Haryana government’s move to introduce an amendment in the Punjab Land Revenue Act, allowing partition of land owned by co-sharers, is likely to benefit big colonisers and land sharks more than the common man.
The Punjab Land Revenue (Haryana Amendment) Bill passed by the Vidhan Sabha has been sent to Governor SN Arya for his assent. Although the Governor is battling Covid-19 infection after he tested positive on November 16, but sources said that he is likely to give his assent to the contentious Bill.
It was in 2013 when Haryana’s senior IAS officer Ashok Khemka had pointed out various prime chunks of land in Gurgaon and Faridabad that were usurped by the “powerful business-politico-bureaucratic-police lobby” with no interest in agricultural or cultivation activities. The then Congress government too, allegedly attempted to use Consolidation Act as a tool for partition of prime chunks of land including forest lands. Khemka had then suggested that a thorough probe by an independent investigating agency could “expose the game of the land sharks”.
However, the current amendment passed by the Vidhan Sabha with BJP-JJP combine in majority, is also likely to extend a similar benefit to the builder lobby, active in the National Capital Region.
Sources disclosed that after the Bill was passed by the Vidhan Sabha, Khemka has again written to the Governor apprising him of certain points that should to be looked into before he accords his assent.
In case of partition of the land owned by co-sharers, while the amendment puts the primary onus on the shareholder seeking partition to inform other co-sharers, it is likely to raise several practical issues giving an advantage to the co-sharer living in the village over those who are living at distant places away from the land in question. Sources disclosed that Khemka has pointed out that in several cases, the revenue records do not contain addresses of co-sharers. “The revenue officer in partition proceedings under Section 111-A (the new Section added in the Amendment bill) will not be able to serve personal notice upon those co-sharers who do not reside in the village as per mode of service prescribed in the Act. The only mode of service of notice would be by pasting the notice on some conspicuous place where the land is situated or by proclamation. In the partition proceedings under Section 111-A, the co-sharers in possession or residing in village will, therefore, derive an unfair advantage over other co-sharers who do not”.
Another issue will be in the case of small fragmentation. “If joint holdings are compulsorily partitioned into separate shares for each co-sharer, then the size of some separate shares may be very small and agriculturally unviable. The size could be as small as a few marlas. The statutory fragmentation will lead to overall waste due to the need to provide common rasta (road) and water channels to each of the separate shares carved out in the partition. The fragmentation arising due to the present amendment is against the object of the Consolidation Act of 1948,” Khemka has now written to the Governor.
The new Amendment also takes away the power of highest revenue officers – Financial Commissioners – and instead makes Collector the final deciding authority in case of any dispute that may arise in the partition proceedings.
“The Financial Commissioner is the Chief Revenue Officer. At present, three are 30 officers who are ex-officio Financial Commissioners [27 Cadre officers and 3 non-cadre officers]. But, under the new Section 111-A, all Financial Commissioners and Divisional Commissioners will be rendered non-functional. The order of the Collector will be final. No remedy will be available against the order of Collector. Under the Code of Civil Procedure as well as Section 13 of the PLR Act, a second appeal lies where an original order is revised or modified in first appeal. The right of second appeal as well as the right of revision under Section 17 of the PLR Act will no longer be available in the case of partition proceedings under Section 111-A,” Khemka has written.
“The amendment will benefit powerful land sharks in possession of common lands to the detriment of the weak co-sharers, the larger society and the environment,” Khemka has written adding that the amendment will severely “affect the forests and hilly lands in Aravallis and other eco-fragile regions and shamlat lands”.
Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, on November 6 after the Vidhan Sabha passed the Amendment Bill, had said, “The Vidhan Sabha passed this Bill with a view to curb the partition of shares on the land related litigations. In the revenue records, partition of land where co-sharers are there, remains pending for years. People used to face lots of difficulties. We have now introduced a provision that all the co-sharers shall be given a notice to reply within 30 days. It will not be applicable to blood-relations. Except for the blood relations, rest all co-sharers shall be given a six month time to respond for their partition of share. One extension of another six months shall be given. If it is not done in one year, then the revenue department will do it automatically within next three months. That will reduce lots of litigation. There are 48 lakh such co-sharers in Haryana, especially for agriculture land”.
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