As Court moves to rule on its genuiness
Tycoon Sudhir Ruparelia has been facing off with a Canadian-based Asian, Gulamhussein Sadrudin, over the ownership of a prime property near Nakasero State House.
President Yoweri Museveni had ordered Sudhir’s eviction from the property citing fraud. But Sudhir ran to court to protest the president’s order to have him evicted from Plot 12 Upper Nakasero.
But before the matter is resolved, Sudhir now claims to have lost his land title. The new development is unsettling and is being keenly followed.
Although Sudhir claims to have a special certificate of the title, he has neither surrendered it to the Commissioner of Land Registration for inspection, when asked to do so, nor to Police detectives when they sought it to assist in their investigations.
Sudhir claims to have bought the property at US$800, 000 from a David Kakwenzire in July 2007. Kakwenzire had allegedly bought the same from a one Matovu a few months back. Matovu is said to have bought it from Gulamhussein.
Gulamhussein denies having sold his property to Matovu, let alone transferring the same to third parties. To make matters worse, Matovu’s whereabouts are unknown.
Kakwenzire is no stranger to property disputes. While on a tour of Nateete, a city suburb a few years back, Museveni directed Kakwenzire’s arrest on the on-spot. It followed a complaint by residents of the area that Kakwenzire had grabbed their land.
The tragedy for Gulamhussein is that Uganda’s law considers third party land buyers as bona fide owners on grounds that they presume they bought genuinely. Indeed, despite their failure to produde the title, Sudhir’s lawyer has unashamedly claimed that his client is a bona fide purchaser.
Story of Missing Title
Sudhir’s lawyer, Alex Rezida, revealed his client’s missing title, when he summed up evidence in the case. “He (Sudhir) explained to court in detail the circumstances under which he lost the land title,” Rezida told Justice Dr Andrew Bashaija of the High Court Land Division. Yet Sudhir had told both the Police and the Commissioner of Land Registration that he would only surrender it in court.
But when he filed his lawsuit, he did not include the land title as one of his documentary evidence. When the judge first asked why Sudhir was leaving out the land title, his lawyers responded that they would introduce the document at the hearing date. They didn’t not so when they testified in the court.
Despite Sudhir’s inability to produce the land title, the defense team has since produced a copy of it in court.
Gulamhussein’s defense lawyer, Richard Lubaale, stated that Sudhir did not want court to look at the document because it is a forgery. “It (the land title) is a product of Nasser Road,” Lubaale of Ssendege, Ssenyondo and Company Advocates, submitted, in reference to Nasser Road, as Uganda’s leading hub for forged documents.
Lubaale’s assertion was shared by State Attorney Nyangoma, who appears in defense for both the Attorney General and the Commissioner for Land Registration. Sudhir is suing the Commissioner for Land Registration for canceling what he claims to be his genuine land title; and the Attorney General for Police action in displacing him from the property.
The defense team further argues that the purported land title was issued under Section 71 of the Registration of Titles Act, “which was not in existence then. The one which was in existence then was section 77,” they aver.
The defense added that it wasn’t easy to tell whether Sudhir’s was freehold or leasehold title. They explained that while the inscription, ‘Leasehold’, on Sudhir’s title was replaced with one of, ‘Freehold’, no official of Land Office countersigned against the alternation, as it is done under such circumstances.
The lawyers argued that if what Sudhir holds is a genuine title as he claims, he wouldn’t have found trouble handing it over to the Commissioner of Land Registration, let alone to the court for scrutiny.
“The commissioner wrote to Sudhir to hand in his title for scrutiny on August 10, 2007. He did not do so until March 22, 2008 when the commissioner canceled it,” the defense argued.
The defense lawyers then alluded to the testimony of Sarah Kulata, the Commissioner of Land Registration, before she was suspended a few months ago, where she laughs off the title held by Sudhir.
“The Commissioner told court that his office has never issued the title held by Sudhir. She said the only title issued by his office is that of Gulamhussein,” Lubaale asserted.
Even if her office had issued the questionable title, which Kulata fervently denied, she added that the same should have been invalidated by the reason that Gulamhussein was holding a title over the same property at the time Sudhir’s was allegedly issued.
They noted that since the Commissioner gave Sudhir up to five months to defend his title, he did not do so. He could not turn around to say he wasn’t afforded a fair hearing before his title was canceled.
But Rezida said that if any fraud occurred before his client bought the property the same could not be blamed on him. “My client is a bona fide purchaser for value. If any fraud occurred, he wasn’t party to it, nor did the same happen with his consent and approval,” Rezida added.