Even the infrastructure in registries is not sufficient, to maintain computers. The roofs of land registries are leaking and need covering to prevent rain water flowing through in the night
By Devika Gunasekera
Referring to the article written by Raj Gonsalkorale in the Daily FT on 28 April, e-Register is coming into operation entangled with old colonial statutes and rules enacted in the 19th century. It is a grave mistake to establish an e-Register without adequate laws to maintain the integrity of the e-Register and without adequate authority for the registrar to prevent the entry of forged deeds.
According to the prevailing laws which have been enacted during the colonial period:
1] Registrar has no duty to protect owners. Under the existing law the registrar has to register all deeds, forged valid and invalid deeds. Even if owners are displaced by fraud and forgery, inquiries are not held at the land registry to find out as to how such deeds got registered to displace the genuine owners. No one in the land registry is responsible. The Registrar admits in his article published (https://landportal.org/news/2020/11/land-fraud-sri-lanka) that the e-Register is scanning from an old register where 40-50% of the land deeds in Sri Lanka are likely to be forged documents.
The registrar is permitted to admit in writing to the owner that their deeds are lost and the books are damaged in the registry and the owners have no remedy and they have to bear the loss. In other words, although deeds are available, lands are unmarketable because of registration.
Several complaints are made daily by those who have lost their land rights as the registrar has no authority to be responsible to owners and few of them are listed below:
1] I am an investor who wanted to buy a house which had perfect deeds where the title can be traced for 35 years. The land registry informs that the books of the land registry are damaged. According to my lawyer even if deeds are available land is unmarketable. Name of owners are removed by damaged documents in the land
My options were:
Remedy – a] The land registry informed the owner that he has to attend to the books of the land registry which are damaged at his cost and expense which will be over Rs. 40,000 and I will have to wait over one year to purchase the land
Remedy – b] To make use of the e-Register. Attempts to find out whether ownership was recorded in the e-Register was futile. No relevant government institution was willing to part with this information.
Remedy c] The new law introduced to manage the e-Register called Bim Saviya and to opt for a ‘Title Certificate’ under the new law. The Title Commissioner could help but it will take over one year and I was also informed that the land will have a lesser extent according to the Cadastral plan.
2] Another owner’s complaints – The registry has lost the deed.
Remedy – The remedy offered by the registrar was shocking and unbelievable that is to search for the Notary who attested the deed 50 years ago and to ask him to come to the registry with his protocol copy of the deed to replace the lost deed in the land registry.
3] Another complaint – No law to prevent fraudulent entry of deeds to the e-Register. I bought a land to set up a factory. Someone had forged my signature and sold my land and the registrar had registered the forged deed. My land is affected by a forged deed, for which the land registrar says he is not responsible according to the prevailing law. Scanning is taking place from the register which includes forged deeds, and probably the fraudster will be the owner of the land according to the e-Register. The registrar tells me to go to court.
4] No inquiry by registrar for registering fraudulent deeds – the e-Register comes into operation without the internationally recognised laws to prevent fraud by registrars of land. In a recent case – the investigations revealed that a couple had entered the registry [anyone can enter registries fraudulently using official stamps of Notaries]. In this case they removed the authentic folios of valuable lands and replaced them with reconstructed new folios by mutilating and obliterating the originals, displacing the owner. Unfortunately scanning to the e-Register will continue without any inquiry by the registrar and the e-Register will register the name of the fraudsters displacing the owner (http://www.dailynews.lk/2020/01/14/law-order/208319/duo-remanded-replacing-folios-land-register-fake-ones).
Even the infrastructure in registries is not sufficient, to maintain computers. The roofs of land registries are leaking and need covering to prevent rain water flowing through in the night.