In India's real estate industry, stalled ventures are a common occurrence. Thousands of infrastructure investment projects get delayed due to a variety of factors, but the most common cause is of land disputes during the start of such real estate projects.
Whenever a piece of land is to be purchased, due diligence should be performed to determine the land's ownership and title. Following that, the land acquisition process will begin according to the defined procedures.
The land title verification process in India
- The title verification is performed to decide if the title is marketable and good by tracing the history of ownership of the land up to the last 30 years.
- The protocol outlined below specifies the considerations that must be made when verifying a land title. When conducting a title verification, the following steps are taken:
- The owner of the property and the area must be determined using the land survey amount. Many states have digitised land records, but if yours hasn't, you can still get them by filing a request with the sub-registrar's office.
- The next step is to extract primary documents to ascertain the ownership of the land.
The documents needed are as follows:
- Record of Rights
- Register of mutation (form VI).
The above-mentioned land records are held at the sub-registrar's office and they can be obtained via an RTI request. If you're having trouble locating the survey number for the record you need, you can get it by filing an RTI request with the Land Records department.
- The following documents are to be analyzed and examined to ascertain:
- Ownership, land share, encumbrances, pending land disputes, and occupancy rights are all factors to consider.
- Details of transactions involving the property, including the price of the land paid by the current owner (Form VI D of the Village)
- Legitimate descendants of property owners who have passed away. (Village Form VI C) (Village Form VI C) (Village Form VI C)
- The owner's total land holdings in a particular area. (Form VIII A)
- Details about the property's title adjustment. (Form VI, or the Register of Mutation)
- You may look into possession by going to the property. It's critical to make sure that the person listed as the document's owner also has actual control over the property.
- Agricultural vs. non-agricultural property ascertainment documents.
- Easement Rights, if any other individual has been given them.
- Request for the relevant documents should be made at the office of Sub Registrar which include:
- Search for non-testamentary records, names of parties to a registered transaction, and details of property that is the subject matter of a registered transaction in book no. 1, index no. 1, and 2 maintained with the sub registrar, respectively. (Can be obtained by submitting an application to the sub-registrar)
- Encumbrance Certificate which certifies the piece of land free from encumbrances. (Form XVI)
- Agents selling land should have their Power of Attorney confirmed (and registered), and the land dealt with in the Power of Attorney should be reviewed as well.
- Additional searches can be conducted with the Registrar of Companies, the Courts to check for lawsuits, and the Central Registry of Securitization Assets Reconstruction and Security Interest (CERSAI) to check for loans.
- After the title is verified to be good and marketable, the land acquisition process can be initiated.
Land acquisition process
Land acquisition is normally done in 3 ways:
- Acquisition under Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013.
- Private negotiations with the landowners.
- Acquisition through other Acts.
Acquisition under Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013
After repealing the Land Acquisition Act of 1894, the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation, and Resettlement Act of 2013 (the "LARR Act") went into effect. When land is acquired for a public purpose, the District Collector promotes the process of land acquisition under this Act. The Developer may obtain land under this Act if he or she complies with the Act's provisions.
The land acquisition process as under the 2013 Act is as follows:
- Section 4 requires the project proponent (developer) to conduct a Social Impact Assessment (SIA). Under section 5 of the Act, it must be done in consultation with the concerned Panchayat, municipality, or Municipal Corporation (including a public hearing with locals) keeping in mind:
- Whether the acquisition is essential for public good?
- An estimate of how many families may be impacted,
- The number of families that will have to be relocated,
- Other common properties in the region that may be affected, and
- If the government has discussed any other alternative locations.
- The total project expense as well as the project's value.
- Section 7 requires an advisory committee to approve the social impact assessment (SIA) report and make recommendations within 2 months about whether the project should proceed or be abandoned, as well as the reasons for their decision. The state government examines and approves plans for land acquisition, as well as the social impact evaluation study, to decide if the land is required for any public purpose.
- Following approval, a public notice with details of the land must be published in the official gazette and two regular local newspapers in that area if land in that area is needed or likely to be required for any public purpose, as per section 11 of the Act. This is the first note of acquisition.
- Section 15 allows the general public to file objections with the collector for a maximum of 60 days. The Administrator, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (R&R) report is prepared under section 16 and made public after review by the collector under section 18.
- Persons involved are given a final notice under Section 21 that they have 60 days to file any claims for compensation, rehabilitation, or relocation related to the acquisition with the Collector.
- After an investigation, the collector makes a land acquisition award to people seeking compensation, rehabilitation, and relocation under Section 23. The Collector then takes possession of the land under Section 38.
- It's worth noting that land acquisitions for government projects require no consent, while land acquisitions for Public-Private Partnership projects require the consent of 70% of landowners and land acquisitions for private projects require the consent of 80% of landowners.
The estimated time frame for land acquisition is 500 days. In addition to the whole procedure, real estate projects must also obtain a number of other clearances and approvals before they can begin development.
Acquisition through direct negotiations
- The LARR Act of 2013 allows for direct private agreements with landowners for the purpose of purchasing land.
- It entails the state government forming a negotiation committee, which includes the district collector, to acquire land without following the lengthy procedure set out in the LARR Act, 2013 or to avoid a small patch of land being left unintentionally during initial acquisition. The fee and multiplying factor are determined by the laws of the state government.
The steps are as follows:
- The state government appoints a negotiation committee.
- All concerned agencies and landowners are involved in a joint inspection of the criteria alignment.
- Land prices are determined by negotiations with landowners.
- The committee's recommendations and the State Government's approval
- The Collector makes an award, payment is made, and ownership of the land is transferred.
Acquisition through other Acts
Acts such as the National Highways Act of 1956 and the Railways Act of 1989 are excluded from the LARR Act of 2013. While the reimbursement, rehabilitation, and resettlement provisions of these acts must be consistent with the provisions of the LARR Act, 2013, the acquisition under these Acts can be done as per the provisions of the respective acts.
Any lapses in title verification or the procurement process will cause the land needed for the project to become embroiled in lawsuits and conflicts, causing the project to be delayed and resulting in significant financial losses. As a result, it's critical to follow the measures outlined above for checking the land title and subsequent acquisition (while accounting for any inconsistencies that might need to be factored in due to different laws in different states) to ensure that the project gets off to a smooth start and that all other approvals and clearances are secured.