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This article is written by Srishti Sinha, a student at the Institute of Law, Nirma University. This article deals with an overview of the Andhra Pradesh Assigned Lands (Prohibition of Transfers) Act, 1977. 

Introduction 

It has been discovered throughout the years that many of the lands given to the impoverished people are not in their ownership. The Andhra Pradesh Assigned Lands (Prohibition of Transfers) Act, 1977 was enacted by the state government to stop this tendency. This Act is a protective statute designed to safeguard and assist those who are truly landless and destitute. This Act makes it illegal to sell lands allotted to the poor for agriculture or habitation to anybody else. Under any conditions and any other applicable legislation, the transfer of allocated lands is prohibited. Any document signed only for the transfer is void and unlawful. Even a civil court cannot issue a decree relating to such allocated lands transactions. 

Andhra Pradesh Assigned Lands (Prohibition of Transfers) Act, 1977: an overview

Legislative history

The government had been allocating government lands to landless impoverished people who had no other source of income. In Andhra Pradesh, such land assignments are controlled by Board Standing Orders, but in Telangana, they are governed by the Andhra Pradesh (Telangana Area) Land Revenue Act 1317 Fasli. Nonetheless, the regulations regulating such property assignments and the terms of the government land grant remain the same. The Pattas (a type of land deed issued by the government to an individual or organization), given there usually included a provision stating that the lands assigned were heritable but not alienable, as well as several additional stipulations. Every assignment includes a provision stating that the land will be returned if the grant’s conditions are not met, in the hopes that such limitations will prevent the impoverished landless people from losing the land allocated to them. However, previous experience has demonstrated that large swaths of land allotted to landless impoverished people have been alienated and are now in the hands of well-off people. The grant’s terms were deemed to be inefficient and inadequate for achieving the government’s social goals. 

There are no provisions in the current rules for punishing those who acquire such lands. Efforts to give vast swaths of land to landless impoverished people have gone to waste. As a result, to more effectively implement the aim, the Andhra Pradesh Assigned Lands (Prohibition of Transfers) Act 1977 was created as protective legislation to prevent the alienation of assigned lands to landless poor individuals and to provide for the penalty of buyers of such lands. 

Important points related to the Act

In the sense that it provides for the resumption, restoration, and distribution of the Assigned Lands, the Andhra Pradesh Assigned Lands (Prohibition of Transfers) Act 1977 is a self-contained code. Except for Section 2 of the Act, which took effect on January 21, 1977, the remaining sections took effect on January 29, 2007. However, Section 3 (1) of the Act not only prohibits the transfer of assigned lands on or after the Act’s commencement but also declares that all transfers of Assigned Lands that occurred before the Act’s commencement are null and void and that no right or title in such Assigned Land shall vest in any person acquiring the land through such transfer. 

Further, Section 3(3) of the Act says that any transfer or acquisition of government lands or surplus lands allocated to landless poor individuals for cultivation or as a house site under the condition of non-alienation made by purchase, gift, lease, mortgage, exchange, or otherwise will be declared null and invalid under this Act.

Conditions under which the Act will not apply 

If the requirements stipulated in Section 3(5) are met, the Act is not applicable. Section 3(5) says that:

  1. The buyer must be a destitute landless individual.
  2. The acquisition must be made in good faith and at a fair price.
  3. Before the effective date of this Act, the acquisition must be made from the original assignee or transferee.
  4. On the date of such beginning, the land thus bought is in possession for cultivation or as a house site.

Consequences of breach of provisions mentioned under Section 3 of the Act

While Section 3 of the Act sets some restrictions on the transfer of allocated lands, Section 4 of the Act outlines the repercussions of violating Section 3. Only Section 4 comes into play if Section 3 is violated, i.e. alienation of the allocated land. 

  1. Under Section 4(1), the District Collector or any other officer, not below the rank of a Mandal Revenue Officer can take possession of the assigned lands after evicting the person in possession and reassign the said resumed land other than those lands or areas as may be notified by the government from time to time in the public interest and restore the assigned land to the original assignee or his legal heir, or if it is not practically possible to do so, resume the assigned property to the government for the assignment of landless poor people in line with the laws in effect at the time.
  2. Provided, however, that the assigned land may not be restored to the original assignee or his legal heir more than once, and that if the original assignee or his legal heir transfers the assigned land after such restoration, it shall be returned to the Government for assignment to another landless poor person.
  3. Provided, further, if no qualified landless poor people in the village or area are available, the reclaimed land will be used for public purposes.
  4. Under Section 4(2), any order passed in revision under Section 4-B, and subject to such order, the decision in appeal under Section 4-A, and subject to the said orders in revision and appeal, any order passed under sub-section (1), shall be final and shall not be questioned in any Court of law, and no injunction shall be 
  5. Granted by any Court in respect of any proceeding taken or about to be taken by any officer or authorized person.
  • Appeals and Revisions [Section 4A and Section 4B, respectively] – Section 4 A (1) allows the Mandal Revenue Officer’s orders [passed under Section 4(1)] to be appealed to the Revenue Divisional Officer within 90 days of receipt of the order. The Revenue Divisional Officer’s order can be appealed to the District Collector under Section 4 A (2). 
  • Under Section 4 B (1), there is also a provision for Revision to the District Collector or the Government. Further, this section states that the District Collector or the Government may also delay the judgment or order’s implementation awaiting the exercise of their powers under sub-section (1).

Prohibition of registration of assigned lands

Under Section 5, no registering officer shall accept for registration any document relating to the transfer of, or the creation of any interest in, any assigned land included in a list of assigned lands in the district prepared by the District Collector and furnished to the registering officer on or after the commencement of this Act, notwithstanding anything in the Registration Act, 1908.

Exemption clause (Section 6)

According to Section 6, nothing in this Act applies to assigned lands held on the mortgage by the State or Central Governments, any local authority, a co-operative society, a scheduled bank, or any other financial institution-owned, controlled, or managed by a State Government or the Central Government, as the Government may notify in this regard. 

Penal provisions (Section 7)

The punishment for violating the Act’s requirements is outlined in Section 7 of the Act as follows: 

  1. Whoever obtains any allotted land in violation of Section 3 sub-section (2) is punishable by imprisonment for up to six months or a fine of up to two thousand rupees, or both.
  2. Whoever resists or obstructs the District Collector or any other person authorized by him in taking possession of any allocated land under this Act is punishable by imprisonment for up to six months or a fine of up to five thousand rupees, or both. Furthermore, Section 2(A) talks about the imprisonment of the officers and says that any officer who violates the requirements of Section 5 sub-sections (1) and (2) will be penalized with either simple imprisonment for up to six months or a fine of up to ten thousand rupees, or both.
  3. A court may not take cognizance of an offense punished under this section unless the District Collector has given his prior approval.

Protections available

Section 8 of the Act, mentions the circumstances under which no suit can be filed against the person. The following are the circumstances: 

  1. No litigation, prosecution, or other legal action shall be brought against any person, official, or authority for anything done or intended to be done in good faith following the Act or any rules promulgated thereunder. 
  2. There shall be no suit or other legal action brought against the Government for any damage caused or likely to be caused, or for any injury suffered or likely to be suffered, as a result of any provision of this Act, or for anything done or intended to be done in good faith in pursuance of this Act or any rules made thereunder.

Ineffective implementation of the Act

The Andhra Pradesh Assigned Lands (Prohibition of Transfers) Act, 1977 came into effect to safeguard and protect those people who are truly landless but there are some loopholes in this act due to ineffective implementation of the act. 

This Act bans the transfer of lands allotted to landless impoverished people (through alienation or sale to a third party). The territories that have been given to landless people are inheritable, but not alienable. If the District Collector or any other officer authorized by him violates this provision, the District Collector or any other officer authorized by him may seize the assigned land, evict the person in possession after giving him a reasonable opportunity to leave, and return the land to the original assignee or his legal heir. If rehabilitation is not possible, the government may take over the property for new use.

This Act is retroactive meaning it applies to sales that occurred before the Act’s enactment. This is a seldom-used option by revenue authorities. Large swaths of land that were supposed to go to the landless poor have been alienated and ended up in the hands of the non-poor. The most pressing necessity of the hour is to assess the extent of the alienation and make efforts to restore or allocate the lands to the poor.

After a thorough study on the implementation and the ineffectiveness of the Act, the committee concluded that the executive must be forced to execute its duty professionally and methodically, which has been practically neglected during the last decade and a half.

The following are the recommendations of the said committee:

  1. Reduction of the size of land assigned – The definition of the landless poor person should be redefined as or the one who owns no land or a person who owns a land of not more than 1 acre of wet or 2 acres of dry land.
  2. Land assignment – The maximum amount of land that may be assigned to a single individual is 1 acre of wetland or 2 acres of dry land, subject to the condition that lands owned by the assignee be taken into account in computing the area so that the lands assigned to him together with what he already owns does not exceed the total extent of 1 acre of wetland or 2 acres of dry land.
  3. 3 months to assign land to the applicant – According to the rules in effect, the assignment of land to the landless poor for agricultural purposes must be given within 3 months of the date of receipt of the application for assignment.
  4. Government role – Where assigned lands are put up for auction due to non-payment of credit agency dues, government agencies will participate in the auction and purchase the lands to reassign landless people. 
  5. The assignment committee’s composition should include women from Indira Kranthi Patham (IKP) -The Assignment Committee’s composition should be amended to include the Sarpanch as well as the president and secretary of the concerned village organizations of poor women from the IKP, wherever the assignment proposals concern that village.
  6. Gram Sabha Approval – Government land assignment proposals must be authorized by Gram Sabha.
  7. Assignment Committee proposals should not be rejected – The Assignment Review Committee should not reject any proposed assignment unless the intended beneficiaries are ineligible. 

Amendments brought in the Andhra Pradesh Assigned Lands (Prohibition of Transfers) Act

With the change in society, the requirements and needs of people, the Act of 1977 was amended many times. The following are the amendments and clauses introduced in the act of 1977:

The Andhra Pradesh Assigned Lands (Prohibition of Transfers) (Amendment) Act, 1989, Act 32 of 1989 

The Act of 1989 inserted the following clauses in the act:

  1. There is an amendment under Section 4 of the 1977 act. In the sub-section (1) of Section 4, the word “Mandal Revenue Officer” replaces the word “Tahsildar”. Furthermore, in the sub-section (2) of Section 4, the expression “Any order passed in revision under Section 4-B and subject to such order, the decision in appeal under Section 4-A and subject to the said orders in revision and appeal, any order passed under sub-section(1)” shall be substituted. 
  2. Also, with this Amendment, there was an inclusion of Section 4A and Section 4B.

The Andhra Pradesh Assigned Lands (Prohibition of Transfers) (Amendment) Act, 2007, Act 8 of 2007

The Act of 2007 inserted the following clause in the act: 

  1. It brings an amendment under Section 4 of the Act. It substituted clause (b) and clause (c) under sub-section (1) of Section 4.
  2. Further, the Act substitutes Section 5 of the Act of 1977.
  3. Also, the Act inserts an expression “Provided that any person who has voluntarily disclosed and surrendered the assigned land in his possession or discloses and surrenders the assigned land in his possession within 90 days from the commencement of Andhra Pradesh Assigned Lands (Prohibition of Transfers) (Amendment) Act, 2006 shall be exempted from Prosecution”, under Section 7 (1) and the expression “(2A) Any Officer, violating the provisions under sub-section (1) and (2) of Section 5 shall be punished with simple imprisonment which may extend to six months or with fine which may extend to ten thousand rupees or with both”, after sub-section (2) of Section 7.

The Andhra Pradesh Assigned Lands (Prohibition of Transfers) (Amendment) Act, 2008, Act 21 of 2008

The Act of 2008, brings the following changes in the act of 1977:

  1. The Act of 2008 brings the Amendment under Section 4 of the act of 1977. It substitutes Section 4(1) (b) of the act.

The Andhra Pradesh Assigned Lands (Prohibition of Transfers) (Amendment) Act, 2019, Act 11 of 2019

The Act of 2019, brings the following substitutions in the act of 1977:

  1. The Act of 2019 brings amendment under Section 2 (1) of the act of 1977. It substitutes the expression “lands assigned” with “lands or house sites assigned”. Further, it substitutes the expression “landless poor persons” with “landless and homeless poor persons”.
  2. Furthermore, this Act brings Amendment under Section 3 of the act of 1977. It says that after sub-section (2) under Section 3, the following sub-sections shall be inserted:

“(2A) No assignee shall transfer any assigned house site, and no person shall acquire any assigned house site, either by purchase, gift, lease, mortgage, exchange, or otherwise, till completion of the period of 20 years from the date of assignment. 

(2B) Where the assigned house site was alienated by the assignee as on the date of commencement of this Act, such house site shall be regularized in favor of the alienee as a one-time measure. 

(2C) The eligible family shall be assigned house site only once in a lifetime.” 

  1. Furthermore, the Act adds an expression under Section 3(3). It says that under Sub-Section(3), after the expression “Sub-Section(2)” the expression “or Sub-Section(2A)” shall be inserted.

Conclusion

The Andhra Pradesh Assigned Lands (Prohibition of Transfers) Act, 1977 came into effect to protect the lands given to impoverished sections of the society. The main aim of the Act is to assist and safeguard those people who are truly landless but due to improper implementation of this Act, there were lots of loopholes created in this Act. Further, certain recommendations were made to improve this condition and to make sure that the act does not divert from its main aim. 

With the change in circumstances and to define each section more properly, there were various amendments to this act and currently, there is a Bill passed by the Legislative Assembly in 2020 called, the Andhra Pradesh Assigned Lands (Prohibition of Transfers) (Amendment) Bill, 2020. Deputy Chief Minister, Dharmana Krishna Das, tabled the bill and explained the objective of the Bill. The Bill’s main objective was to give farmers Rupees 25,000 per annum as rent for an acre and take their lands for lease only if the farmers agree to give it voluntarily. 

References 


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