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Consolidation Of Land Holdings In Uttar Pradesh: A Look Into The Uttar Pradesh Consolidation Of Holdings Act, 1953

Land reform constitutes the most important package of measures to improve the economic condition of agricultural tenants. It aims at the redistribution of agricultural land ownership in favour of the cultivating class, regulation and rationalization of rent, improving the size of farms and providing security to tenure holders in order to raise traditional agricultural produce.

Areas of land reform are very vast and there has been a lot of improvement in its implication ever since. Some of them are land acquisition, requisition, ceiling, abolition of zamindari and intermediaries, tenure and tenancy etc. Consolidation is also a major facet of land reform scope. Land consolidation is a planned readjustment and rearrangement of fragmented land parcels and their ownership. It is usually applied to form larger and more rational land holdings. It can be used to improve rural infrastructure and to implement developmental and environmental policies.

In the state of UP and Uttarakhand, the UP Consolidation of Holdings Act, 1953 is the statutory law on this area of land reform.

Uttar Pradesh is the rainbow land where the multi-hued Indian culture has blossomed from times immemorial. Right from the beginning of the efforts at planned economic development, land reforms were assigned a high priority with a view to remove obstacles in the transformation of agriculture imposed by the exploitative and defective land tenure system in country. However, land reforms in the country have remained content with the objective of the creation of individual proprietary rights and granting security of tenure to the actual tiller of land and did not attempt any basic transformation of the agrarian relations on socialist lines.

UP which had seen the political mobilization of the peasantry during the independence struggle on a large scale was among the more progressive states of the country during first phase of land reforms inititated after independence. In the second phase, attention was focused on the consolidation of the fragmented holdings.

The Uttar Pradesh Consolidation of Holdings Act, 1953 (UP Act No. 5 of 1954) received the assent of the President on 4th March 1954 and was published in UP Gazette Extraordinary, dated 8th March 1954.

The Preamble- Whereas it is expedient to provide for the consolidation of agricultural holdings in Uttar Pradesh for the development of agriculture; it is hereby enacted.
It has V Chapters and 54 Sections.

Meaning of Consolidation

Land consolidation is the reallocation of parcels with the aim the landowners to obtain larger parcels at one or more places in exchange of their former smaller and fragmented land plots. The word land consolidation comes from the Latin commassatio (grouping). Land consolidation has always been something more than only the simple rearrangement of parcels to remove effects of fragmentation seeking higher agricultural productivity and lower costs.[i]

Views of Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

Land consolidation is sometimes incorrectly interpreted to be only the simple reallocation of parcels to remove effects of fragmentation. In reality, land consolidation has been associated with broader social and economic reforms from the time of its earliest applications in Western Europe. The first consolidation initiatives of Denmark in the 1750s were part of a profound social reform to free people from obligations to noble landlords by establishing privately-owned family farms. The consolidation of fragmented holdings did result in improved agricultural productivity but this was not the only objective of these reforms.[ii]

Scope of Land Consolidation Schemes

  • An overall objective of early projects was to increase the net income of production and decreasing its cost. With this focus, these projects served to consolidate parcels and included other provisions like irrigation, land leveling etc.
     
  • The emphasis has shifted from a focus on reconstructing and structuring agriculture to having one of achieving more efficient multiple areas of rural space by balancing interest of agriculture, landscape, nature conservation, recreation etc.
     
  • Environment conditions are given increasing priority.
     
  • Land consolidation now encompasses activities of village renewal. Projects include providing adequate land for new houses and workplace.
     
  • In line with other changes in the concept of rural development, land consolidation now places increased importance on gender inclusion and use of approaches of alternative dispute resolution.
     
  • It also serves to modernize tenure arrangements by eliminating outdated rights of use like grazing, hay making timber felling, fishing etc.

Consolidation under the UP Consolidation of Holdings Act, 1953-
Section 3(2) defines consolidation as:

Consolidation means re-arrangement of holdings in a unit amongst several tenure-holders in such a way as to make their respective holdings more compact;

Explanation - For the purpose of this clause, holding shall not include the following:
  1. Land which was grove in agricultural year immediately preceding the year in which the notification under Section 4 was issued;
  2. land subject to fluvial action and intensive soil erosion;
  3. land mentioned in Section 132 of the U.P. Zamindari Abolition and Land Reforms Act, 1950;
  4. such compact areas as are normally subject to prolonged water-logging;
  5. usar, kallar and rihala plots forming a compact area including cultivated land within such area;
  6. land in use for growing pan, rose, bela, jasmine and kewra; and
  7. such other areas as the Director of Consolidation may declare to be unsuitable for the purpose of Consolidation.
Section 3 (2A) states that 'Consolidation area' means the area, in respect of which notification under Section 4 has been issued, except such portions thereof to which the provisions of the U.P. Zamindari Abolition and Land Reforms Act, 1950, or any other Law by which Zamindari System has been abolished do not apply.

Section 3 (4C) defines holding. 'Holding' means a parcel or parcels of land held under one tenure by a tenure-holder singly or jointly with other tenure-holders];

According to Section 3 (5) 'Land' means land held or occupied for purposes connected with agriculture, horticulture and animal husbandry (including pisciculture and poultry farming) and includes:
  1. the site, being part of a holding, of a house or other similar structure; and
  2. trees, wells and other improvements existing on the plots forming the holding.

Under Section 3(11), 'Tenure-holder' means a bhumidhar with transferable rights or bhumidhar with non-transferable right and includes:
  1. an asami,
  2. a Government lessee or Government grantee, or
  3. a co-operative farming society satisfying such conditions as may be prescribed.

How does Consolidation of Land take place?

  1. Declaration and Notification regarding Consolidation.
  2. Revision of Maps and Records.
  3. Preparation of Statements and Principles.
  4. Inviting objections and Appeal.
  5. Assessment of Land Revenue on Holdings.
  6. Preparation of Consolidation Scheme.
  7. Enforcement of the Scheme.
  8. Compensation.
  9. Consequences which will ensue.

Declaration and Notification regarding Consolidation

First of all a declaration is made under Section 4 of the Act. The State Government may, where it is of opinion that a district or part thereof may be brought under consolidation operations, make a declaration to that effect in the Gazette, whereupon it shall become lawful for any officer or authority who may be empowered in this behalf by the District Deputy Director of Consolidation:
  1. to enter upon and survey, in connection with rectangulation or otherwise, and to take levels of any land in such area;
  2. to fix pillars in connection with rectangulation, and;
  3. to do all acts necessary to ascertain the suitability of the area for consolidation operations.
The District Deputy Director of Consolidation shall cause public notice of the declaration issued under clause (a) to be given at convenient places in the said district or part thereof.
When the State Government decides to start consolidation operations, either in an area covered by a declaration issued in sub-section (1) or anhy other area it may issue a notification to this effect to be published in the Gazette and in a daily newspaper having circulation in that area.

In Mahabeer vs State Of U.P. Through Consolidation Commissioner decided on 8 February, 2017, it was observed that notification under Section 4 of the Act is issued in a case where an appeal against the preliminary decree, was not pending the latter, viz, he preliminary decree, will remain unaffected and will not abate but if the preliminary decree had been assailed in appeal, and the appeal is pending on the date of Notification, the latter namely, the Notification, will have the effect of abating the entire suit/proceedings including the preliminary decree passed therein. On the contrary, if an appeal is filed against the final decree without there being any appeal against the preliminary decree and the preliminary decree becomes "unassailable" on account of Sec. 97, C.P.C. the Notification under Section 4 would abate the proceedings relating to the final decree without in any way touching, impairing or affecting the preliminary decree.[iii]

Under Section 5, Upon the publication of the notification under sub-section (2) of Section 4 in the Official Gazette, the consequences, as hereinafter set forth, shall, subject to the provisions of this Act, from the date specified thereunder till the publication of notification under Section 52 or sub-section (1) of Section 6, as the case may be, ensue in the area to which the notification under Section 4(2) relates, namely:

(a) the district or part thereof, as the case may be, shall be deemed to be under consolidation operations and the duty of maintaining the record-of-rights and preparing the village map, the field-book and the annual register of each village shall be performed by the District Deputy Director of Consolidation, who shall maintain or prepare them, as the case may be, in manner prescribed;

(c) notwithstanding anything contained in the U.P. Zamindari Abolition and Land Reforms Act, 1950, no tenure-holder, except with the permission in writing of the Settlement Officer, Consolidation, previously obtained shall-
(i) use his holding or any part thereof for purposes not connected with agriculture, horticulture or animal husbandry including pisciculture and poultry farming; or

Provided that a tenure-holder may continue to use his holding, or any part thereof, for any purpose for which it was in use prior to the date specified in the notification issued under sub-section (2) of Section 4.

(2) Upon the said publication of the notification under sub-section (2) of Section 4, the following further consequences shall ensue in the area to which the notification relates, namely:
  1. every proceeding for the correction of records and every suit and proceeding in respect of declaration of rights or interest in any land lying in the area, or for declaration or adjudication of any other right in regard to which proceedings can or ought to be taken under this Act, pending before any Court or authority whether of the first instance or of appeal, reference or revision, shall, on an order being passed in that behalf by the Court or authority before whom such suit or proceeding is pending, stand abated:
    Provided that no such order shall be passed without giving to the parties notice by post or in any other manner and after giving them an opportunity of being heard :
    Provided further that on the issue of a notification under sub-section (1) of Section 6 in respect of the said area or part thereof, every such order in relation to the land lying in such area or part as the case may be, shall stand vacated;
     
  2. such abatement shall be without prejudice to the rights of the persons affected to agitate the right or interest in dispute in the said suits or proceedings before the appropriate consolidation authorities under and in accordance with the provisions of this Act and the rules made thereunder.

Explanation:
For the purposes of sub-section (2), a proceeding under the Uttar Pradesh Imposition of Ceiling on Land Holdings Act, 1960 or an uncontested proceeding under Sections 134 to 137 of the U.P. Zamindari Abolition and Land Reforms Act, 1950, shall not be deemed to be a proceeding in respect of declaration of rights or interest, in any land.

Special provision with respect of undisputed succession or transfer is given under Section 6A.

Revision of Maps and Records:

With a view to facilitate the revision of records of each village or part thereof in the unit and subject to the provisions of the Act, the District Deputy Director of Consolidation shall, before the provisional consolidation Scheme for a unit is prepared, cause to be revised the village maps of such unit.(Section 7). Similarly under Section 8, revision of the field book and the current annual register; determination of valuations and shares in joint holdings.

Preparation of Statement of Principles

Section 8A states as, (1) The Assistant Consolidation Officer shall, in consultation with the Consolidation Committee, prepare, in respect of each unit under consolidation operations, a statement in the prescribed form (hereinafter called the Statement of Principles) setting forth the principles to be followed in carrying out the consolidation operations in the unit.

(2) The Statement of Principles shall also contain:
  1. details of areas, as far as they can be determined at this stage, to be earmarked for extension of abadi including areas for abadi site for Harijans and landless persons in the unit, and for such other public purposes as may be prescribed;
  2. the basis on which the tenure-holders will contribute land for extension of abadi and for other public purposes; and
  3. details of land to be earmarked for public purposes out of land vested in a Gaon Sabha or a Local Authority under Section 117 or Section 117-A of the Uttar Pradesh Zamindari Abolition and Land Reforms Act, 1950.
  4. the standard plots for each unit.

(3) The standard plots referred to in clause (d) of sub-section (2) shall be determined by the Assistant Consolidation Officer after ascertaining from the members of the Consolidation Committee and the tenure-holders of the units, the best plot or plots of the unit, regard being had to productivity, location and the existing soil class of the plot or plots.

Inviting objections and appeals

Issue of extracts from records and statements and publication of records mentioned in Sections 8 and 8-A and the issue of notices for inviting objections. - (1) Upon the preparation of the records and the statements mentioned in Sections 8 and 8-A, the Assistant Consolidation Officer shall:
  1. correct the clerical mistakes, if any, and send, or cause to be sent, to the tenure-holders concerned and other persons interested, notices containing relevant extracts from the current annual register and such other records as may be prescribed showing:
    1. their rights in and liabilities in relation to the land;
    2. mistakes, undisputed cases of succession and disputes discovered under Section 8 in respect thereof;
    3. specific shares of individual tenure-holders in joint holdings for the purpose of effecting partitions, where necessary, to ensure proper consolidation;
    4. valuation of the plots; and
    5. valuation of trees, wells and other improvements for calculating compensation therefor and its apportionment amongst owners, if there be more owners than one;
  2. publish in the unit the current khasra and the current annual register, the khasra chakbandi, the Statement of Principles prepared under Section 8-A, and any other records that may be prescribed to show, inter alia, the particulars referred to in clause (a).

(2) Any person to whom a notice under sub-section (1) has been sent, or any other person interested may, within 21 days of the receipt of notice, or of the publication under sub-section (1), as the case may be, file, before the Assistant Consolidation Officer, objections in respect thereof disputing the correctness or nature of the entries in the records or in the extracts furnished therefrom, or in the Statement of Principles, or the need for partition.

While reckoning with the matter relating to consolidation, the Apex Court in Mohd. Shakoor Mian v. Raj Mangal Mishra[iv] held in para 6 that the Consolidation authorities cannot be equated with regular courts.

Under Section 11, Any party to the proceedings under Section 9-A, aggrieved by an order of the Assistant Consolidation Officer or the Consolidation Officer under that section, may, within 21 days of the date of the order, file an appeal before the Settlement Officer, Consolidation, who shall after affording opportunity of being heard to the parties concerned, give his decision thereon which, except as otherwise provided by or under this Act, shall be final and not be questioned in any Court of law

Assessment of Land Revenue on Holdings

Under Section 12A of the Act, Notwithstanding anything contained in the U.P. Zamindari Abolition and Land Reforms Act, 1950, the Settlement Officer, Consolidation, may, subject to the rules made in this behalf:
  1. determine the amount of land revenue payable by a tenure-holder on land on which he acquires rights as a result of orders passed under this Act, and
  2. where necessary, also determine the amount of land revenue payable in respect of a portion of the tenure-holder's holding.

Preparation of Consolidation Scheme

Under Section 19 (1) A Consolidation Scheme shall fulfil the following conditions, namely:
  1. the rights and liabilities of a tenure-holder, as recorded in the annual register prepared under Section 10, are, subject to the deductions, if any, made on account of contributions to public purposes under this Act, secured in the lands allotted to him;
  2. the valuation of plots allotted to a tenure-holder, subject to deductions, if any, made on account of contributions to public purposes under this Act is equal to the valuation of plots originally held by him

    Provided that, except with the permission of the Director of Consolidation, the area of the holding or holdings allotted to a tenure-holder shall not differ from the area of his original holding or holdings by more than twenty five per cent of the latter;
  3. the compensation determined under the provisions of this Act, or the rules framed thereunder, is awarded
 
  1. to the tenure-holder
    1. for trees, wells and other improvements, originally held by him and allotted to another tenure-holder, and
    2. for land contributed by him for public purposes;
       
  2. to the Gaon Sabha, or any other local authority, as the case may be, for development, if any, effected by it in or over land belonging to it and allotted to a tenure-holder;
(d) the principles laid down in the Statement of Principles are followed;

(e) every tenure-holder is, as far as possible, allotted a compact area at the place where he holds the largest part of his holding :
Provided that no tenure-holder may be allotted more chaks than three, except with the approval in writing of the Deputy Director of Consolidation:
Provided further that no consolidation made shall be invalid for the reason merely that the number of chaks allotted to a tenure-holder exceeds three;

(f) every tenure-holder is, as far as possible, allotted the plot on which exists his private source of irrigation or any other improvement, together with an area in the vicinity equal to the valuation of the plots originally held by him there; and

(g) every tenure-holder is, as far as possible, allotted chaks in conformity with the process of rectangulation in rectangulation units.

(2) A Consolidation Scheme before it is made final under Section 23, shall be provisionally drawn up in accordance with the provisions of Section 19-A.

Enforcement of Scheme

Section 24 deals with possession and accrual of compensation for trees etc. (1) The Settlement Officer, Consolidation, shall fix the date, to be notified in the unit, from which the final Consolidation Scheme shall come into force. On and after the said date a tenure-holder shall be entitled to enter into possession of the plots allotted to him.

(2) On and from the date of obtaining possession every tenure-holder getting trees, wells and other improvements existing on the plots allotted to him in pursuance of the enforcement of the final Consolidation Scheme shall be liable for the payment of and pay to the former tenure-holder thereof, compensation for the trees, wells and other improvements, allotted to him, to be determined in the manner hereinbefore provided.

New revenue records are to be prepared under Section 27. Under Section 28, the Assistant Consolidation Officer, on the application of the tenure-holder or the Land Management Committee, to whom chak or lands have been allotted under the final Consolidation Scheme, may, and where any land has been allotted to the State Government shall, without any application of the State Government, within six months of the date on which the said Scheme has come into force, put the tenure-holder or the Land Management Committee or the State Government, as the case may be, in actual physical possession of the allotted chak or lands,; and for so doing shall have all the powers, including powers as regards contempt, resistance and the like as are exercisable by a Civil Court in execution of a decree for delivery of possession of immovable property.

Compensation
Where possession over standing crops also is delivered under Section 28, the Assistant Consolidation Officer shall determine in the manner prescribed the compensation payable in respect of such crops by the tenure-holder put in possession. Any person aggrieved by an order may, within fifteen days of the date of the order, prefer an appeal before the Consolidation Officer, whose decision thereon shall be final.

Under Section 29B compensation for land contributed by tenure holders for public purposes is also given:

  1. in the case of land of a bhumidhar with transferable rights, four times, and
  2. in the case of land of a bhumidhar with non-transferable rights, two times of the land revenue reduced under Section 29-AA.
In the case of trees, wells and other improvements, falling within the land so contributed, the amount of compensation shall be determined in accordance with the provisions of Section 19.

Compensation which will ensue on exchange of possession

With effect from the date on which a tenure-holder enters, or is deemed to have entered into possession of the chak allotted to him, in accordance with the provisions of this Act, the following consequences shall ensue:
  1. the rights, title, interest and liabilities:
    1. of the tenure-holder entering, or deemed to have entered into possession, and
    2. of the former tenure-holder of the plots comprising the chak, in their respective original holdings shall cease; and
       
  2.  the tenure-holder entering into possession, or deemed to have entered into possession, shall have in his chak the same rights, title, interest and liabilities as he had in the original holdings together with such other benefits of irrigation from a private source, till such source exists, as the former tenure-holder of the plots comprising the chak had in regard to them;
     
  3. lands vested in the Gaon Sabha, or any local authority and allotted to the tenure-holder shall be deemed to have been resumed by the State Government under the provisions of Section 117 or Section 117-A, as the case may be, of the Uttar Pradesh Zamindari Abolition and Land Reforms Act, 1950, and settled with the tenure-holder;
     
  4. the rights of the public as well as all individuals in or over land included in a chak following a declaration made under the proviso to sub-section (2) of Section 19-A shall cease and be created in the land specified for the purpose in the final Consolidation Scheme; and
     
  5. the encumbrances, if any, upon the original holding of the tenure-holder entering, or deemed to have been entered, into possession, whether by way of lease, mortgage or otherwise, shall, in respect of that holding, cease, and be created on the holdings, or on such part thereof, as may be specified in the final Consolidation Scheme.
Conclusion
There is no escape from the conclusion that equitable distribution will require creating good jobs in the industries and services to which some landless rural workers and marginal farmers can migrate.[v] Given effective implementation, land use and consolidation can improve the productivity of household crop production through several mechanism, a reduction in transaction costs, including the costs of transporting inputs and outputs across plots, and other operational difficulties should increase labour productivity and enable more efficient use of land.

Improvements in land quality through improved access to agricultural inputs, fertilizers and more improved access to agricultural inputs, fertilizing techniques; specially the inputs and initiative for distributing agricultural facilities must be made and proper farm design available.

End-Notes:
  1. https://advanceterrafund.bg/en/what-is-land-consolidation
  2. http://www.fao.org/3/y4954e/y4954e06.htm
  3. Observed by Hon'ble Rajan Roy, J
  4. JT 1999 (9) SC 293
  5. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/need-to-reform-lease-laws-for-consolidating-land-holding/article8492234.ece
Image Courtesy: https://www.livemint.com/Politics/Psf4hDcOL3nm7S7ZAcDaIO/NITI-Aayog-proposes-model-land-leasing-law.html

Written By: Vanshika Sharma

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