Himachal Pradesh was formed as a Chief Commissioner’s province on 15th April, 1948 by merger of the erstwhile princely States of Mandi, Chamba, Sirmour, Suket and a number of Shimla Hill States. The District Bilaspur was integrated in Himachal on Ist July, 1954. In the erstwhile princely States, a motley of Land tenures prevailed, which , In some cases, were really retrogressive and proved a drag on agricultural production. Hence, the foremost problem after the formation of the State was to evolve and codify a uniform system of Land tenure and tenancy, so as to ensure a rapid economic growth with social justice. In most of the former princely States, the Rulers were recorded as superior owners (Ala Malik), and the actual Land owners were recorded as the inferior owners (Adna Malik). This semi-feudalistic structure coupled with �Begar� was inimical to the production process. Hence the first step the State Government took in the direction of land reforms was to do away with this feudatory system of superior ownership.
Application of Punjab Tenancy Act, 1887 and the Punjab Tenants Security of Tenure.Act, 1950.
With a view to securing uniformity of tenancy laws in the Pradesh, the provisions of the Punjab Tenancy Act, 1887 were made applicable throughout the Pradesh by the Himachal Pradesh (application of laws) Order, 1948. Later in year, 1951, the provisions of Punjab Tenants security of Tenure Act, 1950 were also enforced in Himachal Pradesh.
Punjab Tenancy (Himachal Pradesh Amendment) Act, 1952 and the Himachal Pradesh (Tenants ) Rights and Restoration Act, 1952.
During the year, 1952 the Punjab Tenancy (Himachal Pradesh Amendment) Act, 1952 was enacted which envisaged a ceiling on rent not exceeding 1/4th of the produce, payable by the tenant to the landowner. Another act, i.e Himachal Pradesh Tenancy Rights and (Restoration) Act, 1952 was enacted to provide for restoration of land and the right of pre-emption to tenants. Under section 3 of the said Act, the tenant who has been ejected after 15th date of August,1950 shall on application made by him within 2 years of the commencement of this Act to the prescribed authority and on his satisfying such authority that the applicant was not at the time of ejectment a tenant to whom the provision of section 41 of Punjab Tenancy as amended in its application to Himachal Pradesh by the Punjab Tenancy (H.P. Amendment) Act, 1952, could have applied, be restored to possession of such land on the same terms and conditions on which it was held by him at the time of ejectment. It was provided that the maximum rent payable by him on re-occupation of the land shall be subject to the provision of section 25 (A) of the Punjab Tenancy Act, 1887 as amended in its application to Himachal Pradesh by the Punjab Tenancy (Himachal Pradesh Amendment) Act, 1952.
Further that if the land has been given to another tenant on or after the fifteenth day of August, 1952 he shall be ejected there form and given in lieu of it Nautor land as prescribed.
Under Section 4 of the Act:
1. Who has been in continuous occupation of Land comprised in his tenancy for a period exceeding three years on the date of the sale of the Land or fore-closure the right to redeem the land; or
2. Who was ejected from his tenancy after the fifteenth day of August, 1950 and before the commencement of this Act on grounds other than those mentioned in section 41 of the Punjab tenancy Act amended in its application to Himachal Pradesh by Punjab Tenancy (Himachal Pradesh Amendment ) Act and was in continuous occupation of the land comprised in his tenancy for a period exceeding three on the date of his ejectment : or
3. Who has been restored to his tenancy under the provision of this Act and whose period of continuous occupation of the land comprised in his tenancy immediately before ejectment and immediately after restoration of his tenancy together exceed 3 years shall, in preference to the rights of other preemptors as provided in the punjab pre-emption Act, 1913 as applied to Himachal Pradesh, be entitled to pre-empt the sale or fore-closer of the land in the manner prescribed in the Act within one year from the date of the sale or the fore-closure as the case may be;
The Above was subject to the condition that no tenant referred to in this section shall be entitled to exercise any such right in respect of land or any portion thereof if he had sublet the land or portion, as the case may be, to any other person during any period of his continuous occupation, unless during that period the tenant was suffering from a legal disability or physical infirmity or, if a woman, was a window or was un-married.
The first major land reform legislation known as the Himachal Pradesh Abolition of Big Landed Estates and land Reforms Act 1953 was enacted which after receiving the assent of president came into force on 26th January, 1955 ;
The Act governed the law relating to tenancies in agricultural lands and also contained provisions of land reforms of a far reaching importance. Under the Act, security of tenure to the tenants was ensured; Resumption of land by landowners was permitted for personal cultivation from a maximum area of 5 acres subject to further provision that no tenant would be evicted from more than 1/4th of the area held by him. This right could be exercised within one year from the commencement of the Act. These dates were later extended to March Ist, 1956 and September, 1956. The aforesaid law was challenged by the landowners in the court, which, ultimately resulted in survival of the law as intra-vires of the constitution in the year 1958. The right of resumption was some-how missed by the landowners.
The main provisions of the foregoing enactment were as follow:-
All Tenants ( other than sub-tenants) including occupancy tenants were entitled to get proprietary rights by marking an application to compensation Officer in payment of nominal compensation under section 11 of the ibid Act. Section 11 of the Act reads as follows:
RIGHT OF TENANT TO ACQUIRE INTERESTS OF LANDOWNER
1. Notwithstanding any law, Custom or contract to the contrary a tenant other than a Sub-tenant shall, on application made to the Compensation Officer at any time after the commencement of the act, be entitled to acquire, on payment of compensation, the right, title and interest of the landowner in the land of the tenancy held by him under the landowner.
Provided that a tenant not having a right of occupancy shall not be entitled to acquire the right, title and interest of the landowner in the land of the tenancy from which he is liable to ejectment under clause (d) or clause (f) or clause (g) of Sub-section (1) of section 54.
2. Nothing contained in Sub-section (1) shall apply to a landlord, if he had no other means of livelihood and is a minor, widow or a person suffering from physical of mental disability incapable of earning his livelihood. In the case of a minor, sub-section (1) shall not apply during his minority and in other cases for his life time.
3. The application referred to in sub-section(1) shall be made in writing to the compensation Officer who shall thereupon determine the amount of compensation payable to the landowner in respect of the land in accordance with the provisions of section 12 and 13.
4. The tenant may pay the amount of compensation as determined by the compensation Officer under sub-section (30either in one lump-sum or in such number of installments not exceeding ten as may be determined by the compensation Officer during a period not exceeding five years; and such Compensation or such installments of compensation shall be paid in such date or dates as may as fixed by the Compensation Officer in this behalf.
5. The amount of compensation or any installment thereof shall be deposited by the tenant in a Government treasury and as soon as the compensation or the first installment thereof has been deposited in the Government treasury, the Compensation Officer shall grant a certificate in the prescribed form declaring the tenant to be the landowner in respect of the land specified in the certificate.
6. On and form the date of the grant of the certificate under sub-section (5) the tenant shall become the owner of the land comprised in the tenancy and the right, title and interest of the landowner in the said land shall determine.
7. An installment of compensation, which is not paid on the date fixed by the Compensation Officer, shall together with interest thereon at the rate of two and half percent per annum be recoverable as an arrier of land revenue.
8. Where compensation is paid in installment the un-paid amount of compensation shall be a charge upon the land.
Amount OF Compensation
The amount of compensation payable by the tenants to acquire the rights, title and interest of the landowner in the land of tenancy was to be determined by the Compensation Officer in accordance with the provisions of the schedule under section 12 of the said Act.� The schedule of Compensation is reproduced as follow:-
Besides compensation of the land, the tenants were liable to pay the value of any building standing on the land belonging to the land owners as assessed by the compensation Officer.
Vesting of Rights of Ownership in the Government
Under section 27 of the ibid Act the landowner who held land, the land revenue of which exceeded Rs.125/- per year, the right, title and interest of such owner in such land were transferred and vested in the State Government free from all encumbrances.
Section 27 of the Act runs as follows:-
1. Notwithstanding anything contained in the foregoing provisions of this chapter, a landowner who holds land, the annual land revenue of which exceeds Rs.125/-per year, the right, title and interest of such owner in such land shall be deemed to have been transferred and vested in the State Government free from all encumbrances.
2. Nothing contained in Sub-section (1) shall apply in respect of such land, which is under the personal cultivation of the landowner.
3. The landowner whose rights are acquired under sub-section (1) by the State Government shall be entitled to receive compensation which shall be determined by the Compensation Officer having regard to section 17 and 18 of this Act, in accordance with the provisions of Schedule, but in the case of such occupancy tenant who is liable to pay rent in terms of land revenue or the multiple of land revenue, the compensation payable to his landowner shall be computed in accordance with Schedule-1.
4. The right, title and interest of the landowner acquired under Sub-section (1) or (2) shall be transferred by the State Government on the payment of compensation in accordance with Schedule-I to such tenant who cultivates such land.
5. The State Government shall give rehabilitation grant according to the rules framed under this Act, to such small and owner whose right, title and interest have been extinguished and who does not have any other means of livelihood.
Compensation Payble to Landowner
The compensation payable to the landowner for the vestment of rights of ownership in the Government under section 27 was as follows:-
(See Section 27)
The compensation payable to the landowner by the State Government shall be:-
In Case of Occupancy Tenant
Non-occupancy of Tenant
For land revenue up to 125/-
Thereafter for land revenue exceeding Rs.125/- but not exceeding Rs.250/-
For land revenue exceeding Rs.250/- but not exceeding Rs.500/-
For land revenue exceeding Rs. 500/-but not exceeding Rs. 1,000/-
For land revenue exceeding Rs.1,000/-
The maximum rent payable by the tenants to the landowners was 1/4th of the produce of the crop of such land or of the value of such produce. No landowner could have rights to enhance the rent payable merely on the grounds that it was less than the limit prescribed.
The other provisions of the Act regarding rights of occupancy, lease, Relinquishment, Abandonment, and Succession, etc., were similar to the provisions contained in the Punjab Tenancy Act, 1887.
As a result of re-organization of Punjab State on November I, 1966 certain areas of erstwhile Punjab were merged in Himachal Pradesh. Immediately, after merger of such areas, the disparity in land laws of the old and marged areas became evident. There were complaints of arbitrary ejectment of tenants from the merged areas. Therefore, the first step to ameliorate the lot of tenants in these areas,of tenants in these areas, was that H.P. Vidhan Sabha passed the H.P.(Transferred Territory) Tenants (Protection of rights ) Act, 1968, thereby providing security against ejectment of the tenants in the aforersaid merged areas. The ejectment under the aforesaid Act could be made on grounds similar to those available in the tenancy laws of old areas. This Act was initially valid for a year, but the period was Subsequently extended by two years by two successive amendments in 1969 and 1970 . In terms of these Amendments, the Government was empowered the validity of the Act, if necessary , by way of notification under the 1970 Act. Thereafter, the Government further extended its validity up to November, 1971 by notification.
In the September session of the Vidhan Sabha in 1971, the Government further Passed the Himachal Pradesh (Transferred Territory) Tenants (Protection of Rights) Act, 1971 whereby it put a blanket ben on ejectment of tenants for one year. This period was further extended for six months by promulgating an ordinance, which was replaced by an amended Act passed by the Vidhan Sabha in December,1972.
By enacting the tenancy and Land Reforms Act, 1972 a new era marking abolition of intermediaries on land has ushered in the State . Form the commencement of the Act, all the occupancy tenants in the old areas and Kismi tenants in the the new areas have become owners of their tenancy land .The small landowners are entitled to reserve land for personal cultivation up to one and a half acres irrigated and three acres unirrigated land. The non-occupancy tenants in such affected holdings will simultaneously become owners of the remaining tenancy land. The rest of the non-occupancy tenants (including sub-tenants) will become owners of their tenancy land on payment of nominal compensation of 96 times of the land revenue and rates and ceases chargeable thereon. These conferment of compulsory rights of purchase of land by tenants was necessitated as inspite of the provision in the Himachal Pradesh abolition of big landed estates and land Reforms act, for some reasons or the other the tenants were not coming forth to apply for ownership. Now the tenants will not be put to litigation and undergo the ordeal of trial of their cases in the Court of law.
Himachal Pradesh contributes a large number of men and officers to the Armed Forces of whom we are proud. Sufficient safe-guards have been provided to protect their interest in land. Under the new law, tenants of the serving soldiers will not be able to acquire Ownership of the tenancy land. On ceasing to be member of armed Forces, they can resume up to five acres of land for personal cultivation, provided such members of the Armed Forces, were cultivating the land personally before joining the Armed Forces, Eventually the father of a person who at the time of joining the armed Forces was holding the land, has also been covered, If the father of a person who is serving in the Armed Forces creates a tenancy of his land and thereafter dies, then to the extent of the share of the person in the Armed Forces, such a tenancy shall be deemed to be lease and service of the son in the Armed Forces shall be deemed to be an inability of disability for the purposes of cultivating the land personally and the tenancy shall be treated as lease ; provided that if the son of a person in whose favour the tenancy has been created is also a member of the Armed Forces, then a case the tenancy shall not be treated as lease.
The Act further protects the rights in land of certain weaker sections of the Society as, for example, windows, un-married woman or if married divorced or separated from husband, a minor, a person permanently physically or mental disability because of which he cannot cultivate the land himself and a person under detention or imprisonment shall not be liable for the ejectment.
Another important change in tenancy law is that in the case of a dispute between the landowner and the tenants regarding the existence or non-existence of the tenancy, the owner to prove that the tenancy does not exist. Tenants who acquire ownership of land in terms of this Act will not be able to transfer such land for a period of ten years, except for productive purposes with the prior and explicit permission of the collector.
Further, with a view to discouraging speculation in agricultural land, the Act Interdicts non-agriculturalists from procuring/ purchasing any agricultural land in the Pradesh. In other words, the Act imposes restrictions on transfer of land in favour of those non-agriculturists who do not cultivate land personally in Himachal Pradesh.
For the purpose of this provision, the term� �agriculturist� has been defined and the traditional cast-based definition of the term has been replaced by the definition based on the facts whether or not a person, irrespective of his caste, cultivated land personally in the State.
In retrospect, it can be seen that the Act inter-alia examines the relationship between the landlord and his tenant vis-a vis the land. The Act provides suo-moto vestment of land in the occupancy tenants. The occupancy tenants have become owners of the land held by them as tenants with immediate effect from the operation of the law itself.
Besides, there were also 4,22,145 non-occupancy tenants in the State, out of which 3,79,676 became owners by virtue of conferment of proprietary rights upon them. The remaining non-occupancy tenants could not benefit from the provisions of the Act as they happened to belong to the protected categories such as serving soldiers, minors, widows etc.
This Act, namely, ’the Himachal Pradesh village Common Land Utilization Act, 1974 sought to stream line the utilization of village common lands popularly known as ’Shamlat Land ’ In fact, separate Rules with regard to the utilization of village common land prevailed on the eve of Punjab, Re-organization Act, 1966 in two sets of areas in the State viz, the old areas and the merged areas. In Punjab, the Governance of all such lands was done in terms of the Punjab Village Common Land (Regulation) Act,1961, which vested all village common lands, with certain exceptions, in the Panchayats. The idea was , no doubt, laudable but in practice, the utilization of such lands by Panchyats was open to criticism as certain unscrupulous elements occasionally circumvented the provisions of the Act for their personal benefit. In old areas, however, such lands were either with the village communities or with the co-sharers, with no control of the Panchayats or the Government.
Under the Himachal Pradesh village Common Land vesting and Utilization Act, 1974 certain categories of land were vested in the State Government . In terms of section 3 of the Act, the lands vested were as under :-
(a) Those areas which were vested in a Panchyat under section 4 of the Punjab Village Common Land (Regulation) Act, 1961, as enforced in merged areas of Himachal Pradesh under section 5 of the Punjab Re-organisation Act, 1966. This precluded lands used or reserved for the benefit of village community including streets, lanes, play-grounds, Schools, wells and ponds within Abadideh or Gohrdeh.
(b) Those areas which were described in the Revenue records as shamlat taraf, patties and thola, and not used as per revenue records for the benefit of the village community or a part thereof for community purposes of the village . This applied to those areas which were added to Himachal Pradesh under section 5 of the Punjab re-organization Act, 1966.
(c) Those areas which were described in revenue records as shamlat, shamlat ,deh, taraf, shamat, shamlat chak and patti. This applied in respect of those areas which comprised Himachal Pradesh immediately before November 1,1966.
The above provisions shall not apply to land described in (b)and (c) categories above if, before the commencement of the Act:-
(1) Partition of such lands is made by individual co-sharers through a process of law by a competent court or authority;
(2) Transfer of such lands is made by the landowner by way of sale, gift or exchange; and
(3) That such land was built upon by an inhabitant by raising a residential house or cowshed.
The Collector may direct the land-owners of the lands vested in the Government to hand over the possession of such lands within ten days from the service of the orders. If they refuse or fail to hand over the possession of such vested lands without a reasonable cause, the collector may take the possession of such lands by force, if necessary.
The lands vested in Government can only be used for the following purpose:-
(i) An area not less than 50 per cent of the total area vested in Government was to be earmarked for grazing and other common purpose of the inhabitants of an estate.
(ii) The remaining 50 per cent of the area was to be allotted to landless persons or to a person whose holding was less than one acre to make to one acre. This scheme was framed by the Government for ameliorating the lot of landless persons.
(iii) Through an amendment made later, the vested land can now also be transferred to some other Departments, of the State Government or can be given on lease to an individual in connection with development activities of the state. However, this provision was subject to the condition that this will not reduce the land to less than 50 per cent reserved for common purposes for the inhabitants of an estate.
Immediately, on merger of areas from the Punjab after November 1, 1966 the pursuance of land reforms necessitated the codification of a uniform tenancy law for old and merged areas both. In the meantime, at national level the Government of India appointed Central Land Reforms Committee of which the then Hon’ able Chief Minister of the Pradesh was also a member. The recommendations of the committee were further gone into by a nine-member panel of the all India Congress Committee. The aforesaid recommendations were subsequently reviewed in the conference of the Chief Minister, held in New Delhi on 23rd July, 1972. Thereafter the Government of India issued guidelines for imposing ceiling on land and exemption thereof.
Salient features of Act, 1972:
The Act envisages a ceiling on land holdings with a view to controlling concentration of land in a few hands, and to subsequently distribute surplus land released thus, among the landless. The ceiling is for a family of husband, wife and three minor children. The section 4 of the Act puts a ceiling on holdings of land beyond a certain limit as indicated below:-
- Land under assured irrigation capable of growing two crops in a year-10 acres;
- Land under assured irrigation capable of growing one crop in a year-15 acres;
- Land of classes other then (1) and (2) described above, including land under orchards-30 acres;
- A separate higher ceiling has been envisaged in respect of certain areas of the pradesh as the above yardstick was not considered a judicious preposition in such areas. For instance, a ceiling of 70 acres has been fixed for whole of the districts of Kinnaur and Lahaul-Spiti; Pangi and Bharmaur areas of Chamba districts; and Chhota Bhangal and Bara Bhangal of district Kangra;
- For instance, every additional minor member to the family can claim 1/5th of the permissible area provided that ceiling does not exceed twice the permissible area;
- An audit is also entitled to a separate unit subject to the same condition that the permissible area does not exceed twice the limit fixed bid.
Section 5 of the Act provides for certain exemptions e.g. , the land held by State Government or Central Government, Registered co-operative Farming societies, Land Mortgage Bank, Local Authorities, H.P. Agricultural University, Bhoodan Yojna Board, and the Tea Estates.
The surplus land so vested in the Government was to be distributed among landless agricultural laborers and to those persons whose holdings do not exceed one acre.