Conclusive Land Titling

  • IASbaba
  • February 22, 2021
  • 0
UPSC Articles
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  • GS-2:  Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  • GS-2: Issues of Federalism

Conclusive Land Titling

Context: In 2020, even as laws for farm reform and labour code reform were being enacted, the government’s think tank, NITI Aayog, took steps to initiate land reforms by drafting Model Bill on Conclusive Land Titling. This was sent to States and UTs seeking their comments.

How does the current system work?

  • India currently follows a system of presumptive land titling. This means that land records are maintained, with information on possession, which is determined through details of past transactions. 
  • Ownership, then, is established on the basis of current possession. 
  • Registration of land is actually a registration of transactions, such as sale deeds, records of inheritance, mortgage and lease.
  • Holding registration papers does not actually involve the government or the legal framework guaranteeing the ownership title of the land.

What will change in the new system of Conclusive Land Titling?

  • On the other hand, under a conclusive land titling system, land records designate actual ownership. 
  • The title is granted by the government, which takes the responsibility for accuracy. 
  • Once a title is granted, any other claimant will have to settle disputes with the government, not the title holder.
  • Further, under conclusive land titling, the government may provide compensation to claimants in case of disputes, but the title holder is not in any danger of losing ownership.
  • The Bill circulated by the NITI Aayog in 2020 calls for Land Authorities to be set up by each State government, which will appoint a Title Registration Officer (TRO) to prepare and publish a draft list of land titles based on existing records and documents

Why is conclusive land titling needed?

  • Reduced Litigation: It will drastically lower litigation related to land. According to World Bank Study, land-related disputes accounted for two-thirds of all pending court cases in India.
  • Quick resolution of land disputes: It will also reduce the time taken for resolving land related litigation. A NITI Aayog study shows that disputes on land or real estate take an average time of 20 years in the courts to be resolved.
  • Eases Documentation for owners & reduces ambiguity: Right now, because land titles are based on transactions, people have to keep the entire chain of transaction records, and a dispute on any link in that chain causes ambiguity in ownership,
  • Ease of Doing Business: Once conclusive titling is in place, investors who want to purchase land for business activities will be able to do so without facing the constant risk that their ownership may be questioned and their entire investment may go to waste
  • Faster Infrastructural Development: Land disputes and unclear titling also create hurdles for infrastructure development and housing construction, leading to costly delays and inefficiency. Conclusive titling will help overcome these challenges.
  • Attracts Investment: The delay in acquiring land due to ambiguity in land ownership reduces the appetite for investment in many sectors of the economy. Conclusive land titling will remove such ambiguities attracting foreign investment and promoting active land market.
  • Enhances Government Revenue:  In cities, urban local bodies depend on property taxes that can be levied properly only if there is clear ownership data available.  Ambiguity in ownership also results in a black market for land transactions, which deprives the government of taxes.
  • Enhances access to cheaper institutional credit: Access to agricultural credit is dependent on the ability to use land as collateral. Without being able to prove their ownership of land, rural people often get trapped in private money lenders debt trap. Proper ownership will enable people to access cheaper institutional credit.

Challenges Ahead

  • Lack of Updation: Land records have not been updated for decades, especially in rural and semi-urban areas
  • Issue of Inheritance: Land records are often in the name of the grandparents of the current owner, with no proof of inheritance. 
  • Can create more problems: Unless they are based on updated records, conclusive land titles could create even more problems.
  • Federal Set up: There is also the challenge of Federalism in a multi-party set up like ours. Here, States have to enact the laws and implement with full spirit to make it a success
  • Weak Local Bodies: Survey needs to be conducted at local level for conclusively proving ownership with involvement of community. However, local governments have not been provided with the resources or manpower to conduct such surveys.

Way Ahead

Comprehensive village-level surveys with community involvement are a necessary precursor to the land titling process. Relying on current records or even satellite imagery will not provide the same accuracy as actual, on-the-ground, local surveys

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