1. TRANSFER OF LANDS
Transfer of lands is regulated by rule 34(5) of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Regulation, 1900 (“Chittagong Hill Tracts Manual”). Although this rule does not mention the role of the headmen in such transfers, the role of the headmen is a natural extension of their role in that, firstly, vide rules 38, 39 and 40 of the Manual, the deputy commissioners (DCs) are obliged to consult the chiefs on “ important matters affecting the administration of the Chittagong Hill Tracts”. Therefore, the headmen are consulted as the representatives of the chiefs at the mouza level. Secondly, there being no tehsilders, the headmen are the only revenue representatives of the government at mouza levels. Thus, the role of the headmen in transfer of lands is one of their routine and indispensable duties.
It is believed that a standing order of the deputy commissioner on the role of the headmen in land transfers is in existence although the same cannot be located without further time.
2. INHERITANCE OF LANDS BY NON-RESIDENTS
Rule 34(13) provides that no lands in the Chittagong Hill Tracts may be inherited by non-residents without the “express consent of the deputy commissioner” who shall only sanction such inheritance by “plainsmen” on grounds of “principles of equity”.
3. HEADMEN’S ROLES IN LAND SETTLEMENT
The headmen’s role in land transfers may be compared as parallel to their role in processing applications for settlement and leases of grove and ploughlands as mentioned in rules 34(1)(i) and 34(1)(ii). However, this provision may be amended to provide further clarity to the indispensable role of the headmen in leases and settlements.
4. SETTLEMENT OF NON-URBAN HOMESTEAD LANDS TO HILL PEOPLE
Furthermore, the headmen are empowered to record settlements of homestead of up to 0.30 acres of land in non-urban areas for hill people, without any sanction from the deputy commissioners (rules 50 of the Manual). In case of acquisition/resumption of such lands the concerned provisions are contained in rules 50(3) and 50(4) and the Chittagong Hill Tracts Land Acquisition Regulation, 1958.
5. PREVIOUS RESTRICTIONS ON LAND OWNERSHIP BY NON-HILL PEOPLE/NON-RESIDENTS
Rule 34(13) from 1900 to 06.10.1942
According to the original rule 34 prior to its amendment on 06.10.1942, leases of lands in the Chittagong Hill Tracts could be made only to “hillmen” and to “plainsmen actually resident in the mouzas”. The latter phrase referred to Bengali residents (descended from Bengali migrants of the 19th century) who actually lived in the mouzas and excluded plainspeople who lived in the bazars and other urban area.
Rule 34(14) from 06.10.1942 to 16.09.1971
This rule provided the following, among others: “Nothing in these rules, or any grant, lease or contract under which land is held in the Hill Tracts shall operate to increase the existing number of non-hillmen lessees in respect of any holding or to permit the inheritance of any Hill Tracts land by non-residents of the district….”. (Rule 34 was subsequently amended by Revenue Department Notification dated 16.09.71 (gazetted on 21.10.1971) and later by SRO of Land Ministry dated 31.03.1979 (gazetted on 31.03.1979).