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Efficacy Of Land Reforms In Post-Independence India

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[1] 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 it.

According to the threefold explanation given by the renowned jurist Salmond of the term 'property', he stated that property

Introduction
Before we proceed further with this article, let us first understand the term "Efficacy[2] of land reform[3] 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.

Land Reforms

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

  1. Among the other Vedas[4], 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).
  2. Various evidences pertaining to the Aryan settlement and mobility, like their wheels and cremations, have been discovered.
  3. The ancient land system and agriculture were described in depth in Vedic literature such as the Upanishads and the Arthshastras.
  4. Individual holdings or blocks with clear demarcations were referred to as 'kshetras.'
  5. Such possessions were owned by the family's leader, and this was inherited.
  6. Individual properties or blocks under the ownership of the family's head were partitioned or split among the head's heirs.
  7. Land revenue and other revenues were collected based on 'land usage.'
  8. The governmental need for land revenue accounted for one-sixth of overall revenue demand.
  9. The monarch received land revenue in the shape of the kind following the hierarchy of numerous revenue authorities.
  10. Village-level land revenue management was continued, and documented land details known as 'nibandhas' were developed.
  11. 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

  1. Various Mughal monarchs followed the same system as described in the Vedas, with a few modifications.
  2. 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.
  3. Shershah established a far more sensible revenue system, which was followed by standard land measuring.

Mughal Period

  1. During the Mughal dynasty, Akbar, with the assistance of Todarmal, established the same system as the Shershah, with some variations.
  2. 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:
    1. Lord Cornwallis instituted the zamindari system in 1793 through Permanent Settlement[5], which guaranteed the members' land rights in perpetuity without any provision for set rent or occupation right for genuine farmers.
    2. The Zamindari system collected land tax from farmers through intermediaries known as Zamindars.
    3. The government's portion of total land revenue received by zamindars was fixed at 10/11th, with the remaining going to zamindars.
    4. West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh had the highest prevalence of the system.
       
  • The Ryotwari system:
    1. There was a shift away from the concept of Permanent Settlement in British possessions in southern India.
    2. 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).
    3. Land revenue was paid directly to the state by farmers under the Ryotwari system.
    4. In this arrangement, the individual cultivator known as Ryot held complete control over the sale, transfer, and lease of land.
    5. If the riots paid their rent, they could not be expelled from their property.
    6. The removal of intermediaries, who frequently oppressed locals, was one of the system's benefits.
       
  • The Mahalwari system:
    1. By the early nineteenth century, Company executives were determined that the revenue structure needed to be modified once more.
    2. Revenues cannot be set indefinitely at a time when the Company need more funds to cover administrative and trading expenditures.
    3. 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).
    4. Under the Mahalwari system, the village headmen collected land revenue from farmers on behalf of the whole community (and not the zamindar).
    5. Lord William Bentick popularized the method in Agra and Awadh, and it was eventually expanded to Madhya Pradesh and Punjab.
    6. The revenue under the Mahalwari method was to be reviewed on a regular basis rather than being fixed in stone.
    7. Lord William Bentick popularized the method in Agra and Awadh, and it was eventually expanded to Madhya Pradesh and Punjab.

Post-Independence India:

When discussing post-independence India and land reforms, we should focus on the case laws that had a revolutionary impact on land reforms.

GOLAKNATH CASE[6]:
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[7]:

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 irreversible.

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 landless farmers.
  • 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 principle.
  • 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 tenants ownership.

    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 by cultivators.
     
  • 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 considerations.

    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 areas.

    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.

Conclusion
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 people.

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.

End-Notes:
  1. 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 Windsor.
  2. The ability of something like a drug or a medical treatment to bring about the results that are wanted
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 own districts.
  6. Golaknath v. State of Punjab (1967 AIR 1643, 1967 SCR (2) 762)
  7. Kesavananda Bharti vs State of Kerela (AIR 1973 SC 1461)

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