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‘What if CM has ordered?’ Mumbai resident’s brush with Bihar bureaucracy

Between March 2018 and February 2021, Ranjan says he met land and revenue officials, including Karpi Circle Officer Sanjay Kumar, at least 10 times. The CO is an administration official who deals with land records at the block level.

Written by Santosh Singh | Patna |
Updated: January 21, 2022 9:08:20 am
Between March 2018 and February 2021, Ranjan says he met land and revenue officials, including Karpi Circle Officer Sanjay Kumar, at least 10 times.

Mukhyamantri ke aadesh se kya hota hai (So what if the CM has ordered)?”. This, according to a Mumbai resident hailing from Bihar, was his brush with block-level bureaucracy in Bihar when he approached them for a land document.

Since 2018, Rahul Ranjan, a native of Arwal who has been living in Mumbai for 19 years, has been running around for a seemingly routine piece of information — a jamabandi certificate or a certified receipt showing the ownership position of his ancestral land owned jointly by his father and three brothers.

Ranjan, whose parents died a few years ago, says he sought the document because he suspected one of his relatives of allegedly trying to usurp the family’s 2.75-acre ancestral land.

Between March 2018 and February 2021, Ranjan says he met land and revenue officials, including Karpi Circle Officer Sanjay Kumar, at least 10 times. The CO is an administration official who deals with land records at the block level.

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“Each time, they cited an old State Information Commission (SIC) rule that says there is no provision to issue a certified jamabandi copy. I was told that I can complain to whoever I want to but I won’t get the document,” says Ranjan, adding that he had to come down to Arwal several times from Mumbai, where he works as a senior manager with a market research company.

Frustrated, on April 9, 2021, Ranjan filed an RTI seeking the information he desired from the Karpi Circle Office. “I was called by CO Sanjay Kumar on June 14. I showed him my vanshavali certificate (a document certifying genealogy) procured from the sarpanch of Karpi. The CO dismissed the certificate, calling it fake. He stuck to his earlier stand and cited the SIC rule.”

Karpi CO Sanjay Kumar did not respond to repeated messages by The Indian Express seeking his comment.

Ranjan says he unsuccessfully tried to reason with the official, citing Bihar revenue and land department’s manual and also a 2014 Central Information Commission ruling that had overturned the earlier SIC rule.

On ‘Certified Copies and Information’, Rule 18 of the Bihar government’s revenue and land department manual says, “Subject to such rules on payment of such fee as the state government, from time to time may prescribe in this behalf, information and certified extracts and certified copies of order sheets, correction slips, continuous khatian and tenants’ ledger shall be given to persons applying for the same in the prescribed form.”

The CIC had said while disposing a similar case on December 29, 2014: “The Commission holds that the land records containing the names of different owners and describing boundaries and extent of the land are public records and the information such as names of persons and the extent of land owned or possessed by the public authority is neither private information nor ‘third party’ information.”

State Information Commission law officer Upendra Singh told The Indian Express: “Everyone has a right to get a certified jamabandi copy as per the Central Information Commission and Bihar revenue and land reform department provisions. If the officer is denying it, it amounts to an offence of denial of information under the RTI Act.”

Subsequently, Ranjan went in for the first appeal in July, which he won, but he still did not get the certificate. As a “last resort”, he decided to meet the Bihar CM Nitish Kumar.

“After my experience with Bihar’s bureaucracy, I thought only a meeting with the CM could help. I met him at his janta darbar on September 6 last year. He gave me a patient hearing and directed senior officials to help resolve my problem,” said Ranjan.

But to his dismay, Ranjan has not yet heard from Arwal authorities. “I called up Karpi CO Sanjay Kumar for a follow-up after meeting the CM. He said, ‘CM ke aadesh se kya hota hai (So what if the CM has ordered)?’,” said Ranjan.

When approached, Arwal Additional District Magistrate Jyoti Kumar told The Indian Express, “There is an SIC order prohibiting us from giving him a certified copy of the jamabandi receipt.”

A day later, when told about the SIC law officer saying that it’s incumbent on the officials to part with the information sought by the applicant, the ADM said: “I have asked the Karpi CO to look into Ranjan’s case… We are on it.”

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