THE BENGAL EMBANKMENT ACT, 1855

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The Bengal Embankment Act of 1855 was enacted on June 21, 1882 for the purpose of amending the law connected with the Embankments as well as water-courses. The application of the Act extends to the West Bengal State along with Bihar State. It also extends to some divisions of the Orissa State which was under the governance of the Lieutenant Governor who administered the Bengal State on June 21, 1882. The present enactment annulled the Bengal Embankment Act, 1873. The Act states that Section 80 as well as Section 81 shall be extended to the proclamations as well as the notices that are specified under Section 26 along with 28 as provided under Bengal Act of 1873. The interpretation clause of the enactment affirms that ‘collector’ includes the revenue officer who is under the general charge of the district or some part thereof, or who is particularly appointed by the concerned Government under the West Bengal State to discharge the duties of the Collector.

As provided under the Act, ‘embankment’ means all the banks, dyke, barriers along with dam created or employed for exempting water and storing water. It also consists of the entire sluice, impel, retaining wall and other activities that are connected with any part of the embankment. The embankment shall also include any structure which is maintained for the purpose of assessment and administration. An estate consists of lands or any right over such land that are embraced as per the entries maintained under the register used for general purpose for the payment of land tax and also for the lands that are exempted from paying tax and kept under the control of the Collector as per the provisions of the Land Registration Act of 1876. Moreover, land means the rights prevailing over the land and the profits that are obtained by land and the objects which are fixed to the earth etc. The embankments that are under the management of the Government servants are known as public embankments. By virtue of the terms of the enactment, public embankment as well as entire water course used by public and the land, ground and terrain, pathway etc that are under or near the embankment and managed by the concerned Governments of the state shall be administered and held by such State Government. In addition, the embankments specified under Schedule D as per the provisions of the Bengal Act of 1873 and all the embankments that are added as per the terms of the present enactment shall be under the authority of the Central Government in the name of the persons who have some right over such land shall be preserved and employed for the benefit of those persons. The funds which are obtained for the repairs and erection of the embankment shall be utilized only for that purpose.

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Besides, the lands which are taken for the maintenance or to carry out any activities on public embankments shall be acquired by the Government of the concerned State without giving any damages and shall be disposed according to the decision of such Government. The Collector is entrusted with the duty to determine and demarcate the land as provided under the enactment. The Collector is given some powers under the Act which includes taking the general administration of the embankment, carry out the maintenance works of the embankment, exclusion of any embankment or any barrier caused to the embankment, altering the lines, any improvements to drainage, construction of roadways as well as water courses. The Act provides for the assigning of an embankment committee by the State Government. The Committee shall discuss with the District Collector when performing their functions. The activities of the Committee shall be prescribed by the concerned State Government by framing rules. The engineers shall perform the functions under the supervision and guidance of the collector.

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Some of the provisions of the present legislation were amended by enacting Bengal Decentralization Act, 1915, Indian Railways Act, 1890, Bengal Embankment (Amendment) Act, 1933, Bengal Embankment (West Bengal Amendment) Act, 1980 and the Bengal Repealing and Amending Act, 1938.