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The PIL and Legal Aid curriculum of this semester demanded us to understand the
nuances and work upon the land rights issues prevailing in the state of Odisha. The
first overview of the subject was given by our professor following interactive sessions
conducted by a Non Profit institution, LANDESA which aims at protecting the land
rights of the under privileged section of the societies. The same institution along with
our legal aid faculty arranged for us, a field trip to a nearby village. The field trip
happened on 8th April to the village Ratanpur in Cuttack district situated at a distance
of nearly 50 km from our university.

The first meeting was organized in the office space near a wheat mill, where each
group consisting of six and seven members were divided and each team was assigned
clients who were mostly landless villagers delving into troubles regarding land rights,
and were seeking legal help.


Client 1:

The First client was introduced by the village sarpanch. The client had a brother and
lived in a joint family. The sarpanch along with a member from the NGO helped us
deciphering the facts in a proper manner. As stated by the client The client had got the
land under the Zamindari abolition act which was enforced by The 1951 act. The
client had allotted the land to a member of the same panchayat, who was a schedule
cast in the year 1994. The purpose for which it was given to that particular member
was for Agriculture and homestead utility. In colloquial terms it is known as Bhaga
Chasa. In the year 2001, the financial condition of the client went into shambles, and
the only way of surviving his livelihood was by selling the land. When the client
demanded for the land, the farmer refused to give back the property. When reasonable
claims failed, the farmer knowing the financial condition of the client threatened him
of dire consequences. This is evident fro the police report filed by the client.
Several efforts were made by the client to retrieve back the property, with no result.
Also, the old age and the weak financial condition of the client made it difficult for
him to avail legal help. In furtherance, it was made clear by the village heads, that no
sufficient efforts had been put forward by th client since the year 2006 with regard to
secure the land rights, The also answered in affirmative of her rights over the land in
issue and also the dwindling financial condition of the client. To the question about
legal papers, the client answered in affirmative, saying his son had those papers and
can produce it at appropriate time.

And therefore the client who got the land under the ceiling surplus category holds the
rightful ownership and the client along with his sons and daughters own the right to
property after him.

Client 2:

The second client was a landless farmer with not so good means of livelihood. As he
was uneducated he was unable to clearly articulate the problems. But the disputed
land was his only source of income. The case starts from 1960 when 7 acres of land
was taken by the inamdar in the name of the village deity. The Land was under the
supervision of the village priest. the temple was constructed on half an acre land and
the rest was given to the clients father for share cropping. Presently the priests son is
claiming the land. As the client belongs to the lower strata of the family he was forced
to give away the land as per village customs. The LANDESA members stated that the
client has been wrongfully evicted from the land, as sharecropping was the only
means of his livelihood. Under the state land reforms act, a landless sharecropper
cannot be evicted from his land without the prior permission of the tehsildar, where in
this procedure has been completely neglected in the present case.
According to the client, the client has approached the Cuttack district court seeking
injunction against the eviction according to the code of civil procedure. The matter
has been in continuation of six years. And the client lost the case even if the decree
was granted in his favours.


Findings For Client 1:

The client gave the land to the schedule caste farmer, for the purpose of Homestead,
Which has been defined under section 2(h)(i) of the Orissa Estate Abolition Act 1951.
This has been defined as:

Homestead means a dwelling house used by the Intermediary for the purposes of his
own residence or for the purposes of letting out on rent together with any Courtyard,
compound, garden, orchard and out-buildings attached thereto and includes any tank,
library and place of worship appertaining to such dwelling house but does not include
any building comprised in such estate and used primarily as office or kutchery for the
administration of the estate on and from the 1st day of January, 1946.

This along with the remarks that the government in odisha realizes the importance of
land rights and it being a way to alleviate poverty and that, land reforms is a
prerequisite to development. And also, Odisha is one of the initial states to implement
this by legislating progressive laws regarding land rights. While in most states ceiling
laws apply to both owned land and land taken on lease, the Government of Orissa
realised, for the sake of social justice, that a large number of people who are
sharecroppers should not be placed under the purview of the ceiling laws. Therefore,
in odisha, ceiling laws only apply to owned and not tenanted land.

Findings For client 2:

The land in dispute will fall under the category of trust estate under Section 2 (o) of
the Orissa Estate Abolition Act, 1951 which states that-

trust estate means an estate the whole of the net income whereof under any trust or
other legal obligation has been dedicated exclusively to charitable or religious
purposes of a public nature without any reservation of pecuniary benefit to any
Hence, it can be easily interpreted that the opponents i.e. the Priest and his family who
are mere caretakers of the temple dont have the legal rightful ownership of the land
as no individual can claim possession of the said land.

But, going by the provisions of Orissa Land reforms Act, the client will be considered
as the Raiyat of the land as defined in Chapter II, section 4 of the act which states

raiyat means any person holding the land for the purpose of cultivation and who has
acquired the right of occupancy according to the tenancy law or rules for the time
being in force in that area or in the absence of such law or rules, the custom prevalent
in that area
Hence, interpretation of the applicable laws leads us to the findings that the Client no.
2 can continue his sharecropping and agricultural practices on the given land and
cannot be evicted as no one else can claim ownership to trust estate.

As per the Section 6, 7 and 8 of the Orissa Land Reforms Act, a Raiyat can only be
evicted if he has used the given land for any other purposes other than agriculture. In
this case, the client is a poor cultivator who has not engaged in any other practice than

He has rightfully Inherited the land from his father who was allotted the land by the
temple trust and section 6(1) of the OLR Act, states that-

The rights of a raiyat in any land held by him as such shall be permanent, heritable
and transferable.

Even though there were no substantial reliefs provided to them by the paucity of time
and other inevitable circumstances, we researched and came across the following

The skewed nature of land distribution in India is reflected in the fact that
approximately two percent of landholders own 25 percent of the land whereas 98
percent of the landholders own just 75 percent of the land. Around 43 percent of rural
households in the country are landless. In order to bring a balance and bridge the gap
between the poor landless and the rich landed peasantry, a number of land reforms
legislations were promulgated after Independence. The State of Orissa also initiated a
number of legislative reforms to improve access to land.
The Orissa Land Reforms Act 1960, was regarded a watershed in giving land rights to
the tenants. It was meant to go beyond the ideological goal of land to the tiller and
achieve the more pragmatic objective of promoting proper and effective utilization of
land in an effort to increase food production in the state - and the country, by
extension. Though a number of progressive legislations were promulgated in Orissa
after independence, their implementation remains a major concern.
The Land Ceiling Act was enacted in 1974 with the intention of bringing economic
and social justice amongst the weaker sections of the society. Its objective was to
acquire surplus land by the Government and redistribute it among landless to improve
the economy and living standards of the weaker sections of society. As per ceiling
surplus rules, land up to 0.7 standard acres was allotted to the landless persons for
agricultural purpose. The ceiling surplus operation failed to yield the desired result
because of lack of actual physical possession by the beneficiary, unavailability of
record of rights, and poor land quality making it almost impossible for him/her to
cultivate the land and at times even identify it. A number of beneficiaries have pattas
for ceiling surplus land allotted to them but the land is still under possession of the
previous owners.
The government responded to repeated appeals from tribal and civil society
organizations, by coming out with a campaign called Mo Jami Mo Diha (My Land
and My Homestead land), launched in 2007 to ensure possession within a stipulated
time. It is generally believed, however, that the amount of illegal land transfer is much
more than what is reflected in government records and the process of ensuring actual
possession in the above cases has not been an unqualified success.