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This article is written by Anshika Agarwal. In this article, the author has described the Madhya Pradesh Land Revenue Code of 1959 in a very detailed and analytical manner.

Introduction

Revenue generated from the taxation of land has been a primary source for India since ancient times. During the British regime, the cultivable land was taxed as per the zamindari system that incurred a catena of criticism, for it stratified India into classes namely upper class and lower class.

Post-independence, Zamindari Abolition Act, abolishing the practice of zamindari was passed by different Indian states including Madhya Pradesh, Vindhya Pradesh and Bhopal. This was followed by the constitution of a Board of Revenue by the State government via a notification dated 1st November, 1956, wherein the State government delegated the appellate and existence from the year 1959, empowering the Board to exercise the powers delegated to it.

Gwalior has been appointed as the Principal seat of the Board, while Bhopal, Indore, Jabalpur, Rewa and Ujjain holding the circuit courts. The Board is regarded as the highest court of appeal in revenue concerning matters. The Code has seen multiple of amendments with the prominent ones being the amendment of 2011 and 2018.

The Code At A Glance

The Code consolidates laws related to revenue, functions of the Revenue Officers, rights and duties of land bearers, agricultural tenures and rates. Presently, the Code contains 264 sections and 3 schedules.

Applicability of the Code

Chapter 1 of the Code deals with the extent and applicability of the Act. It is applicable to the whole of the territory of Madhya Pradesh except for areas which have been recognised as reserved under the Indian Forest Act, 1927.

The office and scope of Board of revenue and Revenue Officers

The Code provides for the creation of the Board, constituting President along with two or more members appointed by State government and the office of Revenue Officers wherein office of Commissioner has been conferred with the highest authority, unless State government comes up with any direction to the contrary. The members need to be either eligible for the appointment to the post of Judge of the High Court or a Revenue Officer of a rank of not less than of a Collector, for at least a period of 5 years

The State Government exercises a direct control over the Board and the Revenue Officers. The Board has to comply with the powers and functions conferred by the state by way of notifications. The State is empowered to create, abolish or alter the limits of divisions and districts and to appoint a Commissioner or an Additional Commissioner in each division, performing duties entrusted to them by this Code. Other revenue officers including Collectors, Additional Collectors, Tahsildars, Superintendent of Land Records are too appointed by the State.

The Code determines the scope of the duties of the Revenue Officers and precludes them from enquiring into matters outside their jurisdiction. The workmen, on the direction of the Revenue Officers can survey and demarcate the occupier’s property only if a prior 24 days notification was sent to the occupant. The Board and the Officers have been conferred with the status of Court and serves as a guardian preventing the abuse of the Court. The Board and the Commissioner, in order to meet the ends of the justice, holds the authority to transfer the cases from one Revenue Officer to another of same or a higher rank. 

The Revenue Officers, in exercise of their judicial functions, can issue summons to require the presence of persons necessary for further investigations or enquiry. However, a person living outside the territorial limits of such a jurisdiction or where there is no railway communication or any other public conveyance near the residence cannot be called upon. If such a summon is not complied with, the concerned Officer may issue a bailable warrant of arrest, a fine or may direct the defaulter to present a security for the appearance. The authority follows the same adjournment procedure as followed by the Courts.

The Board is entrusted with the power to devise rules consistent with the provisions of the Code on matters of powers of Revenue officers to summon, adjourn and others. Such rules are required to be approved by the State Government followed by publication in an official notification. The proceedings follow the procedure laid in the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, unless expressly specified by the Code.

An appeal can be made from the original order passed by a lower rank Revenue Officer to a higher rank officer. A second appeal may lie against an order passed in the first appeal by a subordinate rank officer to a higher rank officer. However, there are certain limitations associated with it, for instance no appeal can be made after the expiry of 45 days from the date of passing of the orders by Sub Divisional Officer or Collector or Settlement Officer.

The Code further illustrates the authority of the appellate body to entertain an appeal or reject it after hearing the appellant. On the acceptance of an appeal the appellate authority hears both the parties and then decides upon the matter by either reversing the appeal order or directing further investigation.

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The Concept of Land Revenue

The Code defines every land including standing and flowing waters, mines, quarries and subsoil as the State’s property. The matters in regard with the dispute with the State are decided by Sub Divisional Officer. If a party remains aggrieved by the order passed, then a civil suit questioning the validity of the order can be instituted. The State, being the owner, receives revenue from all the land except for the land exempted by the State Government by a contract or a special grant. The land with respect to “uneconomic holding” used for the sole purpose of agriculture is exempted from land revenue.

Assessment of the land

The assessment of revenue is done on the basis of the purpose to which land is put into use. If the purpose of the land used gets shifted or diverted, then the land will be assessed on the basis of the diverted purpose and in such a case the Sub Divisional Officer can even impose a premium or diversion. However, no such premium is imposed when the purpose is diverted to a charitable use.

Revenue Survey and Rent Settlement

The revenue survey operations for non-urban areas are conducted under the control of a Settlement Officer appointed by the State. The Code defines revenue survey as the process of dividing the land into survey numbers and grouping them into a village, soil classification, preparation of field maps and preparation of records of rights. The Settlement Officer is authorised to demarcate these survey numbers and group them. The Officer may further subdivide these survey numbers into subdivisions or may divide two villages to constitute one and vice versa.   

The revenue survey is followed by the determination of the revenue payable for the land which is termed as Settlement by the Code. The Settlement Officer is empowered to put forward the rates assessed before the State for the approval. The State may, however, approve them. The fixation of the rates would be on the principle of fair assessment.

Post such an assessment the settlement term commences from the beginning of the revenue year. The settlement term is fixed by the State and cannot be less than thirty years. However, the term can be reduced if the State government feels fit seeing the general conditions.

Provision of Land Record

The Code provides for the preparation of a field map demarcating the boundaries of survey numbers and the areas occupied by the private holders in case of a village. The Settlement Officer or the Collector would revise the maps from time to time. It also necessitates the preparation of the rights of record during a revenue survey that majorly consist the details of occupants including their names, plot numbers. 

The process also requires a preparation of a field book called land records, apart from maps and record of rights. The book consists of two parts wherein Part 1 deals with rights and encumbrances on the holdings and Part 2 deals with recovery of revenue in respect of encumbrances on the holdings. The names enrolled in the record of rights are mandatorily required to maintain a field book.

Collection of Land Revenue

Section 138 of the Code provides with the list of people liable to the payment of the revenue, including a Bhumiswami or a lessee. In case, a holding is occupied by more than one such occupant, then there will be a joint and several liabilities on the part of the occupants to make payment. The revenue is payable on the first day of the revenue year instalments as per the rules devised by the State. A failure to comply with the dates of payment forms arrear and person responsible is known as defaulter. If such a payment is not made within one month of the prescribed date then a penalty is imposed upon the defaulter.

The Concept of Government Lessee

The Code defines Government lessee under section 180 of Code as the holding of the State Government’s property or the person to whom the government has granted the right to occupy. The set of people holding land as an ordinary tenant, special tenant or as “gair khatedar tenant” as defined in the respective of Madhya Bharat Land Revenue and Tenancy Act, 2007, Vindhya Pradesh Land Revenue and Tenancy Act or Rajasthan Tenancy Act are included under the purview of government lessee.

The Code outlines certain right and liabilities of a lessee that majorly includes conforming with the terms and conditions set by the government. Any contravention by expiration of the period of rent term or using land for purpose other than it was allotted would amount to the ejection of the lessee from the premises by the Revenue Officer.

Unoccupied Land

The Code further speaks about land that has remained occupied needs to be recorded in every village and urban areas. The Collector is authorised to distinguish such lands and use them for public purposes. However, a land cannot be set aside for public purpose if it is in disharmony with the development plan of the State. The Sub Divisional Officer is placed in charge of preparing a management scheme called Nistar Patrak, outlining the management policies of the unoccupied lands in the village.

The Code further provides that all the fruits bearing trees planted by the people on such unoccupied land, before the commencement of the Code, would continue to benefit or enjoy the entitlement without paying any royalty to the Government.

Conclusion

The Code concludes with some of the miscellaneous yet relevant provisions concerning the exclusive jurisdiction of the revenue authorities, inspections of maps prepared by the Revenue Officers. The Schedules ending the Code provides with a framework of rules that the authorities are supposed to follow. The first schedule illustrates the rules of procedure to be followed by the Revenue Courts for issuing the summons by determining the modes, laying the principles of sale of immovable property in brevity. The other two schedules provides with the notifications as may be released by the State Government from time to time regarding the varied aspects of other laws as well.

The Code hence consolidates all the laws regarding the revenue related matters into a Code, which we call as Madhya Pradesh Land Revenue Code, 1959. The provisions embody all the important aspects in the area of the revenue to ease out the administration of land revenue system in Madhya Pradesh.


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