Dhaka North City Corporation has found itself in a bizarre situation despite an all-out effort to move a tin-shed house situated right in the middle of a developing road in the capital's Agargaon area.
The Syed Mahbub Morshed Road, from the Agargaon intersection in Sher-e-Bangla Nagar to the Shishu Mela intersection at Shyamoli of the capital, is being upgraded from two lanes to a 150-foot wide six-lane road.
The upgradation work is in the last stage, but the house stays put leaving the city corporation in a quandary.
A privately-owned house occupying almost half of a major road is unprecedented because the government usually acquires such private land on project premises prior to construction. But in this case, the land acquisition process was caught up in legal complications.
The owner of the property and the authorities concerned have engaged in a legal battle to resolve the stalemate but no solution has been found yet.
In 2003, when China was constructing a highway in the Shanghai region, everyone gave up land to the government for the road, for which the government also compensated them. But one adamant house owner refused to give up his land, triggering a similar impasse.
It was a big problem for the Chinese government. When all efforts went in vain, the government was forced to leave the house untouched in the middle of the four-lane road and build a two-lane road in that portion. It seems, Dhaka North might also have to settle for something like that.
Noorjahan Begum, the owner of the one-storey building on a six-decimal piece of land in front of the Department of Archives and Library on the Syed Mahbub Morshed Road, bought the land in 1964 when the road was much narrower. Now she is not willing to give up the land even though part of the land falls on the road.
Rahmat Ullah, son of Noorjahan Begum, who now owns the property, filed a writ petition against the authorities concerned, including Dhaka North. In view of this, the court ruled in favour of the owner and issued a status quo order regarding the house.
Rahmat Ullah told TBS, "We have no other land in Dhaka except this. So, I do not want to sell it."
He said, "The city corporation is widening the road but it did not discuss with us about the acquisition of the land. It rather took legal action against us, saying the land is illegal. We got a judgement in our favour.
"Once the status quo order on the writ petition is resolved, we will go into the process of constructing a high-rise building here. We do not want to give up the land. If the city corporation had offered us a separate land of this volume nearby, I would have thought otherwise."
Asked if he will sell the land if money is offered according to the government's land acquisition procedure, he said, "We have not been given any such proposal. But I will think about it when offered."
On 14 February, the High Court bench of Justice Zafar Ahmed and Justice Kazi Zinat Hoque passed the status quo order after hearing Rahmat's petition.
The court also issued a rule, asking Dhaka North and other authorities concerned to explain within four weeks why their claim that the house is illegal should not be declared illegal.
According to the petitioner's lawyer, the status quo order will remain in force till the disposal of the rule.
Most of the work on the six-lane road by the city corporation is at the last stage. The work of casting the road around the house has been completed already.
The house occupies almost half of the road on the north side. Sidewalks are also narrowed in this section. As a result, the movements of traffic and pedestrians are being impeded.
The owner also hung the copies of the writ petition and the court verdict on the walls of the building.
Ilyas Hossain, the driver of a Bhuiyan Paribahan bus that plies the road, told The Business Standard, "When vehicle pressure is high during peak hours, there will be gridlocks in this section of the road. Even now, vehicles sometimes hit the wall of the house. Soon, you will hear that accidents are happening here every day."
Faruk Hasan Md Al Masud, the project director and executive engineer of area-3 of Dhaka North, said, "The Public Works Department did not inform the city corporation about the private land when it forwarded the project to us for implementation in 2017. We found it last year after initiating the work.
"When the work started, land acquisition was not possible due to legal complications. Now we are trying to acquire the land. Letters have already been sent to the ministries/departments concerned. After getting permission from the Ministry of Land, the rest of the acquisition work will be done."
Faruk Hasan also mentioned that if the acquisition is not possible then the house will remain as it is.
The work of upgrading this 1.4km road began last year with an estimated cost of Tk55 crore.
There are at least 12 government hospitals, 25 government offices, five museums, private offices and several educational institutions on and around this road.