Correction of BTR

The N-th procedure to correct Data Bank

I can’t really remember all those methods that were formulated to correct the data bank under the Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act, 2008. There have been numerous. All those procedures were either replaced or repealed, before any application could reach a logical conclusion.

If I remember correctly, first it was the Thasildar under the Kerala Land Tax Act who was empowered to correct the Basic Tax Register (and in course the data bank), if it was found that the land in reality is not a Paddy Land. Later, his power was curtailed, and the Kerala High Court assumed this role in its original jurisdiction. But when number of cases that are filed got out of control, the Kerala High Court decided to relegate the function to the Local Level Monitoring Committee or the Revenue Divisional Officer, depending on the entry in the data bank. Thereafter, in the year 2015, the UDF Government brought in the controversial Section 3A for correction of data bank by the District Collector. But again, this section was repealed after the Kerala High Court warned of it being struck down as unconstitutional.

Sometime in the year 2016, somebody informed the Kerala High Court that there is a Center for Remote Sensing at Thiruvananthapuaram, which has taken satellite pictures of all of Kerala, and it could reveal how the land was lying as on the year 2008. So now, the Kerala High Court has again assumed the responsibility of correcting the data bank, after calling for report from this “Kerala State Remote Sensing and Environment Centre, Thiruvananthpuaram” through the Agricultural Officer, who is the convener of the Local Level Monitoring Committee. This is the procedure in currently in vogue for correcting the data bank, but now it is learned that a new notification has come into effect.

I haven’t seen the official notification, but the newspaper report is enclosed here under for reference. According to that report, one has to go directly to the Local Level Monitoring Committee, for correction of mistakes in the data bank, within 90days from 1st June 2017. The time limit of 90days is prescribed only for the Kerala High Court to strike it down.

For me, one thing is very clear. The Kerala Conservation of Paddy land and Wetland Act, 2008, is an unruly gal, wandering here and there without any resolve, and yet to enter her teenage. When she is a teenager, I bet, all including the Kerala Government, Environmental Activists and Kerala High Court would vie to tame her, and get her attention, with their own pieces of advice.

So, according to me, it is better to wait and watch, and see how this girl grows up into a woman, instead of rushing in for her immediate attention.

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PS: The amendment GO (P) No. 34/2017/Revenue dated 30/5/2017 (SRO 301/2017) is embedded hereunder

Correction of Basic Tax Register

It had been a contentious issue whether the Basic Tax Register (BTR) can be corrected, if the description of the property stated therein, has changed subsequently. The issue attains importance in the light of the embargo placed against conversion of paddy field (Nilam), for any other purposes, after the enactment of Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act, 2008. The Kerala Government wanted to preserve the BTR as it is, when the majority of public wanted to correct the wrong descriptions of their property, mostly wrong entries of nilam, from the revenue records.

The Single Judge of the Kerala High Court had held that the Tahsildar is the competent authority to correct the revenue records under the Kerala Land Tax Act. However, in appeal by the State, the Division Bench clarified that the authority of Tahsildar is very limited, and there is no proper procedure prescribed in law to correct the ‘description of property’ in the Basic Tax Register. Nevertheless, considering the ground realities and problems faced by the public, the Division Bench held that one can approach the High Court, by invoking its original declaratory jurisdiction, to rectify any mistakes existing in the Basic Tax Register. This was again not to the satisfaction of the government, and so it again preferred an appeal to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court, after consideration of the existing laws, overruled the previous judgments of the Kerala High Court and held that there is no way one can correct the entries in the Basic Tax Register. According to the Supreme Court, if one desires to change the use of land, then he has to approach the local level monitoring committee under the 2008 Act (if the land is included in the data bank), or the Collector/RDO under the Land Utilisation Orders (if land is not included in the data bank).

It has to be said here that the judgment of the Supreme court is detached to the ground realities. It is unpractical and a ridiculous judgment. However, Supreme Court cannot be faulted for its strict interpretation of laws. The fault lies with the Kerala State Legislature for promulgating half-baked-laws, on the pretext of environmental protection.

In the current state of affairs, as desired by the Kerala Government, if the BTR states a property as Nilam, then one has to satisfy (usually with money) the RDO/Collector, for taking his land out of the strict provision of Land Utilization Orders. Same kind of satisfaction is required with additional six members of the local level monitoring commitee, if the land is included in data bank, for taking it out of Paddy and Wetland Act, 2008

The fact whether the land is actually a paddy field or not, is no more relevant. Money alone matters.