As we have already discussed briefly in the History of Land Right in Assam, there are, broadly 3 categories of land rights in Assam as was envisioned in the Assam Land Revenue Regulation, 1886, but the British administration did not completely do away with the system of land rights existing in the Medieval Kingdom.
The British, in order to appease the local chiefs, and lords as well gain the maximum amount of revenue and control of resources, made separate arrangements with a lot of smaller kingdoms or areas under the Ahom kingdom.
The shrewd measure led to their massive control over the resources in Assam and strengthened their grip on the Ahom kingdom.
Therefore, the lands rights in Assam could be separated into the following categories, in light of the Assam Land Revenue Regulation, 1886 as well as the pre-existing rights of the citizens/subjects under the Ahom Kingdom.
Section 3(f) of the Regulation provides that- a Proprietor is the owner of any estate permanently settled or entered on the Deputy Commissioner’s register of the revenue-free estate.
Proprietors can be classified into the following:-
1. Proprietors of Revenue free lands:
The proprietors of revenue-free lands can be further sub-divided into four categories:
(a) Debottar lands:
This category of land was those which were granted or gifted by the King (Ahom) to the religious idols and their construction as such. These lands were absolutely revenue-free.
(b) Paikan lands:
This category of land was granted by the king to the Paiks for rendering service to the king or his officers for one year. These lands were also revenue-free and could only be used instead of service to the king.
(c) Baksa lands:
Baksa land was the land gifted by the Kachari kings to the priests. These lands were also revenue-free.
(d) Special cultivation of Tea:
The British Governor also provided certain lands for the cultivation of tea, especially to the cultivators.
2. Proprietors of permanently settled lands:
Permanently settled estates or lands mean any estate in the districts of Cachar and Goalpara is included in the Decennial settlement of the lower settlements of the Bengal Province; or permanently settled land/estate at any subsequent date under any law for the time being in force.
Rights over land: The state is the owner of all the lands within the territory of Assam. There are certain private rights over land in Assam. These private rights are recognized even by the state.
Right of Proprietors: The Proprietors of Revenue free lands are found to enjoy the highest rights over land in Assam. This is because they are not required to pay any revenue to the Government. They also enjoy Transferable, Permanent, and Inheritable Rights over land in Assam.
The Proprietors of Permanently Settled Estates or land are found to enjoy maximum rights, after the proprietors of revenue-free land. This is because they are required to pay a major amount of revenue to the Government. These Proprietors of Permanently settled estates also enjoy Transferable, Permanent, and Inheritable rights over land in Assam.
Section 7 of the Regulation deals with the right of proprietors and provides that such proprietors will enjoy the same rights as they did at the commencement of the legislation i.e. 1886.
Sections 8(1)(a) and 8(1)(b) of the Regulation define a landholder. Basically, a landholder is a person, who has entered into an agreement with the Government to take land on lease for a term of not less than 10 years.
Conditions for enjoying rights of a Landholder:
Section 9 of the Regulation provides that a landholder shall have a permanent, heritable, and transferable right of use and occupancy in his land.
(a) The payment of all revenues, taxes, cesses, and rates from time to time, legally assessed or imposed in respect of the land;
(b) The reservation in favour of the government of all the quarries and all mines, minerals and mineral oils, and all buried treasure, with full liberty to search for and work the same, paying to the landholder only compensation for the surface damage as estimated by the Deputy Commissioner.
(c) The special conditions of any engagement into which the landholder may have entered into with the government.