New Delhi: The Modi government is planning to make Aadhaar or PAN mandatory for property registration, a move that it hopes will go a long way in checking land fraud and reining in benami transactions, ThePrint has learnt.
Government officials familiar with the matter told ThePrint that the Department of Land Resources (DoLR), under the Union Rural Development Ministry, is likely to bring in the Registration (Amendment) Bill whenever Parliament convenes for its next session.
The bill proposes to link registration of property with Aadhaar or any valid document of proof like PAN (Permanent Account Number) or a driving license, for those who don’t have Aadhar, to verify the identity of those who are getting the property registered.
“The bill to amend Section 32 of the Registration Act, 1908, will be introduced as and when the Parliament convenes,” said one of the officials.
The Union cabinet had cleared a draft of the bill in 2013, when the UPA was in power. But it could not be taken up in Parliament because of resistance from the states.
“When the NDA government came to power in 2014, it again took up the proposal. Several rounds of back and forth consultations with states were held to bring the states on board,” the official added. “The states are now more or less on the same page with the Centre on this subject.”
The draft bill was referred twice to the Group of Ministers (GoM). The last GoM it was referred to was headed by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh. It reviewed the draft bill and gave its report to the government last year.
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Legal backing for move
A handful of states and UTs, including Maharashtra, Chandigarh, Haryana, UP, Gujarat, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, have allowed Aadhaar or PAN for property registration but on consent basis. This was following an advisory from the DoLR in 2018.
“But it will get legal backing once the Registration Act gets amended,” said a second official. “This will not only check property fraud but because all documents will be online, one will not be required to carry physical documents.”
The move is in line with the government’s thrust to push land reforms that have been pending for a long time. In his address to the nation on 12 May, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had again emphasised the need for reform in four areas — land, labour, liquidity and laws — for a “self-reliant” India.
“It will go a long way in bringing transparency in property transactions. According to a study that we had commissioned, there are presently 1.3 lakh property dispute cases pending in the country,” said the second official.
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Digitisation of all land records
In line with its reform push, the government is also working to digitise all land records in the country.
So far, the government has digitised 6.55 lakh land records in rural India. “We have been given a 2023-24 target to complete the entire digitisation process,” said the second official quoted above.
While the DoLR will digitise all the land records in rural areas, it has asked the housing and urban affairs ministry to complete the process in urban areas.
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The best solution to cut benami/fraudulent/corrupt property transactions is to establish land exchanges that work on similar lines as stock exchanges using unique property identity codes (UPICs) based on GPS technology and list the ownership to individual property demat accounts and bank accounts. This will ensure full transparency of land deals through the highest bidder and collection of taxes at source based on transaction value both for sales/leases of properties. We have the technology and the talent but need to find the political will that is sadly spent on misplaced priroties that serve political interests rather than the greater common good of the society.
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