The Times of India, Chennai dtd. 28/07/2014 article "High Court upholds circular permitting registrar to cancel land deeds" - Justice T. Raja should be commended for his open minded assessment of the problems of land grabbing and bogus registrations that are now a routine happening in a city like Chennai.
This judgement is Godsend for the lacs of aggrieved land owners who have been suffering untold mental agony due to their lands being usurped by the land sharks.Chennai has been witnessing alarming increase of land grabbing and incidents of bogus document registrations due to irresponsible acts of the officials and personnel mainly at the taluka offices and registration departments - for long, the higher officials such as the sub-registrars/district registrars/tehsildar and R.D.O have been turning a blind eye to this grave injustice to the genuine land owners due to the lack of strong laws to fix accountability on them. It is well known that bribery is prevalent at the revenue and registration departments.
Moreover, the spurt in land prices has witnessed large scale incidents involving the land sharks, brokers, promoters and others including those affiliated to political parties, who put pressure on the revenue and registration department personnel and indulge in fraudulent registration of documents and double registrations, knowing well that it will take the hapless land owner several years to get justice from courts, in many cases the land owners are forced to give away their properties at peanut prices to escape the long drawn court battles involving huge legal fees. Even thereafter, the land owners are not sure of getting back their lands.
The registration department is the main culprit in this misdeed - in the absence of proper law fixing accountability on the part of sub-registrars/district registrars and other higher authorities, the documents are registered without proper verifications, bypassing the laid down registration rules and guidelines.
Title deeds/pattas are not properly verified and in several cases the sale deed has been registered without even a valid title deed or a patta. On interactions with the Inspector General of Registration/Distt. Registrar and other officials, I came to understand that several thousands of petitions from aggrieved land owners are pending before them for cancellation due to the 'Stay' obtained by some people at the Madras High Court.
The High Court judgement, therefore, comes as a great relief for all the aggrieved land owners and rests back the responsibility of cancelling the bogus registrations with the sub-registrars and district registrars.
Punishment clauses should also be imposed on erring officials to the extent of removing them permanently from the service along with adequate compensation to the aggrieved person, because it involves lands of genuine owners valued at several lacs and crores - therefore the erring officials should not go scotfree with just a demotion to another less important department or transfer to some other registrar/taluka office.
Watchdogs should be appointed to monitor the performance of these people - The Supreme Court has recommended these measures long back and has specifically mentioned in its direction that " innocent land owners should not be made to run for justice after they have been humiliated by the acts of a few people at the taluka and registration offices".
Successive governments in Tamilnadu have shown little concern for this Supreme Court direction in connection with registration of land documents over the years. This is a step forward, though belated, for the Government of Tamilnadu to have taken in the larger interest of genuine land owners and also control the incidences of land grabbing and bogus document registrations.
Also, the officials should be made to act expeditiously in the cancellation of registrations made with bogus and irrelevant documents and more importantly make it mandatory for the submission of a valid, registered title deed and a patta.
Now that the Madras High Court has cleared the way, the concerned officials must act on the huge petitions pending disposal. It is also hoped that the government will usher in more laws to make the personnel at taluka offices and registration departments accountable for their acts. It will a good initiative to link both Revenue and Registration departments to enable them easily access the information of a land such as ownership, patta details, survey number etc., which will help them perform more efficiently.