Delhi's bizarre land laws under government scanner

The Centre has asked the home ministry to examine and abolish primitive statutes enacted for Delhi just after Independence

Published: 02nd July 2017 07:24 AM  |   Last Updated: 02nd July 2017 09:09 AM   |  A+A-

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NEW DELHI: At least four bizarre and archaic Delhi land laws with imperial hangovers are under the scanner of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). The government has directed the ministry to examine and abolish the primitive statutes immediately. A meeting was convened in the Cabinet Secretariat on June 22 to discuss the obsolete laws and the ministry was asked to finalise its views, MHA sources said.

On top of the agenda of the high-level meeting was Delhi Land Reforms (Amendment) Act 1959 that was originally executed by the Jawaharlal Nehru government in 1954 to end the Zamindari system. Under the original law, Bhumidars (landowners) were forbidden to lease their land except when the owner happened to be an idiot or lunatic, a minor or unmarried man, an unmarried woman or a widow.

The ultimate objective of the law was to clearly define the two classes—landowner (Bhumidar) and tenant (Asami)—replacing other land right title such as ‘Takhat Ul Malkiat’, ‘Tenant of Sir’ and ‘Dholidars’. The Act restricted Asamis’ transfer rights on land. On the other hand, a Bhumidar was empowered to write a will and transfer the title.

The law was primarily enacted for agriculture land at a time when Delhi—spread over 1,480 sq km—lived in 357 villages. After growing urbanisation in the 70s and subsequent decades, successive governments found themselves battling with stringent clauses.

Interestingly, another Act was executed during Nehru’s tenure that put a cap on land-holding. It was called the Delhi Land Holding Ceiling Act 1960, which restricted Bhumidars and Asamis from owning more than 7.25 hectares. This made it clear that excess land-holding of Bhumidars or Asamis would be taken over by the government.

In June, government officials at Cabinet Secretariat deliberated on all four bizarre laws of the city: Delhi Land Reforms Act 1959, Delhi Land Holdings Act 1960, Delhi Land Reforms (Amendment) Act 1965, and Delhi Land Reforms (Amendment) Act 1966.

“Legislative department produced old files relating to Cabinet decisions regarding introduction of these Acts in Parliament. As per records, Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had initiated the Cabinet notes for the purpose. It was accordingly decided to assign these Acts, presently listed against Ministry of Urban Development to MHA. The Ministry was asked to finalise their views regarding repeal of these acts immediately,” the government notes stated.

If these laws are deleted from statute book, the Delhi government headed by AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal may escalate the war with the Centre. The state recently passed a resolution in the Assembly requesting Lt Governor Anil Baijal to grant Bhumidar title (ownership rights) to individuals and families that were allotted land in 1970s and 1980s under Sections 73 and 74 of the Act. As per the Act, the Gram Sabha shall have the right to admit any person (Asami) as Bhumidhar to any land, which is vacant or possessed by it.

The Asami will have the right to hold the land for five years at a rate of rent after which revenue department may direct Gram Sabha to admit the Asami as Bhumidar. In 2012, the Sheila Dikshit government had decided to extend ownership rights to Asamis holding the land. It remain pending with the Centre. In June, Kejriwal picked up the issue, and on June 14 wrote to Baijal demanding ownership rights for Asamis.

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