11th REPUBLICAN PARLIAMENT: 3rd SESSION

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Bill Essentials: The State Suits Limitation Bill, 2012

9 Nov 2012

LIMITATION ON RECOVERY OF STATE LANDS COMING SOON

The State Suits Limitation Bill, 2012 was introduced and read a first time in the House of Representatives on Wednesday November 7, 2012.

What is a Suit?

A suit in law is a civil action brought in a court of law in which a claimant, a party who claims to have incurred loss as a result of a defendant's actions, demands a legal or equitable remedy .

What is a State Suit?

A State suit is therefore legal action against the State or in other words, the ability to sue the State.

Statute of limitation

Statutes of limitations set the deadline or maximum period of time within which a lawsuit or legal claim may be filed. They vary depending on the circumstances of the case and the type of matter or claim involved.

A statute of limitation sets the expiration dates of legal claims. It is a defence that is ordinarily asserted by the defendant to defeat an action brought against him after the appropriate time has elapsed. If a claim is raised after the statutory period has ended, the claim will be denied even if there is enough evidence to prove the defendant guilty.

Background Information

The State Suits Limitation Bill seeks to extend the application of the law of limitation of actions relating to real property. Prior to this Bill, the Crown Suits Limitation Ordinance 1898 which was inherited from the UK, was the only legislation which addressed this matter. The Real Property Limitation Act contains no provision which applies to State lands.

This legislation will form a part of the legal framework for the management of State lands in Trinidad and Tobago. It seeks to regularise and deliver security of tenure to persons who have been in occupation of State land for a period exceeding thirty (30) years.

What are the key features of this proposed legislation?

  • The Bill seeks to set the limitation period of thirty (30) years for the initiation of an action by the State to recover its lands.
  • The Bill shall apply to all State lands except those:
    1. declared to be a protected area or forest reserve under the Forest Act;
    2. declared to be environmentally sensitive by the Environmental Management Act; and
    3. identified by the State for a public purpose.
  • It places the onus of proof on the State if there has been possession of State land for a period of more than sixteen (16) years by the occupant.
  • The Bill also re-words and modernizes the language contained in the existing Crown Suits Ordinance, 1898 and repeals the Ordinance.

Important issues for consideration:

  • The Bill restricts the State’s ability to sue, impeach, question or implead a person for land which they have enjoyed for a period of thirty (30) years or more which will also restrict the recovery of rents, revenues, issues or profits thereof for the thirty (30) year period.
  • Do the relevant State agencies possess the proper infrastructure, personnel and resources necessary to efficiently manage monitor and prevent illegal squatting?
  • Has there been rigorous action to enforce the State’s rights of ownership over its lands?
  • Has there been an assessment of the general sufficiency of the procedure for possession against squatters?
  • The Bill does not provide for the Minister to make regulations under this Act.

 

Please take the opportunity to access the Bill via this link and feel free to submit your comments and concerns to the Parliament.