General Features of the Statutes Dealing with Land Reforms in India

'Land' being a state subject, every state has its own Land Reforms laws.

The Land Reforms (Fixation of Ceiling on Land) Acts, were enacted during 1960s to further the Directive Principles of State Policy, provided under part four of the Constitution of India in Art.39(b) & (c). Art 39 provides that the State should, in particular, direct its policy towards securing that the ownership and control of the material resources of the community are so distributed as best to subserve the common good and that the operation of the economic system does not result in concentration of wealth and means of production to the common detriment. To achieve this purpose the land reforms are brought about.

Land reforms are applicable only to the agricultural lands. However there are separate enactments to deal with urban land holdings. They also impose restrictions on holdings in urban areas and impose ceiling.

The Acts exempt lands belonging to the central and state governments, local authorities, universities, educational institutions, trusts for a public purpose or of an educational nature and cooperative societies.

For the purposes of the Act a family of five members is the unit. A family of five members shall hold no more than one standard unit of land. A standard unit varies from state to state. In case of Madras 30 acres is the standard holding. A family with more than five members shall be entitled to 5 additional acres per member. A joint hindu family is considered a single unit. The number of acres calculation differs according to the nature of the land, i.e wet or dry.

Within a specified period of time, after the notification issued by the government, every person holding land is required to file a return with the authorized officer regarding the particulars of the land held by him. The authorized officer shall prepare a statement of the surplus land held by the person and notify the same. The concerned owners may raise their objections regarding the extent declared as surplus. The officer shall give them a reasonable opportunity and hear their objections. In case of any dispute, on a request, he shall refer the matter to the Land Tribunal. The questions of title are not gone into by the authorized officer, they are decided by the Land Tribunal on reference.

Any gift or settlement of land after the relevant date of notification is deemed to be void.

After the declaration of the surplus, the government shall commence the land acquisition proceedings, stating that the land is required for a public purpose. The government created a separate machinery to deal with the claims on compensation in matters of acquisition.

The land thus acquired, is distributed to the landless poor under the various government schemes. However, there are no provisions in the Act which provide norms for distribution.

The land reforms Acts were challenged as being violative of the fundamental right to acquire and hold property. The right to property was, deleted from the list of fundamental rights by a constitutional amendment (42nd) and it is only a legal right now. The land reforms laws were included in the ninth schedule of the Constitution and judicial review was excluded regarding the ninth schedule.

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