We are aware of bank passbooks. This small booklet is given to an account holder while opening an account in any bank. The State Revenue Department was also supposed to provide passbooks to the landholders so as to keep them aware about the amount of land they own, its location, its title, survey /khasra number etc. Section 16 of J&K Land Revenue (amended) Act of 1996 calls upon land Revenue officers particularly the Deputy Commissioners (DCs) to ensure preparation of passbooks for every landholder of the district. The relevant section reads as :
“The Deputy Commissioner of the District shall cause to be prepared a passbook of every land holder in his District containing records of rights, agricultural holding, transfer of rights, ration cards, subsidies, liabilities etc. in revenue estate to enable the land holder makes it use for credit facilities and for other matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.”
The idea of making these passbooks was to ensure transparency and accountability in maintaining land records, otherwise marred by corruption and mismanagement. Incorporating this provisions in J&K Land Revenue Act through an amendment in year 1996 was to provide for efficacious and fool-proof mechanism in maintaining land record. This was also to ensure that there is no illegal entry or alienation in these records by the officials of the revenue department. Through these passbooks landowners or farmers could have availed credit facility from banks as well which is a provision in the law itself.
Almost 23 years have passed and these passbooks have hardly been issued to the beneficiaries. This clearly indicates that successive governments have endorsed and patronized a fallacious, erroneous and a defective system which creates a space for scandalous and corrupt persons to step in and get the entries of choice recorded in the revenue records. Furthermore non implementation of this legal provision of the law has also encouraged and influenced land-grabs, illegal encroachments by land mafia in active collaboration with officers of Revenue Department especially on the state land / wetlands across the state of Jammu & Kashmir.
PIL in High Court
A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was recently filed by an NGO J&K Peoples Forum seeking judicial intervention for implementation of various legal provisions of J&K Land Revenue Act. Counsel of the petitioner organization Advocate Shafaqat Nazir while appearing before the division bench of Chief Geeta Mittal and Justice Rashid Ali Dar said that various legal provisions of JK Land Revenue Act were being violated by the Government. In addition to issuance of passbooks was also raised included violation of section 138 of J&K Transfer of Property Act that forbids transfer of title of any immoveable property if such transfer is not supported by an instrument registered legally by the registering authority prescribed by the Registration Act. The NGO has sought direction for placing before the Court entire details of mutations attested and recorded in all the Pathwar halqas of J&K, without the support of any validly registered instrument as defined in section 138 of J&K Transfer of Property Act, in the first instance affected from 1 January 2010 to July 2019. The digitization of revenue record was also taken up. It is believed that old land records is not being scanned and uploaded on internet instead the record is being rewritten. The authenticity of this rewritten record is being questioned by many stakeholders. After hearing the counsel, division bench issued notice to J&K Government and sought details about the amount of money spend during last 20 years on the digitization of land revenue record ?
Recent report published in Greater Kashmir revealed that agriculture land holding in J&K has come down drastically during last 5 years. I have written a lot on the issue. To ensure our land is safe from any illegal encroachments, any mutation or transfer of land title by any mode other than that prescribed by law should be declared null and void by Government. Deputy Commissioners must start preparing passbooks for landowners as per the legal guidelines mentioned above. Lastly the digitization of land records be taken up on fast-track basis.