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prefaced by a brief and practical "Statement of Objects and Reasons" by the Hon. C. M. Rivaz, who is in charge of the measure, and is eminently qualified by long and approved experience to deal with the details. No sentiment is wasted on the occasion, no apologetic hesitations find expression. "The expropriation of the hereditary agriculturist in many parts of the Panjâb," writes the Honourable Member, "through the machinery of unrestricted sale and mortgage, has been regarded for years past as a serious political danger. It is recognised that the danger is accompanied with bad economic results, that it is increasing, and that if not arrested it will grow to formidable dimensions." Such is the fact plainly stated, and it is one which cannot be controverted.
As to the provisions of the proposed law itself, they will be found to be marked by the same straightforward good sense that the introductory statement gives evidence of A complicated, half-hearted measure, abounding in drawbacks and exceptions, and hedged with timid provisos, would be certain to fail. The experiment, if tried at all, is one to be tried fairly and squarely.
The term "land" for the purposes of this law is of course defined: it does not include (to put it untechnically) house sites in town or village; it means land used for agriculture or pasture, or for purposes subservient thereto.
The persons to be protected are agriculturists (the term being defined), who are either owners or hereditary tenants.*
The authority who will exercise control in cases of alienation, in the first instance, is an officer of the revenue administration, of such rank as the Act provides. In certain cases it may be any officer whom the Local Government appoints; in other cases of greater importance, it will be an officer not below the rank of a Deputy Commissioner (which means the Collector or chief officer
*The "hereditary tenant," as distinguished from the contract tenant, or tenant at will, has a defined position under the Tenancy Law of 1887.
of a district) or some experienced person who is vested with the powers of such an officer.
Alienation is of course either permanent or temporary; and we may regard the leasing of land (which might be arranged at a nominal rent) as a form of temporary alienation which also needs regulation.
Every permanent alienation will require an official sanction; but in the first place, if the person alienating is himself a non-agriculturist, or if the sale is to an agriculturist (owner or hereditary tenant) in the village, or to one belonging to the same (agricultural) tribe* in the district, then the alienation will be sanctioned as of right, without objection. Otherwise an inquiry will be made into the circumstances, and the officer will be able (subject to appeal) to grant or refuse the application.
But even if an alienation is made (privately and) without sanction, it is not-Section 10 (2)-entirely void; it is proposed that it shall be recognised only as a usufructuary mortgage for a certain term (prescribed). There may be good reason for this, but I confess I do not see why, in view of the facility there will be (and the absence of all expense and serious trouble) in getting sanction, the unauthorized permanent alienation should not simply be void. If there be any bona-fide mistake, the transaction could of course be renewed (and would be under the circumstances), and then sanction could be asked.
Generally, land is not sold straight off; the creditor first allows an "account" to run up in his "books." When the balance mounts up, and circumstances are suitable (the money-lender is as acute in noting the state of his creditor as a barometer is to mark changes in the air), he demands that the "balance" (with future interest) should be acknowledged by a (simple) bond on stamped paper. Then in the proper time a mortgage of land is suggested,
* A register may be prepared and kept up in each district, showing what bodies of persons are agricultural tribes" for the purposes of the Act
and a sale is only in the last resort (unless we have a case of "land-grabbing," or a real desire to buy up fields as an investment.)
As regards the process of mortgage, four forms of this transaction have been customary. Two are now properly disallowed; the others are maintained within due limits. (1) There is the simple or English" mortgage, in which possession is not transferred, but the property becomes liable to sale on the expiry of the date fixed, if the conditions have not been fulfilled. This form of mortgage is allowed, but subject to proviso that, in the event of nonpayment, the land shall not be sold, but given in possession under usufructuary mortgage for such term, not exceeding fifteen years, as the revenue officer shall determine to be equitable; and this mortgage is to subsist for such sum as is then determined (the Bill gives details as to reckoning principal and reasonable interest). (2) The hitherto common form whereby the mortgagee is put in possession, and is to take the produce or rent in lieu of interest only (without account), will, most properly, become illegal altogether. So also will (3) the "conditional sale," even if it was made before the date of the Act. (This is known as bai'-bil-wafâ.) But such a transaction can on application be converted into an usufructuary mortgage for a term of years, as the equity of the case may suggest. The other mortgage (4) that is permitted (and will doubtless become the standard form) is that known to custom as "lekhamukhi," where the mortgagee in possession is bound to account for his receipts periodically, and to set them against both interest (of fixed amount) and principal, so that in time the account closes and the land is free. This may be for a term of years not exceeding fifteen, after which the land is returned free of debt. It is wisely also provided (Section 8) that when one mortgage has been made (or a lease), the owner is not at liberty to make any further temporary alienation of his land during the currency of such mortgage or lease." It is perhaps not quite clear whether this
refers to a second mortgage of the same land, or any other mortgage of his (possible) remaining land not yet encumbered. It will be observed, also, that no hypothecation of produce unreaped, or reaped and still at the threshingfloor, is allowed. In the case of a "lease," it may endure for the life of the lessor (up to for fifteen years, but not more). Such a lease requires no sanction. To these provisions is added the general one that land cannot be sold in execution of any decree of Court past or future; and that no instrument which contravenes the rules of the Act can be admitted to registration,
The Act closes with the usual provisions regarding the course of appeal, and for power to the Local Government to make subsidiary rules for giving effect to the Act, and regulating the procedure and powers of officers in the matter of applications for sanction.
It is not intended to pass this Act till next summer session, by which time everybody will have had ample opportunity to study the simple provisions of the law and to submit their criticism.
TEXT OF THE LAND BILL.
Introduced in the Council of the Governor-General of India,
A BILL TO AMEND THE LAW RELATING TO AGRICULTURAL LAND IN
Whereas it is expedient to amend the law relating to agricultural land in the Panjâb, it is hereby enacted as follows:
I.—(1) This Act may be called the Panjâb Alienation of Land Act, 1900. (2) It extends to all the territories for the time being administered by the Lieutenant-Governor of the Panjâb; and
3. It shall come into force on ...
II.—In this Act, unless there is anything repugnant in the subject or
(1) The expression "agriculturist" means a person who, either in his own name or in the name of his agnate ancestor, was recorded as the owner of land or as a hereditary tenant in any estate at the first regular settlement:
* The Gazette of India, September 30, 1899.
Provided that the Local Government, with the previous sanction of the Governor-General in Council, may, by notification in the local official Gazette, extend this definition so as to include any persons or classes of persons in any part of the territories to which this Act applies.
(2) The expression "district" means a district as defined for the purposes of the Panjâb Land Revenue Act, 1887:
Provided that the Local Government, with the previous sanction of the Governor-General in Council, may, by notification in the local official Gazette, extend or restrict this definition in any particular case.
(3) The expression "land" means land which is not occupied, as the site of any building in a town or village, and is occupied or let for agricultural purposes or for purposes subservient to agriculture or for pasture, and includes the sites of buildings and other structures on such land; and
(4) The expression "Deputy Commissioner" includes any person authorized by the Local Government to exercise the powers of a Deputy Commissioner.
PERMANENT ALIENATION OF LAND.
III.—(1) A person who desires to make a permanent alienation of his land shall be at liberty to make such alienation on obtaining the sanction of a Revenue officer.
(2) Such sanction shall be given in all cases where—
(a) The alienor is not a member of an agricultural tribe;
(b) The alienor is a member of an agricultural tribe, and the alienee is an agriculturist holding land as owner or as occupancy-tenant in the village where the land alienated is situated;
(c) The alienor is a member of an agricultural tribe, and the alienee is a member of the same tribe residing in the district where the land alienated is situated.
(3) Except in the cases provided for by sub-section (2), the Revenue officer shall inquire into the circumstances of the proposed alienation, and shall have discretion to grant or refuse the sanction applied for.
(4) In the cases provided for by sub-section (2), the application for sanction shall be made to such Revenue officer as the Local Government may determine. In all other cases the application shall be made to such Revenue officer, not lower in rank than Deputy Commissioner, as the Local Government may determine.
IV. The Local Government, with the previous sanction of the Governor-General in Council, may, by notification in the local official Gazette, determine for each district what bodies of persons therein are to be deemed to be agricultural tribes for the purposes of this Act.
V.-Where a Revenue officer sanctions a permanent alienation of land, no right of pre-emption subsisting in respect of such land shall be taken away or otherwise affected by such sanction.
TEMPORARY ALIENATIONS OF LAND.
VI. (1) A person may make a temporary alienation of his land by way of mortgage in either of the following forms:
(a) In the form of a usufructuary mortgage, by which the mort