History of Land Revenue Code in India

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By AW Research

From the Year 1540 A.D

 From time immemorial mankind had distinct association with

LAND. In fact primitive lifestyle was basically land based. Land is

one of the major ‘five elements of  nature. Almost all-Cultures, Civilisations and Empire were land oriented.  Even mighty

Aryans after a long journey in search of warmth had to struggle hard to select and settle on their choice of alluvial land in

planes of Uttar Pradesh in foothills of Himalayas. Land wil continue to exert prime influence on mankind till life exists on



It is a basic source of sustenance of life for all creatures on earth. Let us gratefully respect it and resolve ourselves to

enhance its sanctity and fertility.


Even in contemporary times land exerts immense influence in our country where 70% of the population which is settled in country

side depends on agriculture.  Therefore the system of land revenue and land tenure is significant.  In a feudal country like India,

during ‘the pre-British days, the political, economic and social aspects could be judged by the land and revenue systems.

The administration of Empire was totally dependent on revenue collection and revenue system. The-administration of the Empire

with its corresponding prosperity was adversely dependent on the proceeds extracted from the peasantry in the form of revenue

collection. This necessitates a well defined revenue code.  In peace time old kingdoms kept scales of revenue at low level i.e. usually

1/6 th of the gross produce.  But the revenue was raised freely during invasion or war or other critical situation.  Although

cultivators had proprietary rights over the land, the kind always regarded himself as the sole owner of the land and the cultivators

were cultivating it on his behalf.  Therefore the land revenue was an unquestionable royal prerogative.

On the introduction of currency system, attempts were made to recover equivalent money value of crop-share.  This system was

first initiated by Sher Shah (1540-1545 A.D).The first recorded pioneer survey of lands began in 1571 A.D. by Todarmal and

completed in Akar’s regime by 2582 A.D. The then yard-rod was 33 inches long and was known as Ilahi Gaz. Such 60 square     -liahi Gaz

contributed one Bigha. (Refer Land System of British India, Vol.I; page 274 by B.H. Beden Fowell, London 1892).

In Deccan with some modifications the above system was followed by Malik Ambar (1605 to 1626 A.D) He acknowledged ownership rights of

the farmers and attempted to give them secured tenure.  But the assessment varied with the crop and were not constant like the

Mughal Settlements.


Emperor Aurangzeb drastically changed the revenue system and increased the land revenue by 50% in conquered Deccan territories.

After his death, Maratha Empire tried to imitate same system in the conquered areas of Northern and Central Indian by imposing



During Shivalile period the system of ‘JAHAGARDARI’ was abolished- and land revenue was collected directly from the farmers.


In   1637 A.D. Shah Jahan in Deccan fixed lumpsum Village assessment.  When this method failed he allowed farm-lease method;

where by “KHOTS” or revenue farmers grew into proprietors.  In subsequent Maratha period in 1784-8S A.D. The above Eiyr-.tc-ITI was

abolished and land revenue was based on classification of  soils.


Thereafter maratha Revenue System was know as Miras Tenure and Upri Tenure (refer the Bombay Survey and Settlement Manual, 1934

Edn; Vol.1; pade 6)>The assessment of land revenue was annual. This system prevailed upto Nana Phadnavis -period.But under Bajirao

Peshwa due to war expenses revenue system wad drastically changed for the worst and ‘Farming System’ was incorporated. Under the

Farming System in open auction the highest bidder used to get the authority to collect revenue at his will and methods.  It was

atrocious and unbearable for the farmers.  To some extent this systems was even followed after British conquered Peshwa Territory.

It resulted in many revolts of the peasants.


Mr.Pringle (1827) in Pune district first surveyed land by chain and cross staff with the introduction of English Acre in the

Western region.  When Mr. Pringle’s Surevy Tenure proved to be a failure due to adoption of the principles of average gross produce

minus expenses of cultivation a committee of three persons was appointed    in 1547.Their report known as “JOINT REPORT             of

1847′ laid down the basic principles of land revenue system.  The unit of assessment was field, classification of soil and giving

survey number for fields.  Thus soil was classified into various types, depth and its natural fautis for the purpose of valuation.

The original surveys and settlements were conducted according to the principles laid down in the joint Report of 2547.The first

Revision Settlement of Indsput Taluka (Pune District) became due in 1865.The original Revisional survey were conclude and the

survey department was abolished in 1901.  Further Land Records department was created to maintain the survey records upto date.

There is therefore no large scale survey now except the pot Hiisa survey after the introduction of Record of Rights in 1913.


The following is the History of Land Revenue Legislations:

  1. Survey and Settlement Act,1865.
  2. Survey and Settlement (Amending) ACT, 1868.
  3. The Bombay Land Revenue Code (1879).
  4. The Bombay Land Revenue (Amended) 1013.
  5. Bombay Land Revenue (Amended) 1939.

As the Legislature was not in session, the Bombay Land Revenue Code, (Extension to Saurashtra Area) Ordinance, 1959 (II of 1959)

wag promulgated to extend the Bombay Land Revenue Code 1879, the  the Saurashtra area of the Bombay state.  There was also another

enactment on the subject namely the Bombay Revenue Tribunal Act 1957, which was applicable to the whole state.


To unify and consolidate different acts on the subject of ‘Land and Land Revenue’ into single enactment for application to whole

state culminated into our present ‘THE MAHARASHTRA LAND REVENUE CODE. 1966’.  In the process of unification it transpired that the

Land Revenue laws in force in the state excluding the city of Bombay had a good deal in common and their basic principles were

practically the same.

The above narrated brief history of about last 500 years does not necessarily imply that there was no Land Revenue Code in ancient

India.  The ruins of burred cities found in Mohan-je-daro. and Harappa reveals the knowledge of Town planning prevailing in those

days.  The Land and Construction are integral components of ARCHITECTURE.IN ancient India 1500 years prior to Todarmal our

country was rich in Buddhist Architecture.  Mighty Emperors like Chandragupta Maurya and Ashoka were great builder.  Therefore it is

unrealistic to construe that first recorded survey of land was executed by Todarmal in 1540-1545 A.D The art of measuring land

and establishing qualities of soil and its productivity was known in ancient Indian beyond doubt.  My above assertions are based an

laws of simple logic and common sense. Indian History written by Britishers is intentionally distorted and malafied.  The value of

rich heritage and culture of India was purposely underestimated by them, The time will soon come when we will have to exert

ourselves to rectify and revise our history to understand our ancient civilization better in a proper perspective.


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