LAND REFORM LAW

Arrangement of Sections

1. Short title.

2. Purposes of this Law.

PART I

CEILING ON AGRICULTURAL LAND

3. Ceiling on agricultural land.

4. Interim order declaring possession of any agricultural land subject to the ceiling may be made by the Commission.

5. Special provisions to apply where persons become owners of agricultural land in excess of the ceiling after the date of commencement.

6. Effect of vesting of agricultural land in the Commission under this Law.

7. Special provisions relating to co-owned agricultural land.

8. Ownership of agricultural land by body corporate.

9. Servitude not to be affected by change of ownership of agricultural land.

10. Rights of tenant cultivators not to be affected by change of ownership.

11. Statutory lessee may surrender lease on giving the prescribed notice to the Commission.

12. Agricultural lands subject to a mortgage, lease, usufruct or life interest.

13. Certain transfers of agricultural land to be reported to the Commission within three months of the commencement of the Law and the Commission may invalidate such transfers.

14. Inter family transfer of agricultural land after the commencement of this Law.

15. Terms and conditions of statutory leases.

16. An authorised officer or agent of the Commission may issue directions to the police for the ejectment of unlawful occupiers of a land subject to a statutory lease.

17. Where an authorised officer or agent is unable or apprehends that he will be unable to eject unlawful occupiers of agricultural land subject to a statutory lease.

PART II

DECLARATION IN RESPECT OF AGRICULTURAL LAND AND VESTING AND ALIENATION OF SUCH LAND

18. Declaration in respect of agricultural land subject to a statutory lease.

19. Provisions applicable on the receipt by the Commission of a statutory declaration.

20. Effect of a statutory determination published under section 19.

21. Contents of a statutory determination published in the Gazette.

22. Purposes for which agricultural land vested in the Commission may be used.

23. Agricultural land not to be alienated by the Commission to persons who are not citizens of Sri Lanka.

24. Terms and conditions of alienation of agricultural land by the Commission.

25. Special provisions applicable to alienation of agricultural land by the Commission.

26. Applications for alienated of agriculture land by the Commission.

27. Price at which land shall be alienated by the Commission.

27A. Minister may by Order vest in State Corporation agricultural or estate land vested in the Commission.

27B. Revival of certain encumbrances.

PART III

COMPENSATION

28. Compensation payable by the Commission in respect of land vested in it under this Law.

28A. Provision relating to the viewer or refund of certain taxes.

29. Notice to persons entitled to make claims to the compensation payable under this law in respect of any agricultural land vested in the Commission.

30. Determination of compensation.

31. Commission to make an award as to the amount of compensation.

32. Payment of Compensation.

33. Provision for cases where compensation is not accepted.

34. Deductions from compensation.

35. Compensation and interest payable.

36. Persons dissatisfied with the amount of compensation awarded may appeal there from to the Board of Review constituted under the Land Acquisition Act.

37. Application of certain sections of the Land Acquisition Act in relation to appeals to the Board of Review under this Law.

38. Finality of an award made under this Law.

39. Tender and payment of compensation.

40. Power of the Chairman of the Commission to pay advances on account of compensation.

41. Central Bank to issue securities for payment of compensation under this law.

42. Mode and manner of payment of compensation.

PART IIIA

SPECIAL PROVISIONS RELATING TO ESTATE LANDS OWNED BY PUBLIC COMPANIES

42A. Vesting of estate lands owned or possessed by public companies.

42B. Management of vested estate lands.

42C. Particulars to be furnished by statutory trustees.

42D. Ejectment of unlawful occupiers of vested estate lands.

42E. Servitudes not to be affected by the vesting of estate lands.

42F. Estate lands subject to mortgages, leases, usufruct or life interest.

42G. Termination of the statutory trusts.

42H. Purposes for which estate lands vested in the Commission may be used.

42J. Compensation.

42K. Vesting of the business undertakings of agency houses or organisations.

42L. Appointment and removal of Directors of agency houses and organisations.

42LL. Certain estate lands deemed to be an estate lands owned by a public company on the date of coming into operation of this part of this Law.

42M. Interpretation.

PART IV

ESTABLISHMENT, CONSTITUTION, POWERS AND FUNCTIONS OF THE LAND REFORM COMMISSION

43. Establishment of land Reform commission.

44. Powers of the Commission.

45. Constitution of the Commission.

46. Seal of the Commission.

47. Powers of the Minister in relation to the commission.

48. Officers and servants of the Commission deemed to be public servants.

49. Commission deemed to be a scheduled institution within the meaning of the Bribery Act.

50. District Land Reform Authorities.

PART V

STAFF OF THE COMMISSION

51. Appointment of officers and servants.

52. Powers of the Commission in regard to the staff of the Commission.

PART VI

FINANCE AND ACCOUNTS OF THE COMMISSION

53. Capital of the Commission.

54. Fund of the Commission.

55. Financial year of the Commission.

56. Application of provisions of the Public Corporations (Financial Control) Act.

PART VII

GENERAL

57. Rules.

58. Protection for action taken under this Law or on the direction of the Commission.

59. No writ to issue against person or property of a member of the Commission.

59A. Prescription Ordinance not to apply to lands vested in the Commission.

60. Power of companies to enter into contracts with the Commission.

61. Officers of Department of Inland Revenue may disclose any particulars to the Commission.

62. Regulations.

63. Offences.

64. The provisions of this Law to prevail over other law, custom or usage.

65. The provisions of this Law relating to ceiling not to apply to certain Government Institutions.

66. Interpretation.

1 of 1972,

39 of 1975,

14 of 1981,

39 of 1981,

12 of 1983,

14 of 1986,

18 of 1986.

AN LAW to establish a Land Reform Commission to fix a ceiling on the extent of agricultural land that may be owned by persons, to provide for the vesting of lands owned in excess of such ceiling in the Land Reform Commission and for such land to be held by the former owners on a statutory lease from the Commission, to prescribe the purposes and the manner of disposition by the Commission of agricultural lands vested in the Commission so as to increase productivity and employment, to provide for the payment of compensation to persons deprived of their lands under this Law and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

[Date of Commencement; Parts I- VII: 22nd August, 1972; Part IIIA: 17th October, 1975]

1. Short title.

This Law may be cited as the Land Reform Law.

2. Purposes of this Law.

The purposes of this Law shall be to establish a Land Reform Commission with the following objects—

(a) to ensure that no person shall own agricultural land in excess of the ceiling; and

(b) to take over agricultural land owned by any person in excess of the ceiling and to utilise such land in a manner which will result in an increase in its productivity and in the employment generated from such land.

PART I

CEILING ON AGRICULTURAL LAND

3. Ceiling on agricultural land.

(1) On and after the date of commencement of this Law the maximum extent of agricultural land which may be owned by any person, in this Law referred to as the "ceiling”, shall—

(a) if such land consists exclusively of paddy land, be twenty-five acres; or

(b) if such land does not consist exclusively of paddy land, be fifty acres, so however that the total extent of any paddy land, if any, comprised in such fifty acres shall not exceed the ceiling on paddy land specified in paragraph (a).

(2) Any agricultural land owned by any person in excess of the ceiling on the date of commencement of this Law shall as from that date—

(a) be deemed to vest in the Commission; and

(b) be deemed to be held by such person under a statutory lease from the Commission.

(3) In the computation of the acreage of agricultural land for the purpose of applying the ceiling, the following areas situated on such land shall not be taken into account—

(a) an area not exceeding half an acre in extent surrounding the residence of the owner of such land;

(b) any garden surrounding staff quarters or labour lines on such land, not in excess of one-eighth of an acre in extent for every family resident in such quarters or lines; and

(c) any area not exceeding half an acre set apart for a family burial ground.

(4) For the purpose of subsection (1)—

(a) where any land is subject to a mortgage, lease, usufruct or life interest, the mortgagor, the lessor or the person in whom the title to the land subject to the usufruct or life interest is; and

(b) where any land is held on a permit or a grant issued under the Land Development Ordinance, the permit holder or the alienee on such grant,

(c) where any land is owned by a trustee under a private trust for the benefit of any other person, the private trust;

[S 3(4)(c) ins by s 2 of Act 39 of 1981.]

shall be deemed to be the owner of such agricultural land:

Provided, however, that where the lessor of any agricultural land under paragraph (a) of this subsection is the State, the lessee of such agricultural land shall be deemed to be the owner.

(5) Notwithstanding anything in the provision to subsection (4), where any agricultural land is leased by the Republic to any person for a project approved by the Minister, as being in the interest of agricultural development, the lessee of such agricultural land shall not be deemed, for the purposes of subsection (1), to be the owner of such land.

[S 3(5) ins by s 2 of Act 39 of 1981.]

4. Interim order declaring possession of any agricultural land subject to the ceiling may be made by the Commission.

(1) Where there is a dispute between parties as to the ownership of any agricultural land which is subject to the ceiling the Commission may, after such inquiry as it may deem fit, make an interim order declaring one of such parties to be entitled to the possession of such agricultural land. Every interim order shall be published in the Gazette and shall come into force on the date of such publication.

(2) Within two weeks of the publication of the interim order in the Gazette the Commission of its own motion or any of the parties to the dispute referred to in subsection (1) may refer such dispute to a court of competent jurisdiction for final adjudication.

(3) Till the final order is made by a court on such reference, the interim order shall be valid and effectual and shall not be called in question in any court by way of writ or otherwise. So long and for so long only as the interim order is in force the person declared by such interim order to be entitled to possess the agricultural land shall be deemed for the purpose of section 3 to be the owner of such agricultural land.

(4) As long as the interim order is in force the Commission shall not alienate the agricultural land to which the interim order relates:

Provided, however, that, where no reference has been made under subsection (2), the interim order made under subsection (1) shall have the effect of a final order under subsection (3).

5. Special provisions to apply where persons become owners of agricultural land in excess of the ceiling after the date of commencement.

(1) Where after the date of commencement of this Law any person becomes the owner of agricultural land in excess of the ceiling, any such land owned by such person in excess of the ceiling shall as from that date—

(a) be deemed to vest in the Commission; and

(b) be deemed to be held by that person under a statutory lease from the Commission.

[S 5 re-numbered as s 5(1) by s 3(a) of Act 39 of 1981.]

(2) Where any person becomes by reason of marriage or by way of inheritance, or both, the owner of any agricultural land in excess of the ceiling after the date of enactment of this subsection (1) shall not apply, and such person may transfer by way of sale or otherwise, such excess within a period of two years from the date on which he becomes the owner of such agricultural land. Where such person fails to transfer such excess within such period, such excess shall, upon the expiration of such period—

(a) be deemed to vest in the Commission; and

(b) be deemed to be held by that person under a statutory lease from the Commission.

[S 5(2) subs by s 2(b) of Act 14 of 1986.]

6. Effect of vesting of agricultural land in the Commission under this Law.

Where any agricultural land is vested in the Commission under this Law, such vesting shall have the effect of giving the land in the Commission absolute title to such land as from the date of such vesting, and free from all encumbrances.

7. Special provisions relating to co-owned agricultural land.

For the purposes of this Law, where any agricultural land is co-owned, each co-owner shall be deemed to own his share in such land as a distinct and separate entity.

8. Ownership of agricultural land by body corporate.

For the purposes of this Law, where any agricultural land is owned by a private company or co-operative society, the shareholders of such company, or society, as the case may be, shall be deemed to own such land for the purposes of section 3, in proportion to the shares held by each shareholder of such company, or society, as the case may be.

9. Servitude not to be affected by change of ownership of agricultural land.

No servitude over any agricultural land shall in any manner be affected by a change of ownership of such land under the provisions of this Law, unless and until such servitude has been determined by the Commission. Where such servitude is so determined, the owner of the servitude shall be entitled to such compensation for being deprived of the servitude as may be decided by the Commission.

10. Rights of tenant cultivators not to be affected by change of ownership.

The rights of tenant cultivators under the Paddy Lands Act, No. 1 of 19581, shall not be affected by a change of ownership of any agricultural land under the provisions of this Law.

11. Statutory lessee may surrender lease on giving the prescribed notice to the Commission.

(1) Subject to the provisions of subsection (3), any person who is a statutory lessee of any agricultural land under subsection (2) of section 3, paragraph (b) of section 5 or subsection (6) of section 13 may surrender such lease on giving the prescribed notice to the Commission.

(2) Where a statutory lease is surrendered under subsection (1) the Commission may manage or deal with the lands so surrendered in accordance with the provisions of this Law.

(3) The statutory lessee of any agricultural land shall not be entitled to surrender such lease under subsection (1) where such statutory lessee has in the declaration made under section 18 expressed a preference under paragraph (f) of subsection (2) thereof.

12. Agricultural lands subject to a mortgage, lease, usufruct or life interest.

(1) Where any agricultural land subject to subject to a mortgage, lease, usufruct or life interest vests in the Commission under the provisions of this Law the mortgagee, lessee, usufructuary or the holder of the life interest, as the case may be, shall have a lien to the extent of his interest in such agricultural land on the compensation payable to the owner thereof and where such compensation is not sufficient to meet his claim, such mortgagee, lessee, usufructuary or such holder of the life interest shall be entitled to enforce his rights against any land subject to such mortgage, lease, usufruct or life interest in the hands of the owner of the agricultural land vested in the Commission after the ceiling of agricultural land is applied to him.

(2) Where on or after May 29, 1971, any agricultural land has been alienated by way of lease to or by any person who owns agricultural land in excess of the ceiling such lease shall from the date of commencement of this Law be deemed to have been terminated.

(3) Where a lease in respect of any agricultural land is deemed to have been terminated under subsection (2) the lessee shall be entitled to receive from the lessor as compensation for improvements made to such agricultural land during the period of the lease such amount as may be determined by the Commission.

(4) In calculating the period of prescription for the purpose of any action or proceeding in a civil court in respect of any such mortgage, lease, usufruct or life interest as is referred to in subsection (1) the period, commencing on the date on which the agricultural land (which was subject to the mortgage, lease, usufruct or life interest) was vested in the Commission and ending on the date on which the compensation payable to the owner of such land is determined shall be excluded.

[S 12(4) ins by s 4 of Act 39 of 1981.]

13. Certain transfers of agricultural land to be reported to the Commission within three months of the commencement of the Law and the Commission may invalidate such transfers.

(1) Where on or after May 29, 1971, any person who owned agricultural land in excess of the ceiling has alienated any agricultural land to any other person, such alienor shall, within three months of the date of commencement of this Law, report such alienation to the Commission in the prescribed form.

(2) Where the Commission finds that any alienation of agricultural land on or after May 29, 1971, has been calculated to defeat the purposes of this Law the Commission may by order made under its hand declare that such alienation is null and void. Every such order shall be sent by registered post to the alienor and alienee of the agricultural land to which that order relates.

(3) Any alienor or alienee aggrieved by an order made under subsection (2) may within three weeks of the receipt of such order appeal to the Minister in the prescribed form, and the Minister may on such appeal make such order as the Minister may deem fit in the circumstances of the case.

(4) The receipt of the order shall be deemed to be effected at the time at which the letter sent under subsection (2) would be delivered in the ordinary course of post.

(5) Where no appeal has been preferred under subsection (3) within the time allowed therefor against the order made under subsection (2), such order, or where an appeal has been preferred, the order as amended, varied or modified on appeal shall be published in the Gazette. The order so published shall be final and conclusive and shall not be called in question in any court, whether by way of writ or otherwise.

(6) Where the Commission under the provisions of subsection (2) declares that any alienation is null and void, no right, title or interest shall be deemed to have passed to the alienee under the instrument of such alienation and such agricultural land shall vest in the Commission and the alienee shall be deemed to hold such land under a statutory lease from the Commission.

(7) Nothing contained in the preceding provisions of this section shall affect or be deemed to affect any transfer made by a fiduciary of his interest in any agricultural land to a Fideicommissary in accordance with the provisions of the Abolition of Fideicommissa and Entails Act.

14. Inter family transfer of agricultural land after the commencement of this Law.

(1) Any person who becomes a statutory lessee of any agricultural land under this Law may within three months from such date make an application to the Commission in the prescribed form for the transfer by way of sale, gift, exchange or otherwise of the entirety or portion of such agricultural land to any child who is eighteen years of age or over or to a parent of such person.

(2) The Commission may by order made under its hand grant or refuse to grant approval for such transfer. Such order shall be made within one year of the date of application under subsection (1). Every such order shall be sent by registered post to the applicant under subsection (1). Any such applicant aggrieved by the order may appeal to the Minister within three weeks of the receipt of such order. The receipt of the order shall be deemed to be effected at the time at which letters would be delivered in the ordinary course of post.

(2A) From and after the date of enactment of this subsection, no statutory lessee shall be granted approval by the Commission under subsection (2) to transfer under subsection (1) any agricultural land in, excess of one hundred and fifty acres in the aggregate:

Provided that the preceding provisions of this subsection shall not apply in respect of any agricultural land the possession of which, notwithstanding anything in this Law, has been handed over to any declarant or any member of the family of the declarant, under this section prior to the enactment of this subsection.

[S 14(2A) ins by s 5 of Act 39 of 1981.]

(3) Any transfer effected in accordance with the provisions of an order made under subsection (2) or such order as amended, varied or modified on appeal shall have the effect of transferring right, title or interest in property so transferred free of the statutory lease.

(4) Any order made under subsection (2) or where an appeal has been preferred the order as amended, varied or modified on appeal shall be final and conclusive and shall not be called in question in any court, whether by way of writ or otherwise.

(5) Nothing contained in the preceding provisions of this section shall affect or deem to affect any transfer made by a fiduciary of his interest in any agricultural land to a fidei Commissary in accordance with the provisions of the Abolition of Fideicommissa and Entails Act.

15. Terms and conditions of statutory leases.

The following shall be the terms and conditions of every statutory lease of any agricultural land—

(a) The statutory lease may be terminated at any time at the option of the Commission. Unless terminated earlier such lease shall run for one year from the date of commencement of his statutory lease, and may be renewed for a further period of one year. Save and except as hereinbefore provided, no further renewals of such lease shall be given, except with the express approval of the Minister.

(b) .

[S 15(b) omitted by s 3 of Act 14 of 1986.]

(c) The statutory lessee shall be entitled to manage the land subject to the statutory lease and to appropriate the profits thereof during the period of such lease. Such lessee shall be entitled with the written approval of the Commission to develop and improve such land and to effect repairs to buildings standing thereon. Where a lessee has with the written approval of the Commission developed or improved such land or effected such repairs to buildings he shall be entitled to receive compensation therefor in cash.

(d) The lease rent due from the statutory lessee shall be deducted from any compensation payable under the provisions of this Law.

(e) Where the statutory lessee causes any wanton damage to the land subject to a statutory lease or to any agricultural crop or building or fixtures thereon, he shall be guilty of an offence and the Commission may withhold all or any part of the compensation payable to him. The statutory lessee may, however, with the written approval of the Commission, cut down any trees standing on the land to which the lease relates.

(f) It shall be the duty of the statutory lessee to allow the workers who are lawfully resident on the land owned by him on the day immediately prior to the date of commencement of this Law to continue so to reside on such land and to continue the employment of the workers on such land who were in regular employment on such day.

(g) Where anyone who was not lawfully resident on the land held by the statutory lessee on the day immediately prior to the date of commencement of his statutory lease, attempts to take or takes up residence on such land, it shall be the duty of the statutory lessee to immediately report the fact in writing to the Commission and the police officer in charge of the nearest police station.

(h) Where any statutory lessee fails to comply with the provisions of paragraph (g) he shall be guilty of an offence and the Commission may withhold any compensation payable to such statutory lessee under this Law.

16. An authorised officer or agent of the Commission may issue directions to the police for the ejectment of unlawful occupiers of a land subject to a statutory lease.

Upon the receipt of a report under paragraph (g) of section 15 in respect of any land subject to a statutory lease, an authorised officer or agent of the Commission may give directions to any police officer in connection with the ejectment of all such occupiers of such land referred to in the report, and such police officer shall take all such steps and may use such force as may be necessary for securing compliance with such directions.

17. Where an authorised officer or agent is unable or apprehends that he will be unable to eject unlawful occupiers of agricultural land subject to a statutory lease.

(1) Where an authorised officer or agent is unable or apprehends that he will be unable to eject the unlawful occupiers of any agricultural land held by the statutory lessee on the day immediately prior to the commencement of his statutory lease, he shall, on making an application in that behalf in the prescribed form to the Magistrate's Court having jurisdiction over the area in which that land is situated, be entitled to an ex pane order of the Court directing the Fiscal to eject such unlawful occupiers from that land.

(2) Where an order under subsection (1) is issued to the Fiscal by the Magistrate's Court, he shall forthwith execute the order and shall in writing report to the Court the manner in which that order was executed.

(3) For the purpose of executing the order issued by the Magistrate's Court under subsection (1), the Fiscal or any person acting under his direction may use such force as may be necessary to enter the agricultural land to which the report relates and to eject the unlawful occupiers, and their dependants, if any, therefrom.

PART II

DECLARATION IN RESPECT OF AGRICULTURAL LAND AND VESTING AND ALIENATION OF SUCH LAND

18. Declaration in respect of agricultural land subject to a statutory lease.

(1) The Commission may, by Order published in the Gazette and in such other form as it may deem desirable to give publicity to such Order, direct that every person who becomes the statutory lessee of any agricultural land shall, within a month from the date of the publication of the Order, or of becoming a statutory lessee under this Law make a declaration, in this Law referred to as a "statutory declaration”, in the prescribed form of the total extent of the agricultural land so held by him on such lease.

(2) The declaration shall inter alia specify—

(a) —

(i) the name of each agricultural land owned by the declarant together with such agricultural land owned by any member of the family of the declarant on the day immediately prior to the date of commencement of this Law together with the extent of such land;

(ii) where the declaration is in respect of an agricultural land owned by a family within the meaning of this Law the head of such family shall make the declaration and shall specify in the declaration the total extent of the agricultural land owned by such family and the extent owned by each individual member of such family;

(b) the situation of each such land and the postal address thereof and directions for reaching such land;

(c) the nature of the crops grown on each such land together with the acreage under cultivation and any other particulars relating to the use of such land;

(d) the income derived from each such land within the previous five years as declared to the Commissioner-General of Inland Revenue for the purpose of income tax immediately prior to the date of commencement of his statutory lease;

(e) the value of each such land as declared to the Commissioner-General of Inland Revenue for the purpose of wealth tax immediately prior to the date of commencement of his statutory lease; and

(f) the preference or preferences, if any, of the declarant as to the particular portion or portions of each such land which he should be allowed to retain.

The declaration shall be accompanied by a survey plan or sketch map depicting the boundaries of the lands declared, and of the portion or portions, if any, which the declarant has expressed a preference to retain, and shall specify all encumbrances attached to such land. Such portion or portions shall except in exceptional circumstances be contiguous areas of land which will result in minimum fragmentation of the whole land.

(3) Where any person who has made the declaration referred to in subsection (1) by operation of law becomes the owner of any agricultural land subsequent to such declaration, or ceases to be owner of any part of any land referred to in the declaration such person shall make a further declaration in respect of his land and the provisions of subsection (1) shall apply to such declaration.

(4) Any person who becomes the owner of agricultural land in excess of the ceiling on any day after the date of commencement of this Law shall, within one month of becoming such owner, make a declaration as provided for in the preceding provisions of this section.

(4A) Notwithstanding anything in subsection (4), any person who becomes by reason of marriage or by way of inheritance, or both, the owner of agricultural land in excess of the ceiling on any day after the date of enactment of this subsection (in this subsection referred to as the "relevant date”) and who has failed to transfer by way of sale or otherwise such excess within a period of two years from the relevant date shall, within one month after the expiration of such period, make a declaration as provided for in this section.

[S 18(4A) ins by s 6 of Act 39 of 1981.]

(5) Any person who fails to make any declaration required by any of the preceding provisions of this section, or makes a declaration knowing such declaration to be false, shall be guilty of an offence and the Commission may forfeit any compensation payable to him under this Law.

19. Provisions applicable on the receipt by the Commission of a statutory declaration.

(1) The following provisions shall apply on the receipt by the Commission of a statutory declaration made under section 18—

(a) The Commission shall, as soon as practicable, make a determination, in this Law referred to as a "statutory determination”, specifying the portion or portions of the agricultural land owned by the statutory lessee which he shall be allowed to retain. In making such determination the Commission shall take into consideration the preference or preferences, if any, expressed by such lessee in the declaration as to the portion or portions of such land that he may be allowed to retain.

(b) The Commission shall publish the statutory determination in the Gazette and shall also send a copy thereof to such lessee by registered letter through the post. Such determination shall be final and conclusive, and shall not be called in question in any court, whether by way of writ or otherwise.

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