Updated: Jul 24, 2021
As we step further into the Modern History of the Land Rights in Assam, we venture into the legislation that was passed post-independence of India.
The Assam(Temporary Settled Areas) Act, 1971 was passed to provide certain undeniable and concrete rights for the people of Assam. Before the Act, the land rights of the people were highly complex and very much varied.
There was no protection from the illegal or unjustified ejectment of the tenants by the landlord and the rights of the tenants were severely violated in many instances.
The Act was also enacted to do away with the Medieval land rights, such as of the Raiyats. It also instilled a mechanism for the protection of such tenants and barred the concept of under-tenancy to be illegal under the Act.
IMPORTANT CHANGES BROUGHT BY THE ACT IN THE FIELD OF AGRARIAN REFORMS:
The Assam (Temporary Settled Areas) Tenancy Act, 1971, as a whole is a measure for agrarian reforms. The main objects highlighted by the act are:-
1. To give the tenant security at/in his holding at a fair and equitable rent;
2. To gradually eliminate the intermediaries between the state & the cultivator’s; and
3. To lay down the rules regarding ejectment and recovery of rent and the procedure for determination of all claims and disputed questions between the landlord and the tenant.
The Act is intended to confer on the cultivating tenant, fixity of tenure and to provide for a fair and equitable rent subject to a maximum rate of rent. He cannot or is not, to be ejected from the land of tenancy except on specified grounds and as per the act.
More importantly, provisions in Chapter VI of the Act tend to eliminate intermediaries between the Government and the tillers of the soil. The removal of such intermediaries will create a class of peasant proprietors, thus making the cultivators the owner of the land.
It provides for the acquisition of all rights, titles and interests of the landowners and the intermediary rights by the cultivating tenants (except ownership rights of minors, widows or persons suffering from mental or physical disabilities and persons serving in the defence forces).
Further, it is intended that land should be held by an agriculturist, and for this purpose, the right to transfer given to an Occupancy Tenant has been restricted to transfers to agriculturists only, and transfer to a non-agriculturists has been declared invalid.
Sub-letting or transfer of any or whole part of the holding by a tenant, otherwise by then as per the provisions of the act, will result in for future of tenancy.
If the transfer is made in favour of an agriculturist, he will become a tenant under the landlord, but if the transferee is a non-agriculturist, the transfer will be void and the Deputy Commissioner will be entitled to put a landless agriculturist in possession of the land-holding as a Non-Occupancy Tenant of the landlord.
To protect the interests of the farmer, the Act has included the following provisions:-
1. For acquiring the status of an occupancy tenant, the period of holding the land has been reduced to 3 years;
2. The holding of a tenant is made heritable like other immovable properties.
3. The occupancy tenant has been given a permanent and transferable right of use of land and the occupancy, but a limitation has been put on the right of transfer, the restriction being transfer can only be to an agriculturist.
4. The holding of an Occupancy Tenant has been made non-resume-able. The landlord can resume the holding of a non-occupancy tenant in case of abandonment only with the approval of the Deputy Commissioner.
5. ‘Voluntary Surrender’ of a holding has been regulated, prohibiting the landlord from taking possession of the land, from the tenant; and the Deputy Commissioner has been empowered to settle the land with landless cultivators. This prevents the ejectment of a tenant through the use of ‘voluntary surrender’.
6. The landlord can demand from the tenant, a fair and equitable rent subject to the maximum rent statutorily fixed.
7. Security in respect of dwelling sites. A tenant is not to be ejected from a dwelling site without allowing him to purchase it;
8. A tenant is protected from ejectment except in the execution of a decree passed on the grounds specified and in the manner laid down in the act. A tenancy cannot be terminated by the contract between the parties and the landlord cannot take forcible possession of the land.
9. Although the transfer to a Non-agriculturist by an occupancy tenant or non-occupancy tenant is void, an exception has been made in the case where- the tenant has been given the right to hypothecate his interest with the state government, Union government, a cooperative society or an authorized bank to secure the loan for purpose of agricultural only;
10. The right to acquire ownership or intermediary rights by a tenant or undertenant. This is a measure of land reform that will gradually remove/reform the intermediaries and abolish landlordism and make soil tiller, owner of the land, under Chapter VI of the Act.
11. Penal provisions for contravention of any of the provisions of the act.
Under the new act, there are only two classes of tenants: