dhaka Cantonment to BNP Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia. In its verdict the Division Bench of the Hon'ble Supreme Court held, 'The Chief of Army staff has no authority to lease any public property.' As regards public property, the President cannot have an absolute or open-ended discretion to dispose of public property to whomsoever he likes at any price he likes and in any manner he likes.'

The ruling as published in the press added, 'Giving any property of national importance to any individual undoubtedly goes against the interest of the state and the people.'

In the light of the High Court Division's finding unless the Appellate Division expresses a different view, many state level gifts of land will be found illegal. During General Ershad's rule, it is alleged, there were many instances of giving away land as gifts to individuals even as wedding gifts.

In our view state honour without any other material gift should be regarded as the highest form of reward. The problem in our state of affairs is that material gain is considered everything.

The government must remember that its obligation is to protect public property and public interest and not to give them away. After the High Court Division's judgment gifts of housing plots to the cricketers may not be legally tenable.

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