Embracing Technology For Land Records: A Reformative Leap

Vaish Associates Advocates


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The foundation for verifying title of land lies in the examination of land records, which contain essential information such as landholder, type of holding, location, area, encumbrances, etc.
India Technology
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The foundation for verifying title of land lies in the examination of land records, which contain essential information such as landholder, type of holding, location, area, encumbrances, etc. However, the conventional paper-based maintenance of these records proves arduous, leading to errors and hindrances in determining the title of land with clarity. To address these challenges and propel the modernization of land record management, digitization emerges as a pivotal solution. By leveraging technology, digitization aims to mitigate land and property disputes, foster transparency in record-keeping, and pave the path towards establishing unequivocal land titles nationwide.

In India, vide chain of documents, known as Record of Rights ("RoR"), the transfer of title can be traced from one individual to another over time, culminating in the current owner(s)/holder(s). The custodians of these land records are the revenue department, vested with the authority to maintain meticulous land record details. Additionally, various transactions pertaining to ownership changes, such as sales, loans, mortgages, and crop updates, are sanctioned by revenue department officials, leading to updates in the RoR. Governed by state laws, the land records system facilitates the mutation of land, encompassing alterations in ownership, cultivators, crops, irrigation sources, and associated rights and obligations. The RoR is of paramount importance especially for farmers, enabling them to access government subsidies for seeds, fertilizers, loans, and sales.

India has embraced various technological initiatives to move from traditional paper based systems to digital systems to enable ease of transactions, credibility of records and reduction of frauds.

Digital India Land Records Modernization Programme ("DILRMP")1 : In our diverse nation, marked by a rich tapestry of languages, cultures, regions, and socio-economic dynamics, the digitization of land records stands out as a vital undertaking. This transformation aims to ensure accuracy, updated status, and easy public access to land records, acknowledging the complexities inherent in land administration and management. While the responsibility for land and its management primarily lies with the states, the Government of India has been actively supporting states and union territories both, financially and technically, to digitize land records and make them accessible to the public.

The Digital India Land Records Modernization Programme ("DILRMP"), launched in 2016, represents a significant step towards modernizing land record management. It builds upon the earlier National Land Records Modernization Programme ("NILRMP"), transitioning into a centrally funded scheme with a renewed focus on leveraging technology to minimize land disputes, enhance transparency, and streamline land records maintenance. The recent extension of the scheme by the Ministry of Finance underscores its continued importance, with added components like the computerization of revenue courts and Aadhaar linkage with RoR further enhancing its scope.

Seamless access to land records information is vital for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of services provided by central and state government departments. The development of an integrated land information management system is essential for driving infrastructure development, economic growth, and ensuring the livelihoods of the rural population, which heavily relies on land resources. DILRMP, with its focus on adopting modern technologies such as AI, Machine Learning, and Blockchain, aims to establish a comprehensive and transparent land record management system. This system promises error-free, transparent, and tamper-proof land records, thereby securing rights for citizens, reducing land disputes, simplifying property title transfers, and aiding in policy and planning initiatives.

Despite the complexity and voluminous nature of the implementation process, substantial progress has been made in key components of the programme, including the computerization of Record of Rights, digitization of cadastral maps, registration processes, and integration of registration and land records. This progress underscores the program's commitment to modernizing land administration and its potential to bring about transformative change in the management of land records. Physical progress under major components of DILRMP is available on https://dilrmp.gov.in/

Government Initiatives:

a) Unique Land Parcel Identification Number or Bhu-Aadhar2

The Unique Land Parcel Identification Number ("ULPIN") is a cornerstone of the DILRMP. It consists of a 14-digit identifier assigned to each land parcel, derived from its longitude and latitude coordinates, meticulously mapped through detailed surveys and geo-referenced cadastral maps. Serving as a singular, authoritative source of truth, ULPIN offers comprehensive information on any land parcel or property, facilitating integrated land services for citizens and stakeholders alike.

Built upon international standards, including those set by the Electronic Commerce Code Management Association ("ECCMA") and the Open Geospatial Consortium ("OGC"), the ULPIN system ensures reliability and compatibility across platforms. Its benefits extend beyond mere land details, playing a pivotal role in various government initiatives such as insurance and disaster assistance. For instance, during a recent natural calamity in Maharashtra, where landholder KYC verification was crucial for aid distribution, ULPIN facilitated a streamlined process through mobile OTP-based verification, circumventing cumbersome paperwork procedures and delay in aid distribution.

b) National Generic Document Registration System3 :

The National Generic Document Registration System ("NGDRS"), spearheaded by the Department of Land Resources under the Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India, is a versatile application designed to streamline document registration processes across the country. This user-friendly platform caters to sub-registrars, citizens, and apex users within registration departments, offering a standardized yet adaptable framework.

NGDRS empowers states to create customized instances tailored to their specific requirements, enhancing flexibility and efficiency. With a comprehensive user interface, the application facilitates seamless property and document registration, empowering citizens to engage in online land transactions. Users can access vital information such as circle rates, property valuation, and land type, aiding informed decision-making. Moreover, NGDRS imposes restrictions on transactions involving prohibited properties such as government land, tribal land, and mortgaged land, ensuring compliance with legal regulations and avoidance of fraudulent/illegal transactions. This feature assists buyers in selecting suitable properties aligned with their preferences and legal constraints.

By enabling online document submission, instant payments, appointment scheduling, and property valuation, NGDRS minimizes the need for multiple visits to the sub-registrar's office, saving time and resources for both citizens and department staff. This streamlined workflow not only benefits citizens but also enhances the productivity of departmental personnel, ultimately fostering a more efficient and transparent registration process.

c) Linkage of E-Court with Land Record and Registration data base4

The E-courts Project, an integral component of the National e-Governance initiatives, has been operational in Courts across the nation since 2007. Its primary objective is to furnish courts with essential hardware and software tools, facilitating the provision of e-services. Moreover, it empowers the judiciary to oversee and administer court operations effectively.

E-Court serves as a platform for citizens, litigants, lawyers, government bodies, and law enforcement agencies to access comprehensive data and information pertaining to the country's judicial framework. The objective of linking E-Court with the Land Record and Registration database is to furnish courts with authentic and firsthand information, thereby expediting case resolution and ultimately reducing land disputes. The benefits of this linkage include:

  1. Providing courts with first-hand information on substantive and authentic evidence from the RoR, Cadastral maps, includsing geo-referenced and legacy data. This empowers courts to make well-informed decisions during case proceedings.
  2. Facilitating the admission and disposal of disputes by providing courts with comprehensive information crucial for case resolution.
  3. Contributing to a reduction in the number of land disputes nationwide, fostering an environment conducive to business operations and promoting ease of living.

Successful pilot tests for the linkage of E-Court with land records and registration databases have been conducted in three states namely, Haryana, Maharashtra, and Uttar Pradesh. These initiatives, conducted in collaboration with the Department of Justice, represent a significant step towards leveraging technology to streamline legal processes and enhance the administration of justice.

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1 Source: DILRMP | DEPARTMENT OF LAND RESOURCES | India (dolr.gov.in)

2 Year End Review 2023: Achievement of the Department of Land Resources (Ministry of Rural Development) | Ministry of Rural Development | Government of India

3 Supra 2

4 Source: Press Information Bureau (pib.gov.in)

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The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist professional advice should be sought about your specific circumstances. The views expressed in this article are solely of the authors of this article.

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