An encyclopedia of Revenue system

K B Jandial
Title: District Administration, A comprehensive Manual of Duties, Function & Powers of Revenue Officers
Author: Virender Kumar Gupta. JKAS (Retd)
Forewords: Justice N. Kotiswar Singh, Chief Justice, HC of J&K & Ladakh.
Publisher: Jay kay Law Reporter.
Pages: 471.
Price: Rs 1000/-
Virender Kumar Gupta, a celebrated Revenue Officer of J&K and author of three books on Revenue, has come out with another priceless book on different aspects of the Revenue System in J&K. Fourth book in a row on Revenue sector which he has served with distinction for 40 long years, the author has gainfully used the last four years of his 25 years’ of retirement which were utilized by the Govt for challenging assignments in view of his well-known expertise, integrity, tendency of hard and laborious work. The book, by all counts, is first of its kind and useful for almost all sections of the society especially the present Revenue personnel, fresh entrants in the Department, JKAS probationers, revenue trainees, lawyers, and litigants alike. Updating knowledge of powers and duties of Revenue Officers is a very essential part of a responsive District Administration. He has the advantage of the patronage of Dr Sudhir Bloeria, former CS, an eminent author of a dozen books.
In his Foreword, Justice N. Kotiswar Singh, Chief Justice, HC of J&K & Ladakh profusely appreciated the author’s dedication and commitment in comprehensively compiling all relevant revenue laws and rules making the book first of its kind in J&K. He wrote that the author has delved into the role of Revenue Officers and historical perspective of various facts hitherto unknown to many.
As the title of the book unfolds, the author has painstakingly compiled a comprehensive manual of all aspects of the functioning of the Revenue Officers, reflecting on their functioning, powers, and duties along with the evolution with reference to these functions right from Maurya’s time followed by the Mughals and East India Company. The Company had named the person responsible for collection of revenue as Collector with powers of a Judge & Magistrate & authority over the Police. However, six years later in 1793, he was stripped of judicial powers and came to be called District Magistrate which title continues even today.
Virender Gupta has dug out the interesting genesis of Revenue administration in the important States of India like Bengal, Bihar, Orissa under Mughal and British Rules and importance of revenue collection and District administration under these regimes. Recording the evolution of District Administration in J&K he writes that it was called Parganas during the pre-Dogra period which was reorganized as Zilla and Tehsil. It was also known as Wazarat and the officer heading it Wazir-e-Wazarat. These names underwent changes into District and Collector after Independence. While the nomenclature of the district continues to be the same, the head of the district came to wear many hats; each gives him a different name and functions/power. As Dy Commissioner, he has powers of Collector under the Land revenue Act 1939 AD. He is District Magistrate having powers vested in him by Cr. P C and responsible for Law & Order in the District. He is also District Election Authority, District Census officer & District Development Commissioner.
The author explained that while Wingate initiated reforms in land revenue administration in 1887 which was continued by Sir Walter Lawrence. Majority of the officers on the job of “Land Settlement” were handled by the “Lent Officers” from Punjab including Shri Ram Chandra Dobey who later rose to the position of the Governor, (present day Div. Com). Not only the men but also the Revenue system and the Land Revenue Regulations of 1923 AD were on the lines of Punjab. It was an important development that the jurisdiction of Civil Courts was barred for revenue matters that fall in the jurisdiction of the Revenue Officer. This bar had its origin to the time of Settlement Officer Walter Lawrence with the objective of saving the rural population from the disturbing and long drawn hassles of the Courts. This bar under Section 161 of the Regulations continues to exist in section 139 of the J & K Land Revenue Act although it was amended for 40 times. Vital provisions survived the UT J&K Reorganization Fifth Order of 2020 with certain modification and adaptation. Such changes in the new UT Act/ Orders have been recorded in detail. These are useful for everyone.
The Book has one full chapter on the powers & duties of the District Magistrate under Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 which had replaced earlier Code of 1933. The author has accorded very important status to DM in the overall hierarchy by mentioning that In India there exists only three powerful positions of PM, CM & DM.
The author gave its detailed background and writes that Cr. PC of 1973 was based on the principle of separation of the Judiciary from the Executive in line with Article 50 of Indian Constitution. Roles of the Executive Magistrate & Judicial Magistrate were explained with reference to the relevant legal provisions. The readers would be gainfully benefited by the relevant judgments including of the Apex Court on disputes of powers and contradictions that required judicial interpretations.
Functioning of yet another important functionary dwelt within the Book is Sub Divisional Magistrate which generally is manned by an IAS officer as first posting. For JKAS officers, it is the first promotion post. Based on the recommendations of the Committee for Demarcation of Boundaries of Administrative Units, of which the Author was the Member Secretary, J&K has 57 Sub Divisions besides 20 Districts. Each Sub Division is headed by an SDM whom the Author, in lighter vein, called Chotta (Mini) DC of the Sub Division exercising powers comparable to DC’s including on law & order in his area. Replica of Collector, he performs the duties under various Revenue laws, acting as an intermediary in the district set-up.
The author has listed Laws, Regulations & Standing Orders under UT Acts as well as Central Acts, under which Revenue Officers exercise powers. Then Revenue Officers also exercise powers in the capacity of Executive Magistrate. More important are the explanations, easy to understand, of Revenue Terminology like Abadi deh, Jamabandi, different types of Fard , Hadbast, Mutation, Shajra Nasb, Taccavi etc.
The Book enumerated statutory functions & powers of Revenue Officers under different Statutes. About 150 pages of the book have been devoted to these powers. The Book also carries the extracts of the amendments made in the J&K Revenue Act 1996 vide J&K UT Reorganization Fifth Order dated 26.10.2020 and Removal of Difficulties for Implementation of Land Revenue Act, Svt 1996 vide GO No 222 JK (Rev) of 20222 dated 30.11.2022. Regulations of 2022 relating Abadi Deh survey with Performa with amendment vide S. O. 306 of 2022 dated 22.06 also forms part of the book. Other orders & circulars published include Land Pass Book Rules, 2022 and demystification of revenue records circular of 31.05.2022. In short, this Book is an encyclopedia of the Revenue system which everyone must keep with him to be an empowered citizen.