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Friday, 07 June 2013 00:50
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Indian Express edit


Digitisation of land records is a big step forward. Now to start guaranteeing titles

While landlords across the country, several million of whom prefer to keep their houses locked up instead of renting them out, will cheer the cabinet clearance for the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill, the even bigger change relates to the digitisation of land records. The real estate bill allows for the setting up of state-level regulators and appellate tribunals to dispose of disputes as well as to come up with model rules — on how deposits collected for flats cannot be used in different projects, for instance. If implemented well at state level, this means the 11 million or so dwellings that the government estimates just remain locked up may find themselves on the market, as landlords feel more assured that their properties will not be taken away by tenants. This, estimates say, could reduce the current housing shortage by about 40 per cent.

The digitisation of land records, already taking place in many states, beginning with the Bhoomi project in rural Karnataka more than a decade ago, is expected to get a leg up with the cabinet's clearance of amendments in the Registration Act. If all states adopt it — this is a state subject — land records will be digitised and, therefore, become easily available for scrutiny. What this means for potential land/flat buyers is that the due diligence process gets much faster and more transparent. Link this database to the circle rates of land in various parts of the country, and you're talking of a quantum leap in the amount of stamp duties local governments will collect on land transactions over the year.

Digitisation of land records is one thing, their being authentic is quite another. What digitisation does, however, is to make the move towards the ultimate goal — of the state standing guarantee for the authenticity of every property transaction — much easier. Once land records are available digitally, potential challengers to the land title can, for instance, lodge their protests immediately with the relevant authorities. In the ultimate analysis, however, states need to start guaranteeing the authenticity of their land records. If person A buys a flat belonging to person B after checking the land records, and it later transpires the land belongs to person C, the government should compensate person A. Since this will take away the risk of fraud in real estate transactions, it will make doing business much easier in the state, both for corporations as well as for individuals who wish to buy properties. The states will also benefit from higher stamp duty collections from more transactions. Essentially, a win-win for all concerned, except the brokers who benefit from the current opaque system.


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