Updated: Jul 6, 2021
The Assam Land Revenue Regulation of 1886 was passed to provide a more concrete and comprehensive nature to the land rights in Assam, as compared to the Medieval period till the early part of the 19th Century. So let us take a step further into the History of Land Rights in Assam.
Among one of the Chapters of this massive legislation, Chapter III provides us with the Settlement Operation of Land, Revenue Assessment and Land RIghts as well as how much ownership and rights could be resumed, if discontinued or lost.
COMPONENTS OF CHAPTER III
Chapter III of the Assam Land Revenue Regulation, 1886 (Sections 17-47) deals with Settlement operations and lays down the procedure for settlement of lands and survey of lands before such settlement.
It also provides for the Preparation of Record-of-Rights and prescribes the procedure for resuming land held revenue-free under invalid titles.
A settlement means the leasing of land at the disposal of the State Government and includes the operation of a survey, classification report, preliminary to such leasing.
The Settlement of a local area or a class of estates means a special operation .i.e., a settlement operation carried out for formal revision of the land revenue demand of that area or class of estates.
The term ‘Settlement’ has two distinct meanings:
The allotment of unoccupied land .i.e. land at the disposal of the State Government, at a revenue assessment calculated at fixed rates,
The modification of the rates at which occupied land (.i.e., land under previous settlement) has been assessed. This process is distinctively known as ‘Re-Settlement’.
Settlement Operation included one or more of the following operations:
(i) Survey & demarcation of lands
(ii) Assessment of land revenue
(iii) Preparation of Record-of-rights
Nowadays, the land is given on lease by the Government for a period of 30 years. The revenue and the terms and conditions remain fixed for 30 years. The Government will appoint certain officers for this purpose. These officers appointed by the government are called Settlement Officers.
The Settlement Officers conduct a survey, prepare a report and submit it to the State Government. The Government will give the widest possible publicity to the report.
If any person has any objection, then such person has to submit their objection within 30 days of the publication of the report.
If any objection is received by the State Government, then the State Government shall fix a date for hearing such objection.
Finally, the State Government will fix the revenue and the terms and conditions for the next 30 years. This is called ‘Settlement Operation’.
The three stages of settlement operation are discussed below:
1. Survey & Demarcation:
The Settlement officers of the Government of Assam will survey each land pilot in Assam. In this phase, villages are surveyed and the villages are measured and demarcated by suitable boundary marks.
For each village, a large Cadastral Map, based on the traverse survey, and showing roads, rivers, railways, and other physical features of the country and homesteads and other fields are prepared.
During the survey operation and measurement of plots, disputes regarding the boundaries of the plots may arise. In such a case, the survey officer will notify the statement officer, who will decide all disputes.
2. Preparation of Record-of-Rights:
During the Settlement Operation, record-of-rights for each state is prepared by the settlement officer. The record-of-rights is the ‘Jamabandi’ based on the ‘Chitha’ (.i.e. field index) and the field map. The record-of-rights is prepared in the manner provided by Settlement Rules 56-60.
After a village has been surveyed and demarcated a draft ‘Chitha’ or field index is prepared. This ‘Chitha’ is arranged according to the serial number of the fields in the village showing:
(i) Number of the field
(ii) Area of the field
(iii) Name, father’s name and residence of proprietor or settlement holder
(v) Assessment class.
From these, a draft Jamabandi is prepared highlighting classification of land and other details and a copy of such details is also furnished to the proprietors, landholders and settlement holders.
Any correction on the record-of-rights or Jamabandi is done by the settlement officer at the instance of proprietors, landholders etc., and is done after a proclamation duly published in the village giving due notice to the proprietors and settlement holders and a call to appear before him.
Disputes regarding such matter are decided in a summary manner by the Attestation officer, on basis of actual possession. This is known as Record Attestation.
After the revenue rates are fixed by the Government through the settlement officers (on the spot), Revenue Attestation is done and necessary corrections are made.
Thereafter, the settlement officer makes a final copy of Chitha and Jamabandi.
The final copy of the Jamabandi is the record of rights of proprietors and settlement holders within the meaning of Section 40 of Assam Land Revenue Regulation, 1886.
The Jamabandi so prepared shall contain the following:
(i) Number of the Estate.
(ii) Name, father’s name and residence of the proprietor & settlement holder
(iii) Number of each field
(iv) Area of each field
(v) Class of each field
(vi) Area of each class in each field
(vii) Revenue(if any)
(viii) Local Rate
3. Assessment of Land Revenue:
Section 28 of Assam Land Revenue Regulation, 1886 provides that all lends are liable for assessment and the lands for which House-Tax or Hoe-Tax is collected instead of land revenue. The classes of land that are exempted from land revenue are:-
(i) Lands held free from assessment of revenue under terms of any grant made or confirmed by the Government, such as Lakhiraj & Fee-Simple Estates.
(ii) Lands for which annual tax such as House Tax or Hoe Tax, is imposed under section 47 instead of land revenue;
(iii) Lands held under existing settlements, grants or leases are not to be affected.
(iv) Lands held revenue-free before the commencement of the regulation, such as Baksa estates of Cachar.
(v) Lands included in the limits of a permanently settled estate’ and
(vi) Lands held revenue free for 60 years continuously (owners can claim exemption by proving no payment for 60 years)
Sections 12 and 29 provide settlement rules that have been provided by the Government. The assessment of land consists of the following processes:-
(i) Preliminary record writing, and field classification
(ii) Record attestation
(iii) Submission of Attestation reports
(iv) Revenue Attestation
(v) Conclusion by the settlement officer
HOUSE-TAX OR HOE-TAX:
Section 47 of Assam Land Revenue Regulation, 1886 provides for House Tax or Hoe- Tax.
Section 47(1) provides in some particular areas, the government instead of collecting revenue may impose taxes, an annual tax on each male person above 18years of age, taking part in any cultivation of the land at any time during the year of assessment, or on each family or house of persons.
Section 47(2) provides that the rates may vary depending upon the locality and mode of assessment.
In Assam, House Tax or Hoe- Tax is paid by people living in North Cachar Hills and Dima Hasao.
Section 43 of the Regulation provides, that if the Deputy Commissioner believes that any particular remains to be assessed for revenue under Section 28.
Under his jurisdiction, the Deputy Commissioner may institute an inquiry and the person claiming the land shall be bound to prove his title, to hold the same land, whole or partially free of assessment, as the case may be.
Section 44 provides that the Deputy Commissioner will submit a report of all such inquires to the State Government.
Section 45(1) provides that based on the report under Section 44 of the State Government decides the land is not liable to be assessed, it shall be final, except in case there is proof of fraud, collusion etc, on part or behalf of the interested party.
Section 45(2) provides that if the land is liable to assessment, then the Deputy Commissioner shall inform the interested party and continue with the assessment as per Section 29 of Assam Land Revenue Regulation, 1886.
Section 46 also provides that any person whose lands are being arrested on the direction of the State Government under Section 45, within 1 year of his being informed of such assessment, may institute a suit in the civil court to have the order set aside, failing which the order shall be final.
ASSESSMENT OF REVENUE (Section 30):
In the framing of general proposals, of assessment the settlement officer is required to consider the following:
(i) Economic conditions of those who live by main agriculture
(ii) Total value of agricultural produce
(iii) Cost of production
(iv) Letting and selling value of land
For purposes of assessment of each estate, villages and the fields are classified and a fair rate per Bigha is fixed for each class of land.
The settlement officer then submits his rate report to the Director of Land Records, who publishes the report and, after considering the objections, submits the report with his recommendations for the State Government's orders.
The Director’s report will consist of terms and conditions, revenue and objections. Finally, the State Government will fix the terms and conditions and revenue and at the approved rates, the settlement officer determines the revenue payable for each estate. This concludes the settlement operation.
Thus, we have come to learn about the how the British administration designed the system where in any and all settlements of land were disposed and created an intricate system of recording all of such information, which went through a long meticulous chain to be completed. This was helpful for not only maintaining information about the land or sources of revenue, but also when such settlements were resumed or transferred.