According to section 3A of the Building Construction Act 1952: “(1) No owner or occupier of a building shall, without obtaining previous permission from the Authorized Officer or the Committee, as the case may be, use the building for the purpose other than that mentioned in the sanction.”
Section 3A goes further on to say that if the Authorized Officer is satisfied that the existing use of any land does not conform to the scheme of land utilization indicated in the Master Plan, the Authorized Officer, may pass an order or discontinuance or an order of removal or dismantlement against the owner, occupier or person in charge of the land or building in question.
The restriction imposed by section 3A is somewhat relaxed by section 10(2) of the Building Construction Rules 1996, which (subject to certain restrictions) allows business establishments such as schools, shops, doctors’ chamber, pharmacies and various others to coexist alongside residential premises. However, in blatant violation of the laws laid down in the abovementioned Act and accompanying Rules, businesses have set up shops in places which were previously earmarked for residential purposes.
In present day Dhaka City, unplanned and haphazard urbanization for a number of years has made the distinct segregation between residential areas and business districts a virtual impossibility as in almost every residential area in Dhaka, there are a number of businesses operating. It is not unusual to see businesses and residences co-existing side by side in a single road in a residential neighborhood, considering the fact that there are very limited spaces in terms of commercial buildings in Dhaka city and businesses and other institutions are forced to house their offices in buildings which were originally built as residential premises.
The reality is that Dhaka, in a matter of a short number of years, has transformed itself into a bustling metropolis, although not in the most organized fashion. This has led to disorderly and haphazard construction and businesses such as shops, restaurants, schools and even universities growing in volumes, much to the inconvenience of people living in what could have been called ‘residential neighborhoods’ only a few years back.
We see the newspapers from time to time reporting how RAJUK – the public agency responsible for coordinating urban development of Dhaka – is becoming concerned about businesses mushrooming around the city and occupying space very much needed for housing/residential purposes. This issue has also been discussed in Parliament and it was suggested that all offices from certain areas of Dhaka (such as Gulshan and Banani) will or should be removed. Such newspaper reports make us wonder why RAJUK has been so laidback in enforcing the provisions of the 1952 Act in the first place and especially when this problem has been bubbling and increasing for quite some time, right before their very eyes.
Now the question arises, can RAJUK be allowed to take a draconian approach after all these years and suddenly decide to blow the dust off the 1952 Act and start applying the law across the board? If the answer is yes, what will be the consequences of such an application of the law?
The time has come for the Government to take a long hard look at the laws in this area and make changes, all the while, keeping in mind the dismal reality of the situation rather than to rectify the current state of affairs by ordering extreme measures such as total evacuation without offering any alternative refuge or suddenly applying the law after the damage has already been done.
Written by Sajeda Farisa Kabir, Partner
† Disclaimer: The opinions and comments expressed in this Blawg are not to be regarded or construed as legal advice by and from Vertex Chambers or any of its members. It is highly advisable that any person should seek independent legal advice before relying on any of the contents of this Blawg.
 An Authorized Officer is defined as an officer appointed by the Government, by notification in the official gazette, to exercise in any area the functions of an Authorized Officer under Building Construction Act 1952