On 23rd May 2023, the Revenue and Forest Department of the Government of Maharashtra ("GoM") has published its Resolution bearing Reference No:NAP-2022/P.No.103/J-1 A ("GR") in relation to the provisions of the Maharashtra Land Revenue 1966 ("MLRC") which enable lands to be treated as deemed to be non-agricultural where the lands are contained within the limits of a Final or Draft Development Plan.

Sections 42-A to 42-D of the MLRC introduced automatic NA permissions for lands within Development Plan areas

Pursuant to the enactment of Sections 42-A, 42-B, 42-C 42-D or 44-A of the MLRC, no prior permission of the Collector is required for non-agricultural use of lands falling within the limits of a region for which there exists a Draft/ Final Development Plan or a within 200 meters from an area covered under a Draft/Final Development plan (i.e. peripheral area) (collectively, "Lands under DP"). However, the procedures contained in the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act 1966 and Government Circulars dated 19th August 2017, 17th January and 14th March 2018 were required to be complied with by landowners/ developers before they could submit proposals for development of Lands under DP.

Directions to implement the provisions for auto NA

By a subsequent Circular bearing No: NAP- 2021/P.No.118/J-1A dated 13th April 2022 issued by the Revenue and Forests Department the jurisdictional revenue authorities were directed to: (i) prepare lists of Lands under DP i.e. the lands eligible for conversion to NA; (ii) calculate the one-time conversion tax and the NA assessment leviable upon such eligible lands basis the proposed NA use/ reservation for such land under the Draft or Final Development Plan, as the case maybe; and (iii) issue challans/ demands for payment of the amounts contained therein. Thereafter, the aforesaid authorities had to conduct inspections and verify the due compliance of the directions and guidelines contained in the Circular dated 13th April 2022 within the area of Land under DP within their jurisdiction. Upon verifying the payment of conversion tax and NA assessment for a piece of land, the Tahsildars were granted authority to issue the sanad in Form 'A' in respect of the same. Therefore, despite the introduction of Sections 42-A to 42-D of MLRC providing for deemed NA permission, the actual use of such lands for NA purposes required completion of the process of issuance of the sanad in Form 'A' and only thereafter would a landowner be able to submit plans for development.

New GR issued to fast forward the NA process by combining it with development approvals

With continued efforts of the Government to induce measures for ease of doing business, the Revenue & Forest Department of GoM, has issued the GR for development of lands falling within the limits of a Draft or Final Development Plan, which inter-alia provides that owners of Lands under DP can submit plans for development thereof to the concerned development authority for grant of construction permission. While considering the plans, such authority would be obliged to review whether the land concerned qualifies as Lands under DP and is eligible for NA use or for a change in the existing permitted NA use in terms of Sections 42-A to 42-D of MLRC, and upon such verification, the development authority may proceed to sanction the proposed development of such lands for NA use. Once the development authority has decided that the land is eligible as stated above, the below procedure must be followed for electronic issuance of sanad, assessment of conversion premium and NA assessment tax through the Building Plan Management System ("BMPS") portal of the GoM:

i. Class 1 tenure lands will be NA upon submission of plans:

For agricultural lands of Class 1 tenure which comply with the conditions stated above, NA permission shall be automatically sanctioned upon submission of draft plans for development. Simultaneously, the change in land use shall be updated in all necessary departments/ offices of the Government of Maharashtra electronically through the BMPS by virtue of auto-generated sanad for NA use. The intimation of conversion of the land to NA alongwith copies of the sanad will be forwarded through the BMPS to all relevant government departments including the revenue authorities of the relevant village. Finally, before or parallelly with issuance of the development permission, the revenue authorities will assess the revised lands revenue i.e. NA tax payable in respect of such lands.

ii. Class 2 tenure landowners can apply for change of tenure and then follow same procedure as Class 1

Since Class 2 lands inherently involve restriction on the use and transfer thereof, before the automatic NA permission can be processed for them, the land holder shall have to take the usual steps for conversion of the tenure to Class 1 and pay the nazrana/ premium before the application for sanction of development of agricultural lands can be processed through the BMPS. Only after the tenure has been converted to Class 1 in the revenue records, will automatic NA permission be granted (through BMPS) and the same procedure as applicable to Class 1 lands in relation to issuance of sanad and levy of revised NA tax, etc. (as detailed above) shall follow.

By the GR, the requirement of obtaining separate NA permission or sanad for NA use prior to applying for construction permission, has been done away with in relation to those lands which are deemed to be NA for the purposes of Sections 42-A to 42-D of MLRC thereby giving more teeth to these provisions.

BMPS – a digital transformation

BMPS was developed as an automated building permission tool introduced by the Urban Development Department of GoM with applicability across all municipal councils across Maharashtra. It is being used since 2021 for issuance of NA permissions, submission of building plans and so on. However, the use of BMPS for implementation of the decision to remove the step of obtaining formal NA permission/ NOC/ intimation of NA serves the dual purposes of standardizing the varying building permission processes followed by the different Municipal Corporation, Councils and development authorities across Maharashtra and enhancing the state's ranking on the Ease of Doing Business initiatives of the Central Government. The BMPS portal provides for the full cycle of building permissions from commencement certificate till occupancy certificates, including renewal of building permissions.

Automation of building permissions enhanced by a digital push for ease of doing business

Briefly restated, the GR combines issuance of NA permission with development permissions and thereby reduces one step in the process of development of agricultural lands. The deeming fiction for NA use contained in the amended provisions of MLRC has received a digital impetus by use of the BMPS.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.