The Digital India Land Records Modernisation Programme (DILRMP) —the erstwhile National Land Records Modernisation Programme—seeks to improve the quality of land records in the country, make them more accessible, and move towards government-guaranteed titles.
A land title is a document that helps determine land ownership. This will be achieved through complete computerization of the property registration process and digitization of all land records. The scheme completed a decade in operation in August this year.
The DILRMP is being implemented across all states with differential progress. As of August, while two states (Karnataka and Odisha) and three Union territories have completed 100% computerization of land records, four states are yet to start the process. The remaining states have computerized between 80-90% of the records. Nineteen states/Union territories have started issuing digitally-signed record of rights (RoRs), a record that shows how rights on land are derived for the land owner, and records the property’s transactions from time to time. These states have also started linking RoRs to cadastral maps (a record of the area, ownership and value of land). Out of these, three states (Goa, Odisha and Tripura) have almost completed this process.
However, progress on some other components of the scheme has been slow. As of August, computerization of land records has been completed in 87% of the villages. However, mutation (transfer of ownership) records have been computerized in only 50% of the villages. Further, only about 21% of the villages have started real time updating of RoR and maps. This suggests that, while records have been digitized, they may not be up to date.
Maps form an important component of land records as they provide data on property boundaries and details on the exact limits of ownership. However, only about 48% of the cadastral maps have been digitized so far. Spatial data has been verified in just 45% of the villages and survey and re-survey work, which helps update spatial records, has been carried out in only 9% of the villages.
While the scheme so far has looked at the digitization of land records, it has not addressed issues around land ownership. It is well known that land records in India are unclear and do not guarantee ownership. Such unclear land titles are there because of a variety of reasons, some of which are discussed below.
First, in India, we have a system of registered sale deeds and not land titles. The Transfer of Property Act, 1882, provides that the right to an immovable property (or land) can be transferred or sold only by a registered document. These documents are registered under the Registration Act, 1908. Therefore, the transaction gets registered, and not the land title. This implies that even bona fide property transactions may not always guarantee ownership, as earlier transactions could be challenged.
Second, land ownership is established through multiple documents maintained by different departments, making it cumbersome to access them. For example, sale deeds are stored in the registration department, maps are stored in the survey department, and property tax receipts are with the revenue department. Further, these departments work in silos and do not update the data in a timely manner, which results in discrepancies. One has to go back to several years of documentation to find any ownership claims on a piece of property, which causes delays.
Third, the cost of registering property is high and, hence, people avoid registering transactions. While registering a sale deed, the buyer has to pay a stamp duty along with the registration fee. In India, stamp duty rates across states vary between 4% and 10%, compared to 1% and 4% in other countries. Further, registration fee is an additional 0.5% to 2%, on an average.
Fourth, under the Registration Act, 1908, registration of property is not mandatory for transactions such as acquisition of land by the government, property leased for less than one year, and heirship partitions. Thus, several property divisions are not recorded and, hence, do not correctly reflect the ownership of the property. This often leads to litigation related to rightful ownership.
Unclear land titles impede development on several fronts. For example, in rural areas, small and marginal farmers, who may not hold formal land titles, are unable to access institutionalized credit. In urban areas, disputed land titles lead to lack of transparency in real estate transactions. Any infrastructure created on land that is not encumbrance-free can be potentially challenged in the future, making such investments risky.
Further, under the Smart Cities and AMRUT (Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation ) missions, cities are trying to raise their own revenue through property taxes and land-based financing. This necessitates the importance of providing a system of clear land titles.
To address issues with unclear land titles, a move towards conclusive titling has been proposed. In this system, the government provides guaranteed titles and compensation in case of any ownership disputes.
However, adopting such a system in India will require several measures. Several changes in existing laws that govern registration and transfer of land will be required. A system of registered property titles will have to be developed as the primary evidence of ownership. All existing land records will have to be updated to ensure that they are free of any encumbrance. Information on land records, which is currently spread across multiple departments, will have to be consolidated. Although the DILRMP aims to move towards conclusive titling, it only addresses these issues partially.
As the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid pot bubbled last week, nominated Member of Rajya Sabha Rakesh Sinha said he would bring a private member’s Bill “on the Ram Temple”. How are private member’s Bills introduced and discussed? What chance does such a Bill have of becoming law?
Private members, their Bills Any MP who is not a Minister is referred to as a private member. Parliament’s key role is to debate and make laws. Both Ministers and private members contribute to the lawmaking process. Bills introduced by Ministers are referred to as government bills. They are backed by the government, and reflect its legislative agenda. Private member’s bills are piloted by non-Minister MPs. Their purpose is to draw the government’s attention to what individual MPs see as issues and gaps in the existing legal framework, which require legislative intervention.
Introduction in the House The admissibility of a private member’s Bill (like the one Rakesh Sinha intends to bring) is decided by the Rajya Sabha Chairman. (In the case of Lok Sabha, it is the Speaker; the procedure is roughly the same for both Houses.) The Member must give at least a month’s notice before the Bill can be listed for introduction; the House secretariat examines it for compliance with constitutional provisions and rules on legislation before listing.
Up to 1997, private members could introduce up to three Bills in a week. This led to a piling up of Bills that were introduced but never discussed; Chairman K R Narayanan, therefore, capped the number of private member’s Bills to three per session.
While government Bills can be introduced and discussed on any day, private member’s Bills can be introduced and discussed only on Fridays. Private member’s Bills have been introduced and discussed in Rajya Sabha on 20 days in the last three years.
Procedure for introduction On the scheduled Friday, the private member moves a motion for introduction of the Bill, which is usually not opposed. Two recent exceptions to this convention were in 2004, when nominated MP Vidya Nivas Misra’s Bill seeking to amend the Preamble of the Constitution was opposed; and in 2015, when Shashi Tharoor’s Bill to decriminalise homosexuality was not introduced in Lok Sabha after the BJP’s Nishikant Dubey forced a division, which led to the motion being defeated. (The Supreme Court struck down IPC Section 377 this September.)
Only a fraction of private member’s bills that are introduced, are taken up for discussion. Rajya Sabha draws a ballot to decide the sequence of discussion of Bills. If a Bill is successful in the ballot, it has to wait for the discussion to conclude on a Bill currently being debated by the House. For example, a Bill related to sittings of Parliament introduced by Naresh Gujral in March 2017 was taken up for discussion only in August 2018. The discussion will resume when private member business is taken up in the upcoming Winter Session, and other private member’s bills will have to wait for the debate to conclude. Over the last three years, Rajya Sabha saw the introduction of 165 private member’s Bills; discussion was concluded on only 18. A private member’s Bill that is introduced but not discussed in Rajya Sabha, lapses when Member retires.
After discussion ends Upon conclusion of the discussion, the Member piloting the Bill can either withdraw it on the request of the Minister concerned, or he may choose to press ahead with its passage. In the latter case, the Bill is put to vote and, if the private member gets the support of the House, it is passed. In 1977, Rajya Sabha passed a private member’s Bill to amend the Aligarh Muslim University Act. The Bill then went to the sixth Lok Sabha, where it lapsed with the dissolution of the House in 1979. In 2015, Rajya Sabha passed The Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, 2014, a private member’s Bill piloted by Tiruchi Siva of the DMK. The Bill is now pending before Lok Sabha.
The last time a private member’s Bill was passed by both Houses was in 1970. This was the Supreme Court (Enlargement of Criminal Appellate Jurisdiction) Bill, 1968. Fourteen private member’s Bills — five of which were introduced in Rajya Sabha — have become law so far.
Shri Puri informed that to achieve the vision of an open-defecation-free India, we have focused on sustained behavioural changes through conventional as well as innovative means.
Under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), over 2400 projects worth Rs. 74,000 crores that are targeted towards improved water supply, sewerage, and drainage have been approved under the State Annual Action Plans for the period 2015-2020.
He further informed that “AMRUT Technology Challenge” has been launched which addresses the need for non-essential human entry for cleaning of sewers and septic tanks.
“These programs are also contributing to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set out by the United Nations, particularly the SDG 6 – 'Ensure access and sanitation for all by 2030' –through collective efforts and innovative approaches”, Shri Puri noted.
The Government is providing various platforms to display, promote and recognize innovations happening across the nation and the youth is coming forward with great ideas and entrepreneurship models in WASH and other areas, through the Atal Innovation Mission, Start-up India, and the 'Swachhathon' – all organized to promote innovation and innovators, he said and added that while we continue in our endeavor to successfully implement new solutions at the pilot scale, our ultimate goal must be to spread these solutions to the entire country.
He appreciated and acknowledged the significance of what the National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA) is trying to do with their project 'Innovation Hub for Urban WASH Solutions' and noted that this is the only way that innovative WASH solutions can have the desired transformational impact by improving the lives of our people.