Meaning Of Land Laws
The phrase "Law of the Land" has been derived from the Latin phrases 'lex terrae'
or 'legem terrae,' which are described in Black's Law Dictionary as "all laws in
force within a country or territory, including statute law and case-made law."
The notion/concept of 'Law of the Land' first flailed its wings in Magna
Carta in 1215. Since then, several academics and jurists have interpreted the
phrase to develop a variety of legal propositions and theories.
Land laws, in layman's words, are those that are determined by the legislature
or by precedents and are related/associated with a property or a piece of land.
Property in this context refers to an object either tangible or intangible which
can be possessed or owned and has some significance or meaning associated with
According to the threefold explanation given by the renowned jurist Salmond of
the term 'property', he stated that property
Before we proceed further with this article, let us first understand the term
"Efficacy of land reform initiatives/measures in post-independence India."
'Efficacy' is also called as sufficiency, competence, effectiveness, or potency,
and it refers to the outcomes that are attained which were desired and wanted.
The capacity to perform what is intended or to be successful at attaining a
result is defined as efficacy. The term 'land reforms' is a deliberate change in
the way agricultural land is held or owned, the methods of cultivation used, or
the relationship of agriculture to the rest of the economy. The
notion/concept/idea of land reform has evolved over time in response to the
variety of services and functions that the land has served to its owner or any
other person associated with it which have been evolving and changing with the
changing time i.e.
The function and purpose of the land served in the ancient or Vedic eras are
vastly different from the function and purpose of the land serve now and it will
be quite different in 100 years than it is today. Previously, land served as a
sign of 'power and respect' and belonged mostly to royal families, clans,
tribes, or agriculturalists, but now it serves as a symbol of social stability,
financial security, and prestige.
The sole purpose of bringing about any reformation in any current set of laws or
principles is the necessity to modify the previously existing framework in
response to the societal demand or need.
Throughout history, the ultimate law adjudicating body of the state has followed
the route of majoritarianism, in which the interests and wants of most of the
people have been prioritized over the needs and demands of the minority. It is
believed that the majority is what governs the society therefore, focusing on
the wants or requirements of the individual while ignoring the demands and needs
of the majority will result in a loss of confidence and respect for the supreme
body, as well as socioeconomic inequities.
Following the same path, land reforms have been implemented at various phases in
order to meet the needs of the general public, which have evolved with the
passage of time. From a police state to a welfare state, our focus when
enforcing laws or rules has switched to numerous other factors such as
education, healthcare, and employment, social security among others. Land reform
has been proposed several times throughout history since it is one of the most
crucial parts of social security.
In times of disaster or otherwise, land serves as a method of financial security
and, acts as an asset. Shelter is one of the three essential requirements for
human survival: food, shelter, and clothing thereby, land has always required
reformation in order to meet the changing demands of the people.
History Of Land Reformation
Understanding the many preceding phases of land reform is critical in order to
appreciate the present system or scenario of land reform (post-independence), as
all the previously discussed stages of land reform functioned as the turning
point or foundation of the current system.
Vedic Era: 1500 Bc To 600 BC
- Among the other Vedas, the Rig Vedas are the earliest compositions
and so depict the lives of India's early Vedic people; the Aryans were the
founders of the Vedas. The 'Aryans' were supposed to have originated in the
steppes of Southern Russia, expanding to Central Asia, and then migrated to
Western India, then to the Hindukush, and finally to the Indian
subcontinent. The early Vedic Aryans resided in a region known as
sapta-sindhu, which translates as "area of seven rivers." This region mostly
encompasses the northern section of South Asia up to the Yamuna River.
Sindhu, Vitasta (Jhelum), Asikni (Chenab), Parushni (Ravi), Vipash (Beas),
Shutudri (Sutlej), and Sarasvati were among the seven rivers. The Rigvedic
people resided, fought wars, and grazed their herds of cattle and other
domesticated animals in this region. During the Later Vedic period, they
gradually moved eastward and came to dominate eastern U.P. (Kosala) and
north Bihar (Videha).
- Various evidences pertaining to the Aryan settlement and mobility, like
their wheels and cremations, have been discovered.
- The ancient land system and agriculture were described in depth in Vedic
literature such as the Upanishads and the Arthshastras.
- Individual holdings or blocks with clear demarcations were referred to
- Such possessions were owned by the family's leader, and this was
- Individual properties or blocks under the ownership of the family's head
were partitioned or split among the head's heirs.
- Land revenue and other revenues were collected based on 'land usage.'
- The governmental need for land revenue accounted for one-sixth of
overall revenue demand.
- The monarch received land revenue in the shape of the kind following the
hierarchy of numerous revenue authorities.
- Village-level land revenue management was continued, and documented land
details known as 'nibandhas' were developed.
- Different rulers made many improvements to the existing land revenue
system over time in response to their demands and requirements.
Medieval Era: Pre-Mughal Period
- Various Mughal monarchs followed the same system as described in the
Vedas, with a few modifications.
- Few emperors, such as Allaudin Khilji, modified the collection of land
revenue from one-sixth to one-half of total land revenue achieved, and
failure to pay it was followed by a series of terrible punishments.
- Shershah established a far more sensible revenue system, which was
followed by standard land measuring.
- During the Mughal dynasty, Akbar, with the assistance of Todarmal,
established the same system as the Shershah, with some variations.
- With the arrival of successive kings in power, various adjustments in
total land income collection were implemented on a constant basis.
Modern Era: During The British Rule
Land revenue became one of the primary sources of income for Britishers in India
when they invaded and ruled the Indian subcontinent which lasted more than 300
years. There were three types of land revenue systems in effect under the
British government in India and the main distinction between these systems were
the modes in the payment of the payment of the land revenue.
The main systems under the British Rule were the following:
- The Zamindari System:
- Lord Cornwallis instituted the zamindari system in 1793 through Permanent
Settlement, which guaranteed the members' land rights in perpetuity without
any provision for set rent or occupation right for genuine farmers.
- The Zamindari system collected land tax from farmers through intermediaries
known as Zamindars.
- The government's portion of total land revenue received by zamindars was
fixed at 10/11th, with the remaining going to zamindars.
- West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, and Madhya
Pradesh had the highest prevalence of the system.
- The Ryotwari system:
- There was a shift away from the concept of Permanent Settlement in British
possessions in southern India.
- The Ryotwari System was created by Captain Alexander Read and Sir Thomas
Munro towards the close of the 18th century and implemented by the latter while
governor of the Madras Presidency (1819-26).
- Land revenue was paid directly to the state by farmers under the Ryotwari
- In this arrangement, the individual cultivator known as Ryot held complete
control over the sale, transfer, and lease of land.
- If the riots paid their rent, they could not be expelled from their
- The removal of intermediaries, who frequently oppressed locals, was one
of the system's benefits.
- The Mahalwari system:
- By the early nineteenth century, Company executives were determined that
the revenue structure needed to be modified once more.
- Revenues cannot be set indefinitely at a time when the Company need more
funds to cover administrative and trading expenditures.
- In the North Western Provinces of the Bengal Presidency, Englishman Holt
Mackenzie established a new method known as the Mahalwari System in 1822. (Most
of this area is now in Uttar Pradesh).
- Under the Mahalwari system, the village headmen collected land revenue from
farmers on behalf of the whole community (and not the zamindar).
- Lord William Bentick popularized the method in Agra and Awadh, and it was
eventually expanded to Madhya Pradesh and Punjab.
- The revenue under the Mahalwari method was to be reviewed on a regular basis
rather than being fixed in stone.
- Lord William Bentick popularized the method in Agra and Awadh, and it was
eventually expanded to Madhya Pradesh and Punjab.
When discussing post-independence India and land reforms, we should focus on the
case laws that had a revolutionary impact on land reforms.
Henry and William Golaknath owned over 500 acres of agricultural property in
Jalandhar, Punjab. Under the Punjab Security and Land Tenures Act, the
government determined that the brothers could only keep thirty acres apiece,
with a few acres going to tenants and the rest deemed surplus.
The family of Golaknath challenged this in court. Furthermore, this case was heard by the
Supreme Court in 1965. The family filed a petition under Article 32 of the
Constitution, saying that the Punjab Act of 1953 infringed on their
constitutional rights to acquire and preserve property, perform any profession
(Article 19 (f) and (g)), and equality before the law (Article 14).
According to Justice Subba Rao, the 17th Amendment infringed Indian people'
basic rights to purchase land and participate in any legitimate profession
guaranteed by the Constitution. The Supreme Court's decision, however, had no
influence on the legality of the 17th Amendment and consequently the 1953
statute since he utilized the Prospective Overruling Doctrine. However, Justice
Subba Rao emphasized that the Parliament would no longer have the authority to
amend Part III of the Constitution, which deals with fundamental human rights.
Kesavananda Bharti Case:
The Supreme Court ruled in Golaknath vs State of Punjab
(1967 AIR 1643) that
Parliament does not have the authority to change Part III of the Constitution,
which contains fundamental rights, since fundamental rights are sacred and
Any alteration made under Article 368 was deemed to be an exemption under
Article 13. As a result, to offset this impact, the Parliament added clause 4 to
Article 13 of the Constitution, ensuring that no alteration would have an effect
under Article 13.
Following the landmark case of Golaknath v State of Punjab, the Parliament
approved a series of reforms aimed at overturning the Golaknath case's decision.
The 24th Constitution Amendment Act of 1971 confirmed Parliament's authority to
change any portion of the Constitution, including Part III, and made the
President's consent to a Constitutional Amendment Bill essential.
Following that, the 25th Constitution Amendment Act of 1972 limited the right to
property contained in Articles 19(1) and 31, authorizing the government to
acquire private property for public purpose in exchange for compensation
determined by Parliament rather than the courts.
The Kerala Land Reforms Amendment Act 1969 and the Kerala Land Reforms Amendment
Act 1971 were added to the Constitution's Ninth Schedule by Parliament.
Kesavananda Bharti Case And Land Reform:
- The Kesavananda Bharti case was moved to the Supreme Court in 1970 when a land
reforms law was passed by the state of Kerela in order to distribute land to the
- Kesavananda Bharti contended that the land reforms law which was imposed on
them by the Kerela Government was an attempt of them to impose it on the mutt's
property which was the only source of income of his ashram.
- His suit also contested three Constitutional changes - 24, 25, and 29 -
enacted by the Indira Gandhi administration to provide Parliament the authority
to change basic rights.
- Bharati claimed that the three amendments violated his fundamental rights
under Article 25 (right to practice and propagate religion), Article 26 (freedom
of religious denomination, including managing and administering its property),
and Article 31 (freedom of religious denomination, including managing and
administering its property) (right to property).
- While the momentous decision did not provide redress to the seer, the
Supreme Court declared that the Constitution's "fundamental structure" was
inviolable and could not be altered by Parliament.
- The "basic structure" theory has served as the foundation for the Indian
judiciary's authority to evaluate or overturn constitutional changes
proposed by Parliament that are in contradiction with or seek to modify this
- The decision, delivered on April 24, 1973, featured the Supreme Court's
full strength of 13 justices at the time – the biggest bench ever to sit in
the supreme court. The vote was divided 7-6.
- The case was heard for 69 days, from 31 October 1972 to 23 March 1973,
with noted constitutional scholar Nani Palkhivala arguing for Bharati.
Post Independence India And Land Reforms:
Land reforms in independent India consisted of four components, which were
implemented in stages due to the need to develop political will for their wider
adoption of these reforms, as satisfying the crowd all at once in reference to
various laws is nearly impossible; thus, releasing these steps post-independence
would have been only possible if done in stages, as they were a part of the
society for a much longer period.
- The Abolition of Intermediaries:
The abolition of the Zamindari System was the first significant agrarian reform
following independence. Zamindari abolition measures were introduced even before
the Indian Constitution was enacted. Based on the Zamindari Abolition Committee,
many union provinces, including the Central Provinces, United Provinces, Bihar,
Assam, Madras, and Bombay, introduced such bills.
As a result, it was expected
that the Zamindars would work to delay the seizure of their estates. The first
significant piece of law was the dismantling of the zamindari system, which
eliminated the layer of intermediaries between growers and the state.
The reform was considerably more effective than the previous reforms in that it
succeeded in taking away the zamindars' superior rights over land and reducing
their economic and political influence in most districts. The change was
designed to benefit genuine landowners, or cultivators.
- Tenancy Reforms
Tenancy reform's main pillars were security of tenure, termination of tenancy,
reinstatement of personal cultivation by the landlord, rent regulation, and
confirmation of ownership rights. Between 1960 and 1972, many state legislation
were implemented. Following the passage of the Zamindari Abolition Acts, the
next important issue was tenancy control.
Tenancy reform laws include provisions for tenant registration and providing
former renters ownership rights in order to put them squarely under the
jurisdiction of the state.
During the pre-independence period, renters paid extravagant rents, ranging from
35% to 75% of total production across India. Tenancy reforms are being
implemented to limit rent, offer renters with security of tenure, and provide
Fair rent was regulated at 20% to 25% of the gross output level in all states
except Punjab, Haryana, Jammu & Kashmir, Tamil Nadu, and some portions of Andhra
Pradesh with the adoption of legislation (early 1950s) to regulate the rent due
- Setting Landholding Caps or fixating ceilings on the land holdings
The maximum size of land holdings that an individual can acquire is referred to
as the ceiling on land holdings. One of the most notable advantages of the Land
Holdings Act is that it eliminates any type of discrimination based on land
owning. The Land Ceiling Acts were the third main type of land reform
legislation. In layman's terms, landholding limits referred to the legally
mandated maximum size above which no one farmer or farm household may possess
any land. The purpose of imposing such a ceiling was to discourage the
accumulation of land in the hands of a few.
The Kumarappan Committee proposed the maximum size of acres that a landlord
might keep in 1942. It was three times the economic holding, or enough to
support a family.
By 1961-62, all state governments had approved land ceiling legislation.
However, the ceiling limitations vary per state. In 1971, a new land ceiling
policy was developed to establish uniformity among states.
National guidelines were published in 1972, with ceiling limitations differing
by area, based on the type of land, its production, and other similar
It was 10-18 acres for finest property, 18-27 acres for second-class land, and
27-54 acres for the rest, with a somewhat greater restriction in hill and desert
The state was expected to identify and take control of surplus land (above the
ceiling limit) possessed by each household with the assistance of these reforms,
and redistribute it to landless families and households in other defined groups,
such as SCs and STs.
- Accumulation/ consolidation of the landholdings
A intentional readjustment and rearranging of scattered land parcels and their
ownership is referred to as land consolidation. It is typically used to create
larger and more reasonable land holdings.
Consolidation referred to the reorganization/redistribution of many plots of
land into a single plot.
Growing population and fewer job prospects in non-agricultural industries raised
demand on land, resulting in a rising trend of landholding fragmentation.
This land fragmentation made irrigation management and personal control of
agricultural parcels extremely challenging.
This resulted in the implementation of landholding consolidation.
Under this statute, if a farmer owned many plots of property in the village,
those plots were consolidated into one larger piece of land by acquiring or
swapping the land.
The efficacy of land reforms in post-independence India could not be understood
while neglecting pre-independence India and the land reforms that have been
implemented from the society's inception. As previously discussed, the first
mention of settlement in history was made in the ancient or Vedic era, which
lasted from 1500 BC to 600 BC, and even after that, there were various
references made in the history of the pre-Mughal, Mughal, British rule, and so
on about land reforms and settlements; thus, understanding the land reforms made
in these 75 years (post-independence) is nearly impossible without understanding
the pre-independence reforms which form the foundation of these 75 years and the
land reforms associated with it.
Land reforms are as important to us these days as any other reformation because
our society is in a continual loop of development and evolution in which it must
implement new laws and policies in order to fulfill the changing demands of the
Land laws will be our focal point in the future because as the
population grows, so does the demand for places to live, places to conduct
agriculture, and places to build socially beneficial infrastructure. In the
future, the scope of land laws will be widened, giving rise to various new land
reforms, which will be followed by a different set of policies and laws.
When we debate land reforms regarding post-independence India, it is difficult
to list all of them since, whether it is 30 days or 30 years from now, India
will remain post-independence. As a result, when dealing with the efficiency of
land laws in post-independence India, we must have an open vision and attitude.
- Magna Carta Libertatum, often known as Magna Carta, is a royal charter
of rights signed by King John of England on 15 June 1215 at Runnymede, near
- The ability of something like a drug or a medical treatment to bring
about the results that are wanted
- A purposive change in the way in which agricultural land is held or
owned, the methods of cultivation that are employed, or the relation of
agriculture to the rest of the economy.
- The Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda, and Atharva Veda, which codified
the concepts and practices of Vedic religion and established the foundation
of traditional Hinduism. They were most likely written between 1500 and 700
BC and comprise hymns, philosophy, and ceremonial direction.
- The Zamindars were recognized as the permanent proprietors of the land
under the Permanent Land Revenue Settlement, they were instructed to pay the
state 89% of the annual income while keeping 11% of the money for themselves
and the the Zamindars were given autonomy over the internal affairs of their
- Golaknath v. State of Punjab (1967 AIR 1643, 1967 SCR (2) 762)
- Kesavananda Bharti vs State of Kerela (AIR 1973 SC 1461)