TN govt pulled up by HC for delay in digitising land records

CHENNAI: The Madras high court on Monday summoned the state revenue secretary to be personally present in the court on November 10 to assist the bench on issues concerning modernisation of land records.

Expressing surprise at the reluctance of the authorities to engage technology to achieve quicker solutions on issues concerning modernisation of land records, the first bench said it could not give eight years for the authorities to complete the project. “The time period given in the affidavit of the secretary is completely unacceptable. There appears to be reluctance to engage technology for a quicker solution,” said the judges.

The first bench was passing further orders on a PIL filed by a practising advocate for a direction to the authorities to deploy GPS instrument and survey the extent of public lands using modern gadgets in order to prevent encroachment. During last hearing it had said: “We grant last opportunity to the authorities to place their affidavits on record within four weeks, failing which the revenue secretary shall remain personally present in court with records.”

The PIL wanted a permanent special task force with adequate powers and responsibilities to conduct periodical inspections, field surveys and removal of encroachments from all categories of vacant government lands in Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur, and to take appropriate actions to ensure proper utilisation of each properties, including disposals of excess lands with a prescribed time limit.

Earlier, the poor utilisation of several hundred crores of rupees meant for land records modernisation scheme had shocked the court, which pointed out that a sum of Rs.10.14 crores had been earmarked under the Centre’s National Land Records Modernisation Programme (NLRMP), of which Tamil Nadu authorities spent 31,000, showing an abysmally low utilization of .03%. The fund was meant for survey/re-survey of public lands for the financial year 2014-15.

The PIL petitioner had also referred to the CAG report on the programme, and said a government order dated March 12, 2015 showed a sanction of 24.74 crore, of which the share of the Centre was Rs.13.97 crores and of the state’s share was Rs.10.77 crores. The state had spent only 4.6% of the amount sanctioned for Land Records Management Centre, though the funds were received in August 2015.

The judges said the state’s record was the reflection of poor performance of the officials, and referred to the petitioner’s contention that the Karnataka high court, while handling a similar situation, had held that the court had to monitor the issue for its proper implementation. The judges said authorities could take the issues raised by the petitioner in right spirit and accept the assistance offered by him instead of approaching it in an adversarial fashion.

Credits ET Realty

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