The British structured the Zamindari, Jagirdari, and Ryotwari systems to regulate land revenue in India. However, these regulations allowed zamindars and jagirdars to suppress cultivators and collect rents, cesses, and interest amounts without regulation. During this time, the British introduced the Punjab Land Revenue Act in the late 1800s to modify and establish a land-revenue law in Punjab and Haryana. The Act has three objectives for the collection of land revenue in Punjab and was enforced to recover revenue from stakeholders and regulate the revenue collection system.
Land represents the economic and social reputation of an individual. The government earns its income from various sources, and land revenue is one of the primary sources contributing to the overall revenue. Each state has its share in the produce of land called land revenue.
Table of Contents
The Punjab Land Revenue Act 1887
The Punjab Land Revenue Act was enacted on 23 September 1887. The Act deals with tenancy, land revenue administration, and Revenue Officers’ appointment as necessary in Punjab.
The objectives of the Act are as follows:
- Creation and maintenance of ‘records-of rights’ in land,
- To calculate and collect land-revenue; and
- To deal with other relevant matters.
The Act applies to territories in the state as per its provisions and not otherwise.
Hierarchy of Revenue Officers
The state government can designate an assistant commissioner, extra assistant commissioner, or a tehsildar as an Assistant Collector of any grade. The Act also empowers the selection of a naib-tehsildar as an Assistant Collector of second grade.
The government must make a notification to appoint these officers specifically by name or virtue of their office or enough description to identify if there is more than one person.
The Punjab Land Revenue Act provides for five classes of Revenue Officers under Section 6, as follows:
The Financial Commissioner leads the revenue department of the state. The state government can appoint more than one Financial Commissioner.
They operate under the state and govern all the Revenue Officers. The Financial Commissioner distributes the relevant business among the Revenue Officers under their supervision. They can withdraw and dispose of a pending revenue case under their jurisdiction.
A Financial Commissioner can only exercise powers he/she is competent to deal with within the territorial jurisdiction.
The Financial Commissioner exercises original and appellate jurisdiction. However, an appeal does not lie when they exercise original jurisdiction and pass an order.
The limitation to appeal to the Financial Commissioner is 90 days.
The Financial Commissioner can call for case records at any time, regardless of whether pending or disposed of by a subordinate Revenue Officer.
Punjab has several divisions consisting of various districts. Each division has a commissioner who monitors the Collectors or other official subordinate to them. The divisional commissioners exercise the same powers as the Financial Commissioners in their divisions. The limitation period for an appeal to the Commissioner is 60 days.
Collector and Assistant Collector
Collector controls the Revenue Officers in a district. A Collector also exercises the powers and duties of a Financial Commissioner at the district level. Additionally, Sub-divisional magistrates operate as Assistant Collector of the first grade and the Tehsildars act as Assistant Collector of the second grade.
A party aggrieved by the order of an assistant Collector of any grade can file an appeal before the Collector. The aggrieved party must file an appeal within 30 days of receiving the order.
The Collector can call for case records at any time, regardless of whether pending or disposed of by a subordinate Revenue Officer.
Revenue Officer and Review
A Revenue Officer can review orders suo motu or on application from an aggrieved party. They can reverse, modify, or confirm the order passed by them or the officers who preceded them.
If a Collector or Commissioner wants to review an order they did not make, or when an officer below the rank of a Collector seeks to review an order that they or their preceding officer passed, they should obtain the immediate superintendent’s sanction.
The aggrieved party must file a review application within 90 days of receiving the order. However, a Revenue Officer can condone delay.
Kanungos, Zaildars, Inamdars, and Village-Officers
The government appoints Kanungos and other village officials and determines their duties, tenure, punishments, and dismissal.
These officials can impose a village officers’ cess, not more than an anna per rupee, at an annually fixed rate. The government makes rules for collecting, maintaining, and spending this amount. The official uses this amount to compensate the village officers and satisfy other relevant expenses.
The Kanungos or village officials need not attach their emoluments in execution proceedings of civil or revenue matters.
An estate’s record of rights includes the following:
- A statement showing ownership, tenancy, assignees of land revenue, establishing the right to receive rent, profits or the land’s produce, or occupancy.
- The extent and nature of the interest of the above persons and conditions, if there are any;
- Payments due from and to the interested individuals and the state.
Annual records consist of the above documents and other documents the state government prescribes.
The patwari maintains a register of amendments and other necessary registers as per the Financial Commissioner’s directions.
If an estate’s record-of-right does not exist or needs special revision, the Commissioner can direct the making of such records or their revision.
A patwari creates an annual edition of modified record-of-rights under the Collector’s supervision. The Financial Commissioner can also request to edit records at other intervals.
The Record-Making Procedure
- An individual should inform the estate patwari of any property they acquired by inheriting, purchasing, mortgage, or other rights as a landowner.
- The patwari enters the above reports in the register of mutations and can also enter other acquired rights that the acquirer did not disclose.
- A Revenue Officer checks the register of mutations from time to time and makes necessary orders to deal with undisclosed rights acquired.
- In case of a dispute on the information to be recorded or inquired, a Revenue Officer decides the matter on their own motion or upon receiving an application.
- If the official cannot conclude upon possession of the property, they conduct a summary inquiry. Such an order is subject to a competent court’s subsequent decree or order.
- Reporting is mandatory. An individual with an acquisition should disclose within 3 months of acquiring the right. In case of failure, the Collector can impose a maximum fine of five times the mutation fees.
- Mutation fees are fees the government prescribes for all or some classes of entries in the register or copies of entries.
Irrespective of land use, the owner must pay revenue to the government unless they are in a contract that exempts them from paying or due to a law.
Landowners are exempted from paying revenue if they own less than 5 acres of land by themselves or jointly, or by themselves and jointly.
The landowner must disclose the land details in the prescribed form to the authorised officials under Section 64. If the furnished details are wrong, then the prescribed authority can impose a penalty along with the land revenue. The fine must be a maximum of 20 times the payable amount.
Land revenue is assessed in cash by calculating the following:
- The average monetary value of the estates’ net assets in the case of agricultural land.
- In other lands, the assessment is based on the average net letting value or their average market value.
The Revenue Officer makes a general assessment after reporting to the state government through the Financial Commissioner.
The state considers the Revenue Officer’s proposal and passes appropriate orders, after which the officer passes another order determining proper assessment for every estate and announces it.
The landowner or assignee can file a petition before the Revenue Officer within 30 days to reconsider the amount, form, or assessment conditions. The Revenue Officer can grant or refuse the petition.
The government finalises an assessment, and the Financial Commissioner or Commissioner can modify the assessment before the government’s confirmation. They should give reasonable notice to a landowner to show cause why a proposed enhancement could not be made.
The government fixes the duration for which the assessment remains in force. This duration is fixed at 40 years. However, certain exceptions are granted for lands with canal irrigation under Section 53-A.
In case the assessed landowners refuse to pay, the Collector takes possession of the estate to deal with it as if it is an annulment order for recovering an arrear of land revenue.
A person aggrieved by the distribution can file a petition before the Revenue Officer to reconsider the distribution within 30 days of the publication of records.
An appeal for reconsideration and amendment of distribution lies to the Commissioner and the Financial Commissioner.
This assessment is conducted in particular circumstances in which government-owned land is sold or released, revenue revision occurs due to factors like disasters, and other such circumstances. The Financial Commissioner approves special assessments, similar to a general assessment and modifications if the Financial Commissioner prescribes.
The government makes rules to estimate net assets, assessment methods, and calculate land-revenue rates. The government should circulate a draft and stay the consideration until it is discussed in the legislative assembly.
Collection of Land Revenue
Landowners are solely or jointly liable to pay the assessed land revenue of the estate. The government can exempt specific holdings or landowners by notifying them. The Financial Commissioner determines the proportion of liability for superior and inferior land owners of an estate.
Unless the Collector’s consent is obtained, the rent amount, profits, or produce on a land cannot be attached in court proceedings when the land revenue and the due amount are not paid.
The Financial Commissioner frames rules for paying land revenue along with instalments, time, place, and how it will be paid.
The Financial Commissioner also frames rules such as terms for collecting assigned land revenue, disclosing details to the authorities, for collecting, remission, and suspending land revenue.
The government can recover the costs of processes for collecting land-revenue as arrears.
A writ of demand, arresting and detaining, selling the property, transferring or attaching holdings, are some methods by which the land revenue arrears are recovered.
In case of an arrear, the defaulter’s movable property is sold, as per the provisions of attachment and sale of movable property.
When an arrear is due for more than a month, and other processes are not sufficient, the Financial Commissioner can annul the estate assessment with the unpaid amount. The Collector manages the land directly or leaves it to farm.
In the case of annulment of assessment, the liability or joint liability of the land owners remains suspended until a new assessment is made.
The estate or a holding with arrears can be sold with prior permission of the Commissioner if other processes are not sufficient. However, in certain circumstances, the sale is not allowed. Encumbrances do not affect the land sold, and the sale does not affect the occupancy rights, lease.
The Collector can also use immovable property to recover arrears if other methods are impossible. Such recovery does not affect any rightful interests of stakeholders.
Individuals refusing their liability and from whom arrears are taken under protest can approach the Civil Court to recover the amount.
The sale happens according to the sale provisions in the Civil Procedure Code. The Collector reports the sale of each immovable property to the Commissioner.
Recovery of Other Demands by Revenue Officers
When a village officer satisfies a Revenue Officer that a land-revenue sum is due and should be recovered, the Revenue Officer can recover the amount according to the Financial Commissioner’s rules.
Apart from the aforementioned arrears, other sums can also be recovered. These include village officers’ cess, fines, fees, costs, and other expenses under the Act.
District boards or local boards fee, payable to the government for water, maintenance of canals, under Section 98 of the Act and loans taken under government schemes can be recovered.
The sums under the Punjab Land Revenue Act 1887 apply as if they are arrears of land revenue to the individuals who are due as principal or surety.
Surveys and Boundaries
The Financial Commissioner formulates rules on how to demarcate the boundaries of an estate. The Collector, upon the government’s order, fixes a boundary if two or more estates’ limits vary due to river action. The boundary becomes final when the Financial Commissioner approves it and is not affected by any other laws or customs. The Collector has certain decision-making powers on the boundaries of the above estates.
As a thumb rule, if an estate is transferred, then the rights vested also move to the other person. However, the Collector can order not to transfer until the land in question ceases to be fit for cultivation. The order of a Collector cannot be challenged or modified.
Immediate Transfer and Procedure
In cases in which a party immediately wants to transfer ownership despite the suspension by the Collector, then they can apply to the Collector for transfer and transfer such rights after paying compensation.
On receiving an application, the Collector fixes a date for the hearing, sends notice to the persons with rights on the land in question, and conducts an inquiry. After hearing and inquiry, the Collector orders compensation, and the applicant should deposit the amount within a period fixed by the Collector.
In the case of a voluntary transfer of rights by a person to the landowner after the boundary is fixed, the order under Section 101-B(1) ceases to apply to the transferred rights.
The Financial Commissioner frames rules to establish and maintain the survey marks to define the limits of an estate. The owners pay for installing the survey marks, but the government also pays for it in some circumstances.
Agencies other than Revenue Officers or village officers can also survey if the government thinks it is necessary. The government must publish a notification stating the area details, details of surveying officers, and kinds of survey marks.
Any person who wilfully destroys, damages, or removes a lawfully erected survey mark without authorisation is penalised with a fine of not more than Rs. 50 for each destroyed mark. The penalty imposed does not bar criminal proceedings.
Partition does not impact the joint liability of landowners for land-revenue payment unless expressly approved by the Financial Commissioner. In the case of tenancy, partition does not affect the joint liability of co-sharers unless the owner has express consent.
Procedure for Partition
Who Can Apply?
A joint owner or joint tenant can apply before a Revenue Officer for partition of their share in the tenancy or land in the following circumstances:
- If the share recordable belongs to them on the date of application or
- Their right to the share is due to a decree that subsists on the date of application or
- Interested persons executed a written acknowledgement of the right.
Partition does not impact certain places like cemeteries, and the Revenue Officer can refuse partition of specific areas.
The Revenue Officer fixes a date for the hearing. The notice of hearing is sent to all necessary parties depending on the subject matter. The Revenue Officer adds other parties to the issue on the hearing date or adjourned date if they want to be added. The Revenue Officer can refuse to admit an application and record the reasons for refusal.
The Revenue Officer determines the title of the property in dispute, the property to be partitioned, and the method of dividing.
A party not satisfied with the Revenue Officer’s decision can withdraw from the proceedings for the partition of shares after the officer imposes conditions.
A Revenue Officer determines the rent and revenue for the new portions of land after partition. Partition can also be done without the involvement of a Revenue Officer, who can subsequently affirm it.
The Financial Commissioner makes rules for calculating costs and dividing them among the parties to a partition application.
Revenue Officers must at least have the rank of an Assistant Collector of the first grade for partition proceedings.
A Revenue Officer can refer revenue disputes under this Act to arbitration after obtaining the parties’ consent. A Sub-divisional Magistrate or a Collector can refer a matter to arbitration without the parties’ consent if the issue is about the following:
- An entry to be recorded;
- Distributing an assessment,
- Boundaries of land,
- Partition of property or the manner of partition.
The reference order contains the following:
- Matter in dispute
- Number of arbitrators to be nominated by each party
- Time limit to appoint arbitrators
- Time limit in which the award must be given
Every party can nominate an equal number of arbitrators and a maximum of two arbitrators.
The officer can cancel a reference or extend the duration to deliver an award if the original timeline is not followed. They can also disallow a nomination, and reasons must be recorded.
Arbitrators apply to the Revenue Officer to issue the process to the parties and witnesses.
Arbitrators make an award in writing and present it to the officer. They must state the reasons for the award, and a dissenting arbitrator against a majority of arbitrators must disclose the reasons for dissent. The Revenue Officer can change, reject, or accept the award and record reasons for the same. Awards are appealable.
Special Jurisdiction for Land
The state government can confer powers of a court listed under the Punjab Courts Act, 1884, upon the Revenue Officer to try all or some matters or appeals on lands in their territory. These matters include record-making, and reassessing land revenue. The government can also cancel such orders partly or in whole. The government can also transfer certain cases from the Revenue Officer to competent courts.
The government can notify the application of the modified provisions for superintendence over Revenue Officers except the Financial Commissioner. These officers can hear appeals or revise decrees and orders.
If there is no notification conferring the above powers, a Revenue Officer is considered as Civil Court under the Punjab Courts Act 1884.
When a landowner, or headman, or assignee of land revenue does not accept an amount payable other than rent, or give a receipt for the same, or if the right of the landowner, assignee or headman to receive payment is in question, the person paying can deposit the amount with the Revenue Officer. The officer must accept the amount after confirming the grounds for application.
A Civil or Criminal Court addresses an order of attachment, sale, or delivery of land or interest to the Collector or Revenue Officer. The Collector executes this order.
The attachment of assigned land revenue is to be paid to the Collector. An attachment of produce does not prevent the owner of produce from enjoying the benefits of the produce.
In a case in which;
- Division or appraisement of produce pays land revenue, and
- The superior and inferior landowners or two or more co-sharers in a tenancy or holding have joint interest in produce, and
- They request the Revenue Officer to divide and appraise the produce, the Punjab Tenancy Act, 1887 becomes applicable.
Apart from these, other miscellaneous provisions deal with the recovery of costs for assessing assigned land-revenue, preventing encroachment on common lands, and maintaining papers.
The act lays down comprehensive provisions for land-revenue collection ranging from the hierarchy of responsible officers to the recovery of arrears. The provisions in the Act depict the principles of natural justice by providing an opportunity to be heard. The Act is futuristic because of its emphasis on arbitration and eases the procedure in revenue matters.
Although the Act is ideal and explicitly provides various solutions to recover revenue, an aspect it cannot control is Revenue Officers. With increasing corruption and malice, the Act must also emphasise the punishments and offences for land Revenue Officers in the state.
The state has a centralised web-based system to handle revenue cases exclusively. Therefore, the Punjab Land Revenue Act 1887 has achieved its objectives, and it can be considered a stepping stone towards an advanced and structured revenue system in the state of Punjab.
FAQs on the Punjab Land Revenue Act
Why did the Punjab Land Revenue Act of 1887 come into force?
The Punjab Land Revenue Act came into force for the following purposes;
- For creation and maintenance of 'records-of rights' in land,
- To calculate and collect land-revenue; and
- To deal with other relevant matters.
Does the Act provide an Alternative Dispute Resolution mechanism in land-revenue matters under the Act?
Yes. The Act lays down provisions for arbitration from Sections 127 to 135, thereby simplifying and speeding up revenue proceedings.
Do all the landowners of an estate or holding pay land-revenue under the Act?
No. The Act allows the state government to exempt certain lands from being subjected to it.
What is an assessment of land-revenue under the Act?
Assessment is made by calculating the following:
- The average money value of the estates' net assets in the case of agricultural land.
- The assessment is based on the average net letting value or their average market value.
What is an estate under the Act?
The Act defines an estate as an area
- For which there is a ‘Separate record-of-rights’.
- With a separate assessment of land revenue could be calculated.
- Declared as such by the state government.
Who acts as the Assistant Collector of the first grade and the Assistant Collector of the second grade in Punjab under the Punjab Land Revenue Act 1887?
The Sub-divisional magistrates operate as the Assistant Collectors of the first grade, and the Tehsildars act as Assistant Collectors of the second grade.