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Govt drafts new law to guarantee land titles

To bring uniformity across the country and replace the existing deeds system that’s fraught with litigation due to inaccuracies in property records, the rural development ministry has drafted a model law to usher in a system of conclusive property titles with title guarantees through registration of immovable property

The Department of Land Resources, under the Ministry for Rural Development, has drafted the Land Titling Bill, 2010, that provides for establishment and management of a system of conclusive property titles with title guarantees and indemnification against losses due to inaccuracies in property titles, through registration of immovable property. 

The present land registry is not sacrosanct; the sale deed -- even if registered -- isn’t endorsed by the government. If disputes occur, and they frequently do, there is no single ownership document. The only way to solve the issue is to fight a lengthy court battle, spend money on lawyers, and hope that the court, after years of adjournments and delays, finally tells you that your land belongs to you. 

“We have prepared the draft Land Titling Bill, 2010 and have invited public comment. We will be consulting state governments too for their comments on the draft Bill. We will also be organising a workshop with state authorities to create awareness about the land titling system,” Rita Sinha, Secretary, Department of Land Resources, told The Indian Express

The system envisaged under the Bill is currently operational in countries like England, Australia and New Zealand. It aims to replace the existing deeds system under which the government does not give titles to any individual or organisation. 

Land transfer in India suffers a host of problems, besides ambiguous title. If the new idea catches on across India, its benefits will be wide-reaching for a free market economy. Firstly, corporates currently prefer acquiring land for profit-making through the government, to ensure that they are insulated against legal battles. The new law will render this convoluted process unnecessary. 

Secondly, it will offer the landed poor an easy way to certify ownership and enter the formal market economy. The new law could also check the land mafia that won’t be able to forcibly possess property and then wear out the owner in a never-ending court battle. The courts too will be freed of millions of cases that delay resolving other disputes.  

In the deeds system, all titles of immovable property are “presumed titles”, where title to property is claimed by people through diverse legally recognisable instruments. Usually, it is the sale deed that is used as the prime instrument to claim title to property. This often gives rise to litigation, with different people furnishing different instruments to contest title claims. 

In contrast, under the land titling system, the government guarantees conclusive title, as against presumed title, for every immovable property that is tagged with a unique property identification number. Titles under the new system will be indefeasible -- title for any immovable property entered in the register of titles cannot be altered or made void. 

After sale, the earlier assignee will be replaced by the new holder in the register of titles. The register will, on behalf of the government, grant a certificate of conclusive title to the new holder. 

The proposed draft model Bill envisages a land titling authority which will have four separate divisions -- title registry, survey settlement and land information system, property valuation, and legal services and title guarantee -- to ensure uniformity and usher in the new system. It also envisages instituting a land titling tribunal to adjudicate issues arising at the time of bringing in the new system. 

Source: The Indian Express, May 27-28, 2010