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An estimated 12-minute read

Land Titling Bill, 2010 – A Critical Analysis

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Nimanniyu Sharma, Intern, Kaden Boriss Legal LLP, India

Factor markets in India, be it Land or Labour, both have been in need of reforms. Part reason for non-reform in these markets is that that they are primarily State Subjects. But what is pertinent to note is that without reforming them, the economy’s productivity cannot increase. So here, regardless of any other regime, the most glaring problem on the pathway to reform is that of ‘land titling’. In any law system, establishing a ‘titling’ system can be a very challenging affair. Not only has the title to be traced back to its original roots, but also title searches and grants (with costs and additional issues) are no final guarantee of ownership.

The Rural Development Ministry’s ‘Department of Land Resources’ has now come out with a draft ‘Land Titling Bill 2010’ to bring uniformity across the country and replace the existing deeds system fraught with excessive litigation due to inaccuracies in property records. It aims to usher in a system of conclusive property titles with title guarantees through registration of immovable properties and indemnification against erroneous losses. This draft had been opened for public discussion uptill August 31, 2010 and was placed in the public domain then. The eventual implementation now would be depending on the state reaction for the same.


Aim and Objective discussed:

The overall idea of the Land Titling Bill, 2010 is to overhaul the current system of maintenance of property records, as it has a lot of drawbacks. There are numerous agencies involved in their maintenance, leading to a multiplicity of inharmonious property records; lack of interconnectivity among these agencies, their inefficiency and differing processes of updation of property records, all these lead to inaccuracies in the ultimate records. What the Bill seeks to implement is in fact, the ‘Torrens System’ implemented in several other common law countries, after its origins in Australia in 1858. The ‘Torrens System’ is a Land Registration system in which the government is the keeper of all land and title records, and a land title serves as a certificate of full, indefeasible, and valid ownership. In the deeds system, all titles of immovable property are “presumed titles”, where title to property is claimed by people through diverse legally recognizable instruments. Usually, it is the sale deed which is used as the prime instrument to claim title to property. But it gives rise to litigation with different persons furnishing different instruments to contest title claims. That is what the new regime will seek to remove.

Now, there are several pre-requisites that need to be taken care of before the proposed land titling authority, which will be established under Section 3 of the Bill, can start guaranteeing titles:

1)   There has to be a Title Registry.

2)   There have to be Survey Settlements.

3)   Presence of the Land Information System.

4)   Property Valuation System.

5)   A Land Titling Tribunal, to supplant recourse to courts.

6)   Appropriate Technology availability to match satellite-based images with survey records and digitized cadastral maps.

The National Land Records Modernisation Program (NLRMP) has already undertaken computerisation of land records which includes data entry, digitized cadastral maps and integration of textual and spatial data, strengthening of revenue and survey training institutions, village index maps and core GIS, legal changes and programme management. Cadastral Maps, here  would mean comprehensive register of the metes-and-bounds of real property of a country. A cadastre commonly includes details of the ownership, the tenure, the precise location (some include GPS coordinates), the dimensions (and area), the cultivations if rural, and the value of individual parcels of land.

But even before, we can begin to discuss the actual implementation of the aforesaid requisites; the big question is that, ‘Would all states in India be able to implement such a System?’ Putting it differently, one can say that while some states are efficient in administrative delivery and technological advancement, others are not. Nor should one forget that various issues will crop up if subjects like alienation of tribal land are taken into consideration as the Bill is silent on the matter.

We, as a nation, have constitutionally fragmented the states and allowed the fragmentation to continue since Independence. Contrary to what is stated in the Preamble of this Bill as an objective, we would not get standardisation and unification everywhere in India. It is an impossible objective unless there is 100% compliance. But at the same time, it is an important first step and one that ought not to be restricted in its early stages. Even if one has reservations about ownership legislation, there is no reason why laws cannot change. Establishment of property rights and conclusive titles will also encourage owners to invest more in ‘land’.


Provisions of the Bill (In brief):

Let us examine and analyze some of the major aspects of the Draft Bill: 

  1. The Land Titling Authority:

Chapter II of the Draft Bill is dedicated to the establishment, composition, powers, functions, duties, scope, administration and other matters related to the Land Titling Authority. A total of twenty six functions have been prescribed under Section 4 of the Act. The Authority shall be having same powers as a Civil Court has under Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 in the matters relating to the land titles. Apart from this it will also be empowered to exercise all the powers of the Chief Controlling Revenue Authority under the Indian Stamp Act, 1899. Now, under the Land Titling System, the government aims to guarantee conclusive title, as against presumed title, for every immovable property which is tagged with a unique Property Identification Number (PIN). Titles under the new system would be indefeasible i.e. title of any immovable property once entered in the ‘Register of Titles’ cannot be altered or made void.

  1. The Title Registry:

This is perhaps going to be the biggest development of the proposed Bill. The Authority shall, for the purpose of this Act, establish a central Title Registry for the entire Union Territory (or the state) and may also establish sub-offices or Citizen Facilitation Centers for the proper and hassle-free receipt, recording and maintenance of the Land Titles. The Title Authority, after survey and settlement will prepare an Index of Maps with unique property identification numbers long with a Register of Titles, a Register of Charges and Covenants and Register of Disputes. These registers shall be in both, paper as well as in electronic form.

  1. Survey, Settlement and Land Information System:

For the facilitation of this Act, the Land Titling Authority shall establish a ‘Survey, Settlement and Land Information’ division. The Director, Survey, Settlement and Land Information System shall prepare a record of boundaries in a notified area and give it a unique identification number after cadastral surveying and mapping of each immovable property in the area. It shall accept request for survey of immovable property by any title holder or a third party on payment of fees as may be prescribed and/or may also hire services of private licensed surveyors for the purpose of surveying of immovable property with prior approval of Government.

  1. Property Valuation Division:

Chapter V of the Draft Bill deals with the establishment and functioning of Property Valuation Division for the purpose of this Act. The Division will undertake the assessment of immovable property for the purpose of its valuation under this Act. The valuation will also serve as a base for calculating the Stamp Duty payable on such immovable property. Use of electronic media and information technology and proper software for auto-calculation of stamp duty, registration fees and other applicable levies & fees payable on a particular immovable property, has been advocated for. Also, the provision for property valuation on request is prescribed on payment of requisite fees.

  1. Legal Services and Title Guarantee Division:

Chapter VI of the Draft Bill proposes to establish the Legal Services and Title Guarantee Division for the purposes of this Act. The Division shall be empowered to render the legal advice to the Land Titling Authority.

  1. The Land Titling Tribunal:

Chapter VII of the Draft Bill proposes to establish and constitute a Land Titling Tribunal by Government for the purpose of this Act. The functions of the Tribunal are to adjudicate on the claims preferred for payment of compensation out of the title guarantee fund of the Authority and of the private parties authorized by the Authority to operate such a fund. Tribunal shall hear appeals against the orders of the Land Titling Authority by an aggrieved party within three months of date of notification of such an order and the Appeal against the order of the Tribunal shall lie with the High Court. The Tribunal is empowered act under laws of natural justice which provides it with necessary freedom to discharge its duties in more timely and accurate manner. Also it provides for exclusive right of Tribunal to hear on the matter related with land. This shall expedite the settlement of land dispute in our country which is typically characterized by excessively long and harassing litigation.


  1. Compulsory Intimation to the Land Titling Authority:

Chapter VIII of the Draft Bill lays down different events to be compulsorily intimated to the Land Titling Authority. These events are such which change or are potentially capable of changing the title, ownership, beneficial ownership, control, possession, usage, obligations etc. of the immovable property and land. This very provision will help to arrive at the conclusive legal and title status of a land and an immovable property as due to single and centralized recording of all matters of land like transfer of legal or substantial ownership or any charge, mortgage, covenant created on it.

  1. Miscellaneous Provisions:

Chapter IX is the last chapter of the Draft Bill and it deals with all the miscellaneous provisions relating to the Act. The model Draft stipulates a period of five years from the date of promulgation of this Act for every property owners to obtain a title from the Authority for each property. It also aims to grade every property among small, medium and large. Section 71 grants to the employees, an immunity against any legal proceedings for anything done in good faith under this Act.

The provisions of the Indian Stamp Act and the Indian Registration Act which are not inconsistent with the Act when it comes into existence, will apply mutatis mutandis to the relevant matters dealt with under the Act. Also, there would be a three-year challenging period in case there are ownership disputes that are yet to be settled. No conclusive title is conferred on the property unless settled by the tribunal to be set up by the authority. But in case there is no challenge to the ownership of the property for three years, then the Provisional Title will itself convert to the Conclusive Title.

Enumerated Benefits:

1)   Property owners will have a sense of ownership security and will be able to mortgage their property for raising loans, more easily.

2)   Financial institutions will be able to check the absolute status of the property before granting mortgages or loans.

3)   The problem of multiple wills and fraudulent transactions will be taken care of.

4)   The government will be able to curb stamp duty and property tax evasion, improving its revenue collection system alongside.

5)   It has been proposed that the title documents and conclusive certificate would include the intrinsic characteristics of properties such as mortgage, charges, liens and transaction history so, buyers who are vulnerable to manipulations in title deeds at the hands of unscrupulous developers, would have a mechanism at their disposal to check the health and reliability of the titles before proceeding with the transactions.

6)   Additional features, such as provision of valuation for properties and regular updates thereof, would make it easy for the owners to keep a tab on their worth at any given time.

7)   The Bill also proposes a Central Property Valuation division which would maintain a Register of property valuation that would be regularly updated. Such information will also be placed in the public domain and shall enable: Auto-calculation of stamp duty, registration fee and other levies. The system shall also provide that title holders seek valuations upon request.

8)   There will be a separate division for legal services and title guarantees and the incumbent bill proposes to set up a Title Guarantee Fund. The proposal keeps the option open for title guarantee through private parties and insurers.

9)   The proposal and presence of a separate tribunal will clearly bring down the ever-crushing burden of property claims and disputes from civil courts.


Challenges, Responsibilities and Drawbacks:

While the benefits of a clear and conclusive Land Titling System are for all to enjoy, the Bill also proposes to confer some responsibilities on the people. It proposes to make it compulsory for people to declare any changes in their titles. They have to provide compulsory intimation of civil suits or appeals or revisions, equitable mortgages, statutory charges, pending action, power of attorney, grant of succession and transaction. Penalties are prescribed for willful concealment of information or deliberate furnishing of false information to the proposed land titling authority.

Also, the implementation of the Bill will be a huge challenge for the government as the creation of the land titling authority, the tribunal, the survey system, the legal services and valuation cell, too, will be quite an uphill task. Regular updates of features, such as valuation, will require an infrastructure, which at present does not exist. What also needs to be noted is that the proposed law will not help the marginal farmers and people of the rural background. The reason for the same is that for most of these people, the work on settlement and recording of land rights happened in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Post Independence, the settling of land rights has been perpetually ignored. The introduction of a new system now may prove to be more cumbersome than even the actual provisions existing today.

And at the same time, it is also pertinent to note that even some of the positive aspects of the bill lack clarity. For instance, the bill says the titling authority will suo moto take up irregularities in provisional titles. This provision would be effective only if the rights of all are recorded as we ultimately come back to the very basic statement that land is a state subject and it is also not certain if all states would enact a Land Titling Bill or not.

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