Land records, describing boundaries, ownership and extent of possession, are public records which cannot be treated as personal information, the Central Information Commission has held, directing the Delhi government to consider writing them on the walls of villages.
Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu said records with names of different owners giving details of boundaries, and the extent of land owned or possessed by the public authority, is neither private information nor third party information.
Delhi government officials had claimed that property details of other persons from land records of the village cannot be given under the RTI Act as the law allows withholding personal information from disclosure.
Rejecting the argument, Acharyulu said,”The land is open and transaction of change of ownership of a particular piece of land is registered with Registrar for being recorded as admissible evidence of that ownership for public to know.”
“Registration is notification to society and evidence of the transaction and not an affair to be kept secret. If the argument of PIO (public information officer) is accepted the registration of transactions of sale and mortgage would never be available to people in general. That will defeat the purpose of recording the transaction at all,” the Information Commissioner said.
Taking a cue from Telangana, Acharyulu directed the Delhi government to “explore writing of records on the walls in villages as that practically solved the land problems” in the newly-carved out state.
“It is the duty of the revenue department to make all updated land records open for scrutiny of the people. Transparency is the only way by which corruption can be prevented. Transparency of the land records is mandated as per Section 4(1)(B) of the RTI Act and Public Records Act, 1993,” Acharyulu said.
Quoting the Report of the Working Group on Transparency and Accountability (Central Employment Guarantee Council), the Commissioner said if the transparency and accountability provisions are not taken seriously, the entire edific will be undermined by a range of corrupt practices–from denial of basic rights to huge scams.
He said revenue department is supposed to survey, map the possession, prepare and update the ownership and possession related records in villages with reference to agriculture and to be kept for various purposes including the ascertaining of land rights.