Estate Abolition Act 1948

The Madras Estates (Abolition and Conversion into Ryotwari) Act (XXVI of 1948) was passed with the avowed and declared object of abolishing the permanently settled estates and for the introduction of ryotwari tenure in those areas. Under the ryotwari system all arable lands, whether cultivated or waste, are divided into blocks and granted to individuals acting on their own account without a middleman. The State, however, does not grant any title-deed to the ryot but it only grants a ryotwari patta, which has not been understood to be any conferment of title but only as indicating a certain fiscal arrangement between the Government and the individual concerned. The terms of the engagement are the payment to the Government by the pattadar of a tax which is fixed on the basis of a periodical settlement. In addition, the ryot would be bound to pay the Government a tax for the water supplied by the Government for the irrigation of the land covered by the patta. The obligation of the Government is to supply necessary and sufficient water for the accustomed requirements of the ryotwari pattadar and subject to that, the sovereign and paramount right of the Government to distribute water is absolute. A ryotwari proprietor has no right to prescribe the source from which the water should be supplied, though he could insist on the existing arrangements continuing till the Government provides an equally efficient supply. The underlying idea of that system is that the irrigation sources belong to the Government, the ryotwari pattadar being only the holder of the land and his right being only to obtain the accustomed supply of water with no specific right in regard to the source from which such water is supplied. It is, therefore, not possible to conceive of the grant of a ryotwari patta with regard to a tank in an ordinary Government village.

As the object of the Abolition Act is to convert the zamindari estate into a ryotwari tenure eliminating the middlemen, namely, the zamindars, the provisions therein should be understood in relation to that purpose. Broadly stated, the effect of the statute is: On notification of the estate under the Act, the entire estate (including all communal lands and porambokes, other non-ryoti lands, waste land, pasture land, lanka land, forest lands, etc., rivers and streams, tanks and irrigation works, fisheries and various other rights) would stand transferred to the Government and vest in them free of all encumbrances, and the Madras Revenue Recovery Act, the Madras Irrigation Cess Act, and all other enactments applicable to the ryotwari areas be applicable to the erstwhile estate. The result of the notification would be to vest the entire estate in the Government and the proprietor would be entitled only to a compensation.

Provision is, therefore, made under the Act for the notification and taking over the estate, appointment of Settlement Officers and Tribunals, the grant of pattas, adjudication of disputes and compensation to be paid to the proprietor for expropriation of his land.

Section 11 specifies the land in which the ryot would be entitled to a ryotwari patta.

Section 12 specifies the lands in the zamindari estate in which the landholder would be entitled to a patta.

Section 13 concerns itself with the lands in an inam estate, while Section 14 with under-tenure estate.

As regards the grant of a ryotwari patta in regard to private lands the relevant portion of Section 12 is this:

In the case of a zamindari estate, the land-holder shall with effect on and from the notified date, be entitled to a ryotwari patta in respect of (a) all lands (including lanka lands) which, immediately before the notified date, (i) belonged to him as private land within the meaning of Section 3, Clause (10)(a) of the Estates Land Act, or (ii) stood recorded as his private land in a record prepared under the provision of Chapter XI or Chapter XII of the said Act, not having been subsequently converted into ryoti land….

(Excerpts from the judgment of K.S. Lakshmipathy Nayakar vs The State Of Madras reported in (1959) 2 MLJ 254)

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