This article is written by Antra Shourya, from the Faculty of Law, University of Delhi. The article gives an overview of the Uttar Pradesh Zamindari Abolition and Land Reform Acts 1950. It delves into the system of land revenue and tenure set by the act at the village level. Further, it discusses the difference between rehabilitation grant and compensation under the Act.
The zamindari system was introduced in India under British rule. Lord Canning, the first Viceroy of India, was the first one who came up with the system of landlords. The Britishers established the zamindari system for expediency and administrative convenience. The zamindars were, in fact, a convenient stick in the mud of a social base for establishing British rule over the working class. After India gained independence, many of the newly established states passed a Zamindari Abolition Act. In states like Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar etc., the state seized the surplus land of the landlords.
The zamindars approached the Supreme Court saying that their fundamental right has been violated as the right to property was a fundamental right at that time. The Supreme Court held that the Act was unconstitutional, but soon right to property was removed as a fundamental right.
By the abolition of the existing system, approximately two crore tenants became landowners. The ceiling was also imposed, which fixed the total amount of land a person or a family can own. All the surplus land beyond the ceiling set by the government would be taken away by the state, after which the state would redistribute this land to landless and small farmers. By imposing a ceiling, the ownership of land now was not concentrated in the hands of few upper caste and class farmers.
The Uttar Pradesh Zamindari Abolition and Land Reform Act 1950, was signed by the President on 24th January 1951. The vesting order for the Act was issued on 1st July 1952. From the date of vesting, all the titles, rights and interests of all intermediaries were terminated and ceased. But an intermediary who cultivated his land as a share-cropped or self-cultivated the land was given the ownership of the land. The Zamindari Abolition Act neither gave the right of resumption nor did it provide a ceiling on the area a zamindar can use for personal cultivation. Therefore, all the occupants of land, zamindars and secured or unsecured tenants, were to continue in possession of the land they were cultivating at the time the reforms were enacted. The Act can be divided into two parts. The first part contains chapters 1 to 6, and the second part contains chapter 6 to 12. The Act has seven schedules and 344 sections.
Salient Features of the Uttar Pradesh Zamindari Abolition and Land Reforms Act,1950
1. Abolishment of Zamindari System
The Act abolishes the zamindari system by removing the zamindars or intermediaries between the government and peasantry starting coming into force from July 1, 1952, i.e. the date of vesting. All the rights, interests and titles of the zamindars now shifted from zamindars to the government of Uttar Pradesh. Zamindars were not only deprived of their rights in the upper portion of the land but in the sub-soils as well.
The Act gave all the Zamindars who were deprived of their rights, title interest in any estate, the right to acquire a fair compensation from the state. The compensation is eight times the value of the net assets of the zamindar. No distinction is to be made between the bigger zamindars and the smaller ones, or between the main intermediary and the Thekedar and between an artificial person like waqfs, trust and endowments and a natural person.
3. Rehabilitation Grant
Furthermore, a compensation rehabilitation grant is also given. Only the zamindars are entitled to this grant. The zamindars who are entitled to both compensation and rehabilitation grant, are those who are paying annual land revenue up to Rs.10,000. Rehabilitation grant is given at graded rates ranging between one to twenty times of the net income, whereas compensation is given at a uniform rate of eight times of the net assets. The grant is proportional to the income of the zamindar; it is highest for those with low incomes and lowest for those who have comparatively larger incomes.
4. Cultivating Rights are Protected
The underlying philosophy behind the Act is that the one who cultivates the land should be the owner of the land. This philosophy has been fully enshrined in the Act. The Act protects everyone’s cultivating rights from a zamindar, a Thekadar, or a mortgager of an estate, to a tenant or a sub-tenant. Zamindars retained the land they had not rented out as ‘sir’ and ‘khudkasht’ land [khudkasht land means land cultivated (Kasht) by the Zamindar by himself (Khud) Khud means by his own labour, by the labour of his family members, his private servants, his farm servant or by hired labour] and became Bhumidhar or owner of such land. In the same way, the tenant of sir or khudkasht land and the subtenant became Adivasi. Thus everyone who was cultivating the land retained the possession of that land.
5. Simplified tenure system
There were fourteen categories of land tenures all complex and bewildering before the enforcement of the U.P. Zamindari Abolition & Land Reform Act. The Act narrowed down and classified the land tenures into four categories, namely Bhumidhar, Sirdar, Asami and Adivasi… The fourth category of Adivasis was later merged into Sirdars by an Amendment in 1954.
6. Prohibition of letting
The Act prohibits the tenure holders from letting out their holdings to anyone, whole or part for any period of time. The right of a tenure holder comes to an end if he lets his land to anyone. There are exceptions to this rule; the tenure holder has the right to let his land on certain humanitarian grounds, for example, to anyone suffering from mental or physical disease or a person who has a legal disability and who are not able to cultivate the land on their own. Such persons include women, idiots, lunatics, minors, a blind person, student or a person in detention or imprisonment.
7. Prohibition for the Accumulation of land
Section 154(1) for the Uttar Pradesh Zamindari Abolition and Land Reform, puts a ceiling, to prohibit accumulation of land. A tenure holder cannot acquire more than 12.5 acres of land through purchase or gift, even with his/her spouse or minor children. This section was brought in to avoid the concentration of land in the hands of a few people, which could lead to the system of zamindari to resurface. Persons having more than 12.5 cannot have any other land by purchase by the gift, but they shall retain their holdings.
8. Prohibition for the Creation of Uneconomic holding
The Act prohibits the court to divide the holding (or holdings), the area of which is 3-1/8 acres or less. Whenever in a suit for division the court finds that the aggregate area of land to be divided does not exceed 3-1/8 acres the court shall instead of proceeding to divide the land, direct the sale of the same and distribute the sale proceeds in accordance with the respective shares of the parties. In 2004, this provision was amended to allow the transfer of land, even below the earlier specified limits.
9. Uniform Rule of Succession
Along with intermediaries or zamindars, the Act also removes religion from land laws. According to the Act under Section 171 to 175 when a tenure holder dies, all of his holdings shall go to his or her heirs. There is no exception to this rule of succession; it is applicable to all classes of landowners whether a Bhumidhar, Sirdar or an Asami and it is applicable to all religion whether he is a Hindu, a Muslim or a person practising a religion other than Hinduism or Islam.
10. Establishment of village Republics
The Uttar Pradesh Panchayat Act 1947 had established two institutions, the Gaon Sabha and the Gaon Panchayat before the enactment of the Uttar Pradesh Zamindari Abolition and Land Reform Act 1950. The U.P Zamindari Abolition and Land Reform Act set up two new institutions, the Gaon Samaj and the Land Management Committee. The Act vested all the estates which were vested in the state Government to the Gaon Sabha and the land management committee, which was the special executive body of the Gaon Sabha. Gram Sabha was vested with all lands of common utility such as ‘Abadi sites’(abadi land is land used for purposes other than agriculture, for example, industrial purpose, residential or public use like schools), pathways, wasteland, fisheries, village forests, hats, bazaars and melas. This system makes a village a small republic. The Act intends to create a co-operative community which will facilitate economic and social development and will encourage social responsibility and community spirit.
11. Structures on the land remained with the existing owner
All the structures in the zamindari estate were not taken away from the current owner. They remained in their possession, like all the trees and wells in the ‘Abadi’ and all buildings situated in the zamindar estate.
Classes on Tenure Holders Under U.P. Zamindari Abolition Act
There were 14 types of tenures before the UP Zamindari Abolition and Land Reforms Act 1950 was enacted. These categories were very confusing and complicated. Therefore, all the old classes of land tenures were abolished by the new Act and substituted these classes with four new classes of land tenures:
- Sirdar or Bhumidhar with non-transferable rights
The Adivasi class was discontinued after five years of the Act coming into force as Adhivasi was transitional form land tenure. Adivasi was created as a temporary right, in the beginning, for those who were tenants of Sir or sub-tenants or occupants and trespassers in actual possession of a holding. This right was to continue for a period of five years after the passage of the Zamindari Abolition Act and was to be converted into bhumidhari on payment of 15 times the rent they had paid earlier. Subsequently, all Adivasis were declared Sirdars.
Section 133 A was added in by the U.P. Zamindari Abolition and land reform Amendment Act 1958, which added another category of land tenure called “government leases”.
But, the provisions of the Act do not govern the rights and liabilities of the government leases but these are governed by terms and conditions of the lease.
In 1977, after an amendment, all the sirdars were converted into two new classes; (a) bhumidhar with transferable rights and (b) bhumidhar with non- transferable rights. Asami’s category was not changed. After the amendments made in 1977, there were three categories of tenure holders according to U.P. Zamindari Abolishment and Land Reform Act:
- Bhumidhar with transferable rights.
- Bhumidhar with non-transferable rights.
Who is a Bhumidhar with transferable rights?
Section 130 of the U.P. Zamindari Abolition and Land Reform Act, divides bhumidhar with transferable rights into four classes:
- Every person who gained ownership of land or became a bhumidhar after the abolition of zamindari by the Act.
- Every person who became a sirdar after the abolition of zamindari in 1950 and had paid ten times of the land revenue to acquire bhumidhari rights.
- Anyone who was a sirdas before the UP Land Laws (Amendment) Act, 1977 was enacted and had the right to acquire bhumidhari rights by paying ten times of the land revenue.
- Any person, other than the above categories, who acquires bhumidhari rights through any other manner with transferable rights in accordance with the provisions of the U.P. Zamindari Abolition and Land Reform Act.
According to the amendment of 1977, the bhumidhar with transferable rights has the most secure and highest type of ownership or highest type of tenure holder. His/Her interest is protected, permanent, transferable and heritable.
Who is a Bhumidhar with non-transferable rights?
According to Section 131 and Section 131A of the U.P. Zamindari Abolition and Land Reform Act divides Bhumidhar with non-transferable rights into five categories. These are:
- Anyone who has been admitted as sirdas in accordance with Section 195 of the U.P. Zamindari Abolition and Land reform Act which gives the Land Management committee the right to admit any person as a bhumidhar with non-transferable rights subject to conditions laid down in the said section before 1977 amendments were adopted.
- The Act also includes a person who has acquired bhumidhari rights in accordance with the provisions of the Uttar Pradesh Bhoodan Yojna Act, 1952.
- Every person with surplus land under Section 26 A or under subsection (3) of Section 26 A has surplus land that has been settled.
- It includes every person in Sonbhadra district, south of Kaimur Range, who is a cultivator and is in possession of the land which is vested in Gaon Sabha or belongs to the state government, before 30th June, 1978. In the portion of District Sonbhadra, South of Kaimur Range, every person in cultivator possession of any land, vested in a Gaon Sabha or belonging to the state government, before June 30, 1978, on three conditions:
- It is not land notified under Section 20 of the Indian Forest Act, 1927.
- It does not exceed the maximum ceiling area determined under the UP Imposition of Ceiling on Land Holdings Act, 1960.
- It is not land mentioned under Section 132 or Section 133 A.
- It includes anyone other than the above-mentioned categories who have acquired non-transferable bhumidari right in any other manner in accordance with the provisions of the Act.
Who is an Asami?
The Amendment Act of 1977 divides Asami tenure holders into four classes. They are as follows:
- Every person who acquired Asami rights after the abolition of zamindari.
- Every person who has been admitted by the Land Management Committee under a bhumidhar as a lessee of the land.
- Anyone who is admitted as a lessee of land under Section 132 by the Land Management Committee or a person entitled.
- Anyone who has acquired the rights of an Asami through any other way under the Act or any other law.
The Uttar Pradesh Panchayat Raj Act, 1947 established two institutions at the village level, the Gram Sabha and the Gram Panchayat. The U.P Zamindari Abolition and Land Reforms Act 1950 established two new institutions the Gram Sabha and the Land Management Committee also called the ‘Bhumi Prabandhak Samiti’. After the 1994 amendment to the U.P Panchayat Raj Act, changes in the powers, rights and duties within these institutions were incorporated. The Gram Sabha or the Gaon Sabha was established under Section 3 of the Panchayat Raj Act 1947. The gaon sabha is an elected body that has a perpetual succession and common seal. The gram sabha has been vested with the power to acquire the property by purchase, gift or through any other legal provision. It has the authority to hold, administer and transfer the movable or immovable property. It can enter into a contract, it can sue and can be sued.
Section 117 of the U.P Zamindari Abolition and Land Reform Act gives vesting of certain lands in the gram sabha. The said section also gives the state government the power to revest all or any land in gram sabha by declaration through a notification in the Official Gazette. Following lands have been vested in the gaon sabha by the state government:
- Lands (cultivable or not);
- Any forest land that comes within the area of gaon sabha;
- Scattered trees, which are not on anyone’s holdings;
- With the exception of those vested with Zila Panchayat under Section 119 and those belonging to bhumidars or other owners of the land, all the huts, bazaars and melas are vested in gaon sabha.
- All the water tanks, ponds, water channels, private ferries, Abadi sites and pathways.
Jurisdiction of gram sabha
The jurisdiction of gram sabha expands over all public property situated within its territorial limits. The state government has the power to give public prosperities to a gram sabha which is not situated within its territorial limits. In such a case, gram sabha or it’s land management property has the power to administer that land. It can exercise all its functions and duties on that land as given by the U.P Zamindari Abolition and Land Reform Act or the U.P Panchayat Act. But these powers are subject to modifications or conditions according to the provisions of the Act.
Functions, duties and powers
The functions of the GramSabha can be divided into two categories:
- Duties related to land.
- General powers and duties.
The entrustment of general acts other than that of land which is vested in Gram Sabha is taken by the gram sabha and the gram panchayat. The land management committee is responsible for the functions and duties related to land.
Land Management Committee
Section 28 A of U.P. Panchayat Raj Act 1947, the gram sabha should work in coordination with the Land Management Committee and assist the committee in its duty to protect and supervise all the property that is vested in the gaon sabha through Section 117 of U.P. Zamindari Abolition and Land Reforms Act or any provision of the Act. Section 122, 122A and 122B define the composition and powers of the Land Management Committee. All the members of the Land management committee are also members of gaon sabha. The Lekhpal of the Gram Sabha is secretary of the land management committee. The committee also consists of members from gram or gaon panchayat. The Land Management Committee consists of all the members of gaon panchayat. The Pradhan of the gram sabha is the ex- officio pradhan of the gram panchayat and also the chairman of the land management committee.
Powers vested in the Land Management Committee
- The committee can admit any person as the owner of land or tenure holder of any land that is vested with the gram sabha or any other land that is a possession of the committee through the provision of law.
- The committee has the right to initiate suit in case any of the property of the gram sabha has been damaged or misappropriated, with approval from the assistant district collector. The Assistant collector will initiate the proceedings for recovery and compensation for the damages.
- Under Section 212 of the U.P Zamindari Abolition and Land Reforms Act any land that can either be used for “public utility” or can be ejected by the Land management committee. Any member of the committee may make an application under the said section.
- The state government might give the power to the land management committee to collect land revenue. The committee will receive a commission of 6.25% on the land revenue collected and realized by it.
- The committee has the power to admit an Asami on behalf of a bhumidhar with non-transferable rights, in case the bhumidhar is a minor, or a lunatic or has not used the land for agriculture, animal husbandry, horticulture, poultry farming and pisciculture for two consecutive fasli years.[According to Section 3 of Uttar Pradesh Tenancy Act 1939, Agricultural year means the year commencing on the first day of July and ending on the 30th day of June. The term has been interpreted to be synonymous with Fasli year.]
- The land management committee has the right to take possession of property:
- In a case where a bhumidhar with transferable rights dies without a legal heir and without making a legal will.
- In a case where a bhumidhar with non-transferable rights dies without an heir. In case of a bhumidhar, who has non-transferable rights, decides to surrender his holding or decides to abandon his holdings.
- In case a bhumidar has been ejected from his property in accordance with the provisions laid down in this Act or any other provision in the law.
- In case an Asami tenure holder has been ejected or dies without an heir.
- The committee also has the power to allot land for building houses for the members of the scheduled caste or scheduled tribes or landless labourers or village artisans, but the committee has to get prior approval of the Assistant Collector of the sub-division.
- The possession and disposal of any wasteland, forest land and scattered trees in the village are given to the Land management committee.
Accountability of Land management Committee
Section 123 A of the U.P Zamindari and Land Reform Act makes each member liable for their actions. The said section provides that any member found guilty of any misconduct or neglect, which leads to a loss or misapplication shall be held liable for that loss. The Gram Sabha and the committee has the right to initiate a suit for compensation against the faulting member with permission from the district collector.
Under Section 132, the U.P Panchayat Raj Act establishes a gaon fund for every gaon sabha. All the money that is received in the name of gaon sabha, gaon panchayat and the land management committee is received in the gaon fund except for damages and compensation. The gaon fund is used by the gaon sabha, gaon panchayat and the land management committee for carrying out their day-to-day duties and obligations.
Rehabilitation Grant and Compensation under Uttar Pradesh Zamindari Abolition and Land Reforms Act
Chapter 4(Section 65-84) of the Uttar Pradesh Zamindari Abolition and Land Reform Act, contains all the provisions regarding compensation, and Chapter 5(Section 85-105) contains all the provisions regarding rehabilitation grant. The U.P Zamindari Act and Land Reform Act changed the land law and abolished the zamindari system. All the zamindars were stripped off all their land rights, and all their estates were taken away by the state government. The state government gave all the zamindars or intermediaries compensation and rehabilitation grant in return of the land taken by the government. The aim of giving compensation is to compensate the zamindars who had to give up their property. Rehabilitation grant was introduced to give former intermediaries an opportunity to find a new livelihood and find other alternatives for rehabilitation.
Application for rehabilitation grant
According to Section 79, an intermediary entitled to be paid the grant may within three years from the date it has become payable under Section 74 or within three years from the date of commencement of the Uttar Pradesh Land Reforms (Amendment) Act, 1958, whichever maybe later, apply in writing to the Rehabilitation Grants Officer for determination and payment of the grant.
Determination of the amount of rehabilitation grant
According to Section 97, after the statement under Section 92 has been prepared, the Rehabilitation Grants Officer shall determine the amount payable as rehabilitation grant to each intermediary. According to Section 98, the amount of the grant is subject to such marginal adjustments as may be prescribed. The amount payable as rehabilitation grant to an intermediary shall, except in the case of waqf, trust or endowment, be such multiple of the net assets mentioned in the statement prepared under Section 92 as may be applicable in accordance with the table given in Schedule I.
Appeal for dismissing the application
According to Section 101, an appeal shall lie to the District Judge from any order of the Rehabilitation Grants Officer dismissing an application under Section 85 or disposing of an objection under Section 88, or from any order under Sections 90, 98, 99, 100-A or 100-B.
Difference between compensation and Rehabilitation Grant
There are differences between compensation and rehabilitation grant; they can be summarized as follows:
- Rehabilitation Grant is only paid to a Zamindar or intermediary, whereas compensation is given to intermediaries and thekedar both.
- The grant amount, when given rehabilitation grant, can range between one to twenty times the net assets of the zamindar whereas compensation is given at a fixed rate of eight times of the net assets of the zamindar or thekedar.
- The application process is compulsory to receive rehabilitation grant, but it is not compulsory in case of payment of compensation.
- Rehabilitation grant is given from the date on which the amount of compensation is set. Compensation is given from the date of vesting, except when given to waqf, trust or an endowment.
- There is no interim rehabilitation grant, but interim compensation is given.
- While deciding the amount of rehabilitation, transfer of land by sale or gift is not taken into consideration while when deciding on compensation, transfer of land through sale or gift is to be taken into consideration.
- Arrears of land revenue and specific government dues cannot be recovered from rehabilitation grant; they only to be recovered through compensation.
- “Zamindari Abolition Rehabilitation Grant Bonds” are not interesting bearing bonds whereas “Zamindari Abolition compensation Bonds” are given at an interest rate of 2.5% per annum from the date of vesting.
- In case of compensation, the first appeal lies from the order of the compensation officer to the district judge and the second appeal lies to the High Court. Whereas an appeal lies to the district judge on order from the rehabilitation grant officer. For rehabilitation grant, there is no second appeal only revision petition is allowed in the High Court.
The Uttar Pradesh Zamindari Abolition and Land Reform Act 1950, was signed by the President on 24th January 1951. The vesting order for the Act was issued on 1st July 1952. From the date of vesting, all the titles, rights and interests of all intermediaries were terminated and ceased. But an intermediary who cultivated his land as a share-cropped or self-cultivated the land was given the ownership of the land.
The Zamindari Abolition Act did not give the right of resumption, nor did it provide a ceiling on the area a Zamindar can use for personal cultivation. Therefore, all the occupants of the land, Zamindars and secured or unsecured tenants, were to continue in possession of the land they were cultivating at the time the reforms were enacted.
The Act can be divided into two parts. The first part contains chapters 1 to 6, and the second part contains chapter 6 to 12. The Act has seven schedules and 344 sections. All the zamindars were stripped off all their land rights, and all their estates were taken away by the state government. The state government gave all the zamindars or intermediaries compensation and rehabilitation grant in return of the land taken by the government.
The aim of giving compensation is to compensate the zamindars who had to give up their property. Rehabilitation grant was introduced to give former intermediaries an opportunity to find a new livelihood and find other alternatives for rehabilitation.
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