Legal Service India - Need For Uniform Land Revenue System in India: A Critical Appraisal
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Need For Uniform Land Revenue System in India: A Critical Appraisal

Written by: Sneha Snehal and Ajay Chaudhary - Hidayatullah National Law University, Near Raj Bhawan, Civil Lines, Raipur, Chhattisgarh
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Land has always been a bone of contention. Be it between two individuals where one fights for the ownership which the other party is claiming to have. In case of political parties it is the vote banks for them and for nations, all always wants even if they get a small chunk of it they are ready. Thus giving such a power at the centre would make it difficult for the citizens itself. With the kind of diversity our country has every 20 kilometers the land revenue would have to be changed.

Even if we say that UCC is a desirable thing in this country, it is also opined that it is not a practicable scheme for the kind of structure our country has. In the same light it can be said that though it would be desirable to have a Uniform Land Revenue System in the nation it would not be a very practicable solution for the situation which prevails in our country. This method is more acceptable and achievable in a country marked for an excessive plurality of kind of land and the topographical structure.

A uniform land revenue system cannot be made till there is consensus among people belonging to all regions. As stated above, ours is a nation which has a very typical situation. The topography does not support it nor does the culture of the nation. It is not to say that Uniform Land Revenue Code would bring doom to the country. All that has to be said is that it should not be implemented until a consensus is reached and it is felt by all that the step taken is a correct one.

Comparison of UCC And Uniform Land Revenue System In India

"A common civil code will help the cause of national integration by removing disparate loyalties to law which have conflicting ideologies" - The then Chief Justice of India Y.V. Chandrachud.

Uniform Civil Code (UCC), the mere three words and the nation breaks into hysterical jubilation and frantic wailing. These three words are enough to divide the nation into two categories - politically, socially and religiously. The politics divide it for their vote banks, the intelligentsia of the country, analyze logically the pros and cons of the UCC and the illiterate who have no opinion of their own succumb to the political pressure. Religiously, there is a dangerous widening split between the majority Hindus and the minority community mostly the Muslims. Some people strongly support the crusade for the implementation of UCC and homogenizing the personal laws feeling that it is the need of the hour but on the other hand the other lot thinks that this is not anything but just a publicity stunt of political parties to win vote banks. It is a mere sham played by the ‘literate’ on the ‘illiterate’ of the subject-matter.

In the same way the opinion of different groups of the society might be different even in case of implementation of a Uniform Land Revenue System in India. Some might think that by implementation of a Uniform Land Revenue System that the very foundation of levying of land revenue might be shaken. The very scheme on which land revenue is charged will get affected by the implementation of the uniform land revenue system.

The UCC will not and shall not result in interference of one’s religious beliefs relating, mainly to maintenance, succession and inheritance. This means that under the UCC a Hindu will not be compelled to perform a nikah or a Muslim be forced to carry out saptapadi. But in matters of inheritance, right to property, maintenance and succession, there will be a common law.

Justice Khare, in a case, said,
"It is no matter of doubt that marriage, succession and the like matters of secular character cannot be brought within the guarantee enshrined under Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution."

Similarly it can be said about the uniform land revenue code that revenue of different parts cannot be uniform but the law which governs it or the law under which the revenue of different parts of the country maybe fixed can be made under one law.

The Chief Justice also cautioned that any legislation which brought succession and like matters of secular character within the ambit of Articles 25 and 26 is a suspect legislation. Article 25 confers right to practice and profess religion, while Article 44 divests religion from social relations and personal law. The whole debate of a Uniform Civil Code can be summed up by the judgement given by Justice R.M. Sahai. He said,

"Ours is a secular democratic republic. Freedom of religion is the core of our culture. Even the slightest of deviation shakes the social fibre. But religious practices, violative of human rights and dignity and sacerdotal suffocation of essentially civil and material freedoms are not autonomy but oppression. Therefore, a unified code is imperative, both, for protection of the oppressed and for promotion of national unity and solidarity."

This concept would go very well even with the proposition of coming out with a Uniform Land Revenue Code in India. It can be opined that though it is right to have separate land revenue for separate parts of the nation it is also necessary to keep in mind that the very core reason of having different land revenue for various parts of the country should not become the reason for its own downfall.

Uniform Land Revenue System In India- Pros And Cons

A. Constitutional Procedure
‘Land’ is a subject which is there in the State List of the Constitution of India, 1950. It is Entry 18 in the State List of Schedule VII of the Constitution of India. Thus this means that as provided under Article 246 of the Constitution of India. Clause (3) of Art. 246 confers an exclusive power on the States to make laws with respect to the matters enumerated in the State List (List II of the Seventh Schedule). These are matters which admit to local variations and, from an administrative point of view, are best handled at the state level and, therefore, the Centre is debarred from legislating with respect to these matters. Thus if a particular matter falls within the exclusive competence of the states, i.e. List II, that represents the prohibited field for the Centre. This entry is the source of the legislative power of the States for extensive agrarian reform legislation which has been undertaken in independent India. The words ‘collection of rent’ empowers the State legislature to impose any limitation on the power of landlords to collect rents, that is to say, with respect to the remission of rents. Thus taking all this view it can be very well interpreted that there is not a possibility of a legislation made at the centre on ‘land’ as it is a subject-matter of the State List.

But if we see it from the other end the Constitution itself provides for a solution to such a problem. Clause (1) of Art. 252 of the Constitution provides for delegation of powers by two or more States to Parliament so as to enable it to legislate with respect to a matter in the State List in relation to such states. If it appears to two or more State Legislatures to be desirable that any matter in the State List should be regulated in such States by Parliament by law, and if resolutions to that effect are passed by the Houses of those State Legislatures, Parliament can then pass an Act for regulating that matter so far as those states are concerned. So taking a cue from here if all the states agree and they pass a resolution to the same effect then the Parliament can have the power to legislate a Uniform Land Revenue System in the whole of India. The only requirement would be passing of a resolution by the Houses of the State Legislature. It is a condition precedent. “It is as if such matter is lifted out of List II and placed in List I of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution”.

This provision has been used a few times. In the R.M.D.C. case, in order to have a uniform law for the control and regulation of prize competitions, several States passed resolutions authorizing parliament to enact the requisite legislation. The need for a central law was felt in the instant case because these competitions were run by out-of-state journals which a State law could not effectively control. Parliament then enacted the Prize Competitions Act, 1955. Hence if two or more states want to make a Uniform Land Revenue System in India all they would have to do is pass a resolution in the same regard and then the Constitution would be empowered to make legislation in this regard.

B. Codification
The biggest obstacle in implementing the Uniform Land Revenue Code in the whole if India, apart from obtaining a consensus, is the drafting. Another question to be answered is should UCC be a blend of all the existing laws of all the states or should it be a new law adhering to the needs of all the regions of the nation. There is still not a model law churned out. It is a belief that under the guise of Uniform Land Revenue Code, the only law which will be imposed is one which has only some minor powers at the Centre and most of the powers will still be in the hands of the regulating authorities which are appointed in different states. The new code which is to be made should be based on equality of all regions and comprising the best elements of all the state laws.

The Uniform Land Revenue Code should carve a balance between protections of specific needs of particular states and still have a uniformity which can be seen and felt. It should be a code, which is just and proper according to a man of ordinary prudence, without any bias with regards to religious or political considerations.

C. What All Would Be With The Centre?
If there is a resolution passed by say all the States, empowering the Parliament to legislate a law on the same lines then the question would be; what all powers will be there with the Centre?

If seen practically, only the power of holding all the revenue from the different States would be with the Centre. The regulation would become very difficult if left only with the Centre. So it would become more of a necessity for the Centre to appoint authorities to carry on the functions at the State level. So this would be possible to do even if the State Legislatures would be making laws on it. Most of the authority would still remain with the States. It would be a Uniform Land Revenue Code only for the sake of having one.

There could be uniformity in applying the law but bye-laws or rules would have to be made specific to the needs of a particular State. The needs of a particular State could be specific and fulfilling it could be done only by the people who understand the need. Like giving the required amount of funds needed by a State may differ from the other. The funds needed by the North-East States is more than those needed by some State in the planes. So money could be allotted in the same regard. This can’t be done if the total pool of money is not with the Centre.

D. Land Revenue-A Huge Source of Revenue For The State

Land revenue is one of the areas from where a huge chunk of money comes to the State Exchequer. If that power is also taken away from the States then they will not be left with any other source of their major income. But this can also be solved as the State would not be denied of any funds. It will only be distribution of funds in a way in which it is required by the State.

E. Reduction In Corruption
It is said that if the Land Revenue System is made uniform the corruption would decrease. It would be so as if the power is with a high-end authority a person would have to gather a lot of strength before doing a corrupt act. But in my opinion it is just the opposite. As the hierarchy would have a higher number of officers so the number of levels at which corruption can take place would also increase substantially.

F. Topographical Reasons

Topographical structure of our country is another reason why it is difficult to implement a Uniform Land Revenue System in India in its absolute sense. As it is known that the soil quality differs in different parts of our country it would be next to impossible to levy the same land revenue in the whole nation. But as is the case in Chhattisgarh Land Revenue Code (CGLRC), it is not necessary that same tax is levied on all parts. It is seen in CGLRC itself that the land revenue is not the same in all parts of Chhattisgarh. The land revenue is charged depending on the productivity of the land. So it would not be that a land which has not been able to produce anything would be charged the same land revenue as has been charged by a land which has had a very good harvest. Flood, drought, excess of rain, quality of land, cost of land in the area, quality of soil, irrigation facilities, etc. are the various reasons which are taken into consideration in deciding the land revenue of a particular piece of land or some specific area.

Conclusions And Suggestions
Though it is not easy to conclude whether it will be possible to have a Uniform Land Revenue System in India or not but the researcher would surely want to make a point that she is not favour of Uniform Land Revenue System in India which would be having some model provisions which would be with the Centre and most of the other provisions would still remain with the States. Instead of making the process less cumbersome it would instead make it more cumbersome. Another reason why it is needed to be uniform is to lessen the level of corruption, which the researcher thinks would increase for the reason that the number of tiers of officers would increase.

Though the Constitution would mandate such a practice, it’s ‘infrequent’ use itself proves the success of such a plan. If it would have been a successful scheme there surely would have been more examples except the R.M.D.C. case.

The mandate of the whole of the population is needed. This would be very difficult to obtain as this would affect the vote banks of the political parties which will not be tolerated for any reasons whatsoever, by any state. The typical problems attached with India is a reason enough for there not to be a uniform land revenue code to be made in India. The problems of seven sister states of the North-East cannot be equated with the situation which prevails in the deserts of Rajasthan. Thus in the opinion of the researcher it is more of a Utopian dream to implement a Uniform land Revenue System in India.

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