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Ownership of land in India is presumptive in nature subject to challenge. This means that ownership cannot be determined with a single document or record. Ownership must be established through a combination of various documents like registered sale deeds, tax receipts, record of rights, survey records and more. Due the complex nature of our prevalent system, it is imperative as home buyer to ascertain the accurate title of the land you wish to purchase. In the case of residential apartments this refers to the land upon which the residential complex had been built and the way the title of it is held. A good marketable title is one which is free of encumbrances, has proper records and no tax liabilities.

Land Records

In India, the Survey Department is responsible for measuring land, setting boundaries, assessing agricultural land, and maintaining land records. Their records include information like spatial details, plot description, plot size, CTS number in the case of urban land, etc. It is mandatory for landowners to pay land revenue to the government. A record of the revenue paid by way of taxes is maintained by the Land Revenue Administration. As per the Transfer of Properties Act 1882 and the Indian Registration Act 1908 transfer of any immoveable property must be registered with the government. All changes to the title and ownership must be recorded and registered as well. The Indian Stamp Act 1899 requires several types of land transfer documents to be stamped along with being registered. Registration records are maintained by the Sub Registrar’s office of the concerned Taluka and stamp duty records are maintained by the Stamp Duty Department. All the above-mentioned records are maintained by the concerned department in different formats. All transfers and mutations to a title are not necessarily updated on all the records. This leads to discrepancies in documents and is often the primary cause of many legal disputes.

Proof of Ownership

The onus of checking the accuracy of a seller’s claim of ownership always rests with the buyer. Certain documents can help prospective buyers ascertain the nature of the land title. A legal title report is a useful document that summaries the ownership history and declares how the title is currently held. This can be found of the RERA website for RERA registered properties. A Property Card is an extract obtained from the urban land records register. It is a government certified document that proves ownership and contains details of the history of ownership of the land, land description, taxes paid and unpaid, mutation records, encumbrances, etc. A property Index II is an autogenerated document that is created at the time of registration of a transfer. It contains a short description of the registered documents and details of the immoveable property. It summarizes and legitimizes the transfer but does not prove validity of the contents of the registered documents. It is issued and maintained by the sub registrar’s office and stamp duty department and is usually found attached to the registered documents.

Digitization of Records

In a bid to create a more efficient and effective method of recording and storing land records, the Government of India introduced the National Land Records Modernization Program, now known as the Digital India Land Record Modernization Program (DILRMP) in 2008. Their goal was to digitize the entire process of property registration and computerize land records. The implementation of this program has been slow largely because majority of the land records have been stored manually in silos up until now. However, there is some relief for property and land buyers today in the form of official websites that now allow you to search for documents like a Property Index II card or a Property Card of a plot of land based on its registration number, name of ancestors, plot CTS number and other such details. Those looking to purchase properties in RERA registered projects can view the land title report and other relevant documents on the RERA website by entering the project’s RERA registration number.

Although the government has introduced several measures to make the entire process of land registration transparent in India, it is still far from easy to navigate. Most documents available are not up to date, often published in local languages and written in legal jargon that is hard to interpret for a common man. Therefore, it is preferable to seek expert advice in understanding the title of the land in question and the way it is held. By doing so you can ensure you are investing in a marketable title and can be assured that there will be no hinderances going forward should you wish to transfer or liquidate your investment.

“Views expressed are the personal views of the author. Any action taken based on the views will be the responsibility of the user alone.”

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