Land Records in India have evolved over decades and centuries. Considering the conflicts pertaining to land records, digitisation has emerged as a viable solution as it offers benefits for both property owners and the authorities, infusing transparency and clarity in real estate transactions.

Digitisation of land records was introduced to computerize various land records and improve their transparency. This digital phenomenon is also transforming the real estate sector by offering ease of doing business. In Union Budget 2016, the digitisation of land records was relaunched under the National Land Records Modernization Programme that ensured minimizing the scope of land disputes coupled with enhancing transparency in the land records maintenance system.

The initiative will provide clear titles of land ownership that could be monitored easily by government officials and facilitate quicker transactions. Back then, most of the land records in the country were paper records and village maps, marking boundaries that included names of all occupants. Due to the lack of maintenance of genuine land records, there have been litigations and property frauds. One of the biggest challenges faced by people was the issue of land ownership that caused property disputes. Hence, making land records available to check property frauds became one of the objectives of the Government of India.

Progress till date

The Government of India launched the Digital India Land Records Modernization programme (DILRMP) in August 2008. The primary aim of the programme is to computerize all land records, digitize maps, and upgrade the survey and settlement of records, thus sustaining the same.

Many Indian states have begun to digitize their land records. Karnataka was the first state in India to computerize land records under the “Bhoomi Project” followed by Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu in the year 2001. By the year 2007, the three states had their village property records computerized. Not long ago, Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority (HMDA) decided to digitize the land records pertaining to 7,757 acres of land in the city just to secure the prime land not utilized which is located in the outskirts of the city.

 

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Source: PRS India’s September 2017 ‘Land Records And Titles In India’ report

 

Advantages of Digitisation in Real Estate

The digitisation of land and property records will also directly boost the government’s Digital India mission. A complete computerised compilation of land data, starting from the true owner to the present status of land, including an image of the property and the landowner for identification purposes, will reveal the combined area of land owned by a person. Other benefits include:-

  • A significant move will be the transparency in records that will make it difficult for people to evade the property tax.
  • Land detail availability could empower the government to realize its industrialisation and smart cities mission.
  • Every farmer's land would be linked to the Aadhar number after verification. Division of land could happen accurately on digital maps causing lesser land-related conflicts. Inheritance of land would be made easy. In addition, property crimes would automatically reduce.
  • It would reduce construction timelines and overall cost for the developer, the benefits of which can be transferred to the consumer.
  • Apart from providing conclusive titles to landowners and accelerating the process of land acquisition, digitisation of land records could also lead to a build-up of local revenues through improved property tax billing and collection.
  • A single window to handle land records, including maintenance and updating of maps, survey, and registration of properties.
  • Easier online approvals of plans and occupancy certificates. Status of a particular land will be available online. Records pertaining to land involved in court cases would also be available digitally.
  • Ease of doing business in the sector will make the transactions seamless for the developers and buyers, also ensure authenticity of the land or the property.

Roadblocks

The pace of modernization of records and converting them to an online platform has been slow. Between 2008-09 and 2017-18, the Government has sanctioned some Rs 1,927 crore for the States has utilized the DILRMP, which means around 64 percent of the funds. 

Computerisation of land records has completed in 86 percent of the villages and maps have been digitized in 46 percent of the villages. The spatial data was verified in 39 percent of the villages, and the survey/re-survey work was completed in 9 percent of the villages. As of November 11 2017, the DILRMP website reported that the programme had covered some 5.65 lakh or 86 percent of all revenue villages in the country. The slow progress could be attributed to the heavy volume of records, most of which used to be stored manually. Besides, there is poor capacity at the district and local levels. The continuous process of data collection and storage with regard to land records take place at the village or city level. Experts and committees have recommended the need to build capacity among officials at all levels to strengthen land management. 

Future potential 

To address issues with land records, the step of conclusive titling has been proposed. In this system, the government will provide guaranteed titles and compensation in case of any ownership disputes. To accomplish this, it is required to shift to a system of registered property titles producing primary evidence of ownership and clear and updated land records. This would require ensuring that all existing land records are accurate and free of any encumbrances. Significantly, it is also required that all information around the land is available through a single window. This would necessitate integration of land-related information across departments and updation of these records. With regard to the legal framework, registration of documents needs to be regulated across both the Centre and States.