LAND COURT

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THE LAND DISPUTE SETTLEMENT ACT

The Land Court is part of the land dispute settlement system created by the Land Disputes Settlement Act. As stated in section 1 of the Act, the purpose of the Act is to provide a just, efficient and effective machinery for the settlement of disputes in relation to interest in customary land.
Some important aspects of this land dispute settlement system are dicussed below including the Land Court.

PROVINCIAL LAND DISPUTES COMMITTEES

Each province has a Provincial Land Disputes Committee. The Chairman of this committee is the Senior Provincial Land Magistrate. Members of the committee include The Provincial Commissioner or his Deputy, an Officer of the Department appointed by the Departmental Head and two persons appointed by the Provincial Authority.

Powers and functions of the Committee

The powers and functions of the committee are to declare Land Mediation Areas and Land Mediation Divisions, appoint Land Mediators and approve the appointment of Local Land Magistrates..

The committee shall also comply with any directions by the Minister.

MEDIATION OF LAND DISPUTES

Land Mediation Areas and Divisions

A Provincial Land Disputes Committee may -

  1. after receiving a request from the Local Level Government Council in the area concerned;
  2. after consultation with such persons, groups of persons it considers necessary to establish the need for a Land Mediation Area or division; and
  3. if it is satisfied that there exists a real need in the area for such a declaration, by notice in the National Gazette declare within the province a Land Mediation Area or Land Mediation Division within an Area.

In determining whether there exists in an area a real need for declaration of an area to be a Land Mediation Area or Division, the Committee shall consider:-

  1. whether there a land disputes in the area;
  2. whether the mediation process may assist in the settlement of those disputes;
  3. whether some of the land disputes may lead to breaches of peace;
  4. whether or not an effective customary dispute-settlement authority exists in the area.

Land Mediators

Land mediators are appointed by the Provincial Land Dispute Committee for a period of 3 years. The primary function of Land Mediators is to assist in the attainment of peace and harmony in the Land Mediation Division or Divisions for which he is appointed by mediating and endeavoring to obtain the just and amicable settlement of, disputes.

A Land Mediator shall, where he considers it appropriate to do so seek the assistance of any customary dispute-settlement authority that, in his opinion, has customary jurisdiction in relation to the dispute.

Appointment of ad hoc mediators

Where a Local Land Magistrate is of opinion that a land dispute  is of such a nature that it can most effectively be mediated by a person other than a Land Mediator or a Local Land Court, the Magistrate may appoint a person to mediate the land dispute.

A person appointed as an ad hoc mediator has the same powers, functions and duties as a Land Mediator.

Agreements

If an agreement is reached between the parties to dispute, the Land Mediator shall inform the nearest Local Land Court and provide a copy of the terms of the agreement to the Court.

Approval of Agreements

Upon the receipt of the copy of the agreement and before approving the agreement, the Local Land Court shall make sure the parties fully understand the terms of agreements and that the agreement is-

  1. not in breach in any law,
  2. is not contrary to natural justice or public policy

Effect of agreements  

  1. An agreement is, in any legal proceedings, evidence of the interests of the parties to the agreement in the land in dispute as at the date of the agreement; but
  2. The agreement or any admission or concession made by a party in arriving at the agreement, is not binding on a party, his heirs, successors or assigns.

THE LAND COURT     

The Land Court is part of a mechanism created by the Parliament through the Land Disputes Settlement Act, Chapter 45  for the settlement of disputes in relation to interest in customary land.

Within this specialized jurisdiction in the District Court, there are two levels of Courts. At the lower level is the Local Land Court followed by the Provincial Land Court at the top level.

The Local Land Court

The Local Land Court is comprised of a Local Land Court Magistrate and not more than four Land Mediators.

Decisions of a Local Land Court shall be by majority vote, and where there is an equality of votes on any matter before the court, the Local Land Magistrate has a casting, as well as a deliberative, vote.

A Local Land Court shall sit at such times and places as are necessary for the convenient and speedy dispatch of the business of the Court or near the land in dispute, unless it is not reasonable and practicable to do so.

Where a dispute relates to land either wholly or partly in a land Mediation Area, a Local Land Court has no jurisdiction over the dispute, unless a Land Mediator has certified that he has acted in relation to the dispute.    

 The Provincial Land Court

A Provincial Land Court shall be constituted by one Provincial Land Court Magistrate. Where a single Provincial Land Court Magistrate hears a matter brought directly to the Provincial Land Court as original, the magistrate may request one or more Land Mediators for the Land Mediation Area in which the land dispute is wholly or partly located to sit with the Court as an assessor or assessors to advice it on any matter on which it requests his advice.

Where the matter is brought by way of an appeal from a Local Land Court, the Provincial Land Court shall be constituted by three Provincial Land Magistrates.

The Provincial Land Court shall sit at such times and places as are necessary for the convenient and speedy dispatch of the business of the Court or near the Land in dispute.  

Land Court Procedures

  1. the complainant using the Complaints Form files a complain with the Local Land Court;
  2. the clerk at the court then creates a file for the matter;
  3. the complainant then serves all parties in the matter;
  4. mediator then presides over Land Mediation:
  5. if mediation is unsuccessful, the Magistrate in the Local Land Court may hear the matter;
  6. when parties are not satisfied with the Magistrates decisions, they may appeal to the Provincial Land Court;
  7. the Provincial land Court hears matter;
  8. The Provincial Land Court Decisions may be appealed to the National Court if the parties are not satisfied with the Provincial Land Court's decisions.

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