In India, currently the ownership of a property is proved through presumptive land titling (RoR)-chain of documents that provide evidence of the transfer of title from person to person over the years all the way to the current owners. Registration is only recognized as an agreement between two parties for transfer of property. An important constraint is that any one of these intermediate transactions is liable to be challenged as the office of sub-registrar(SRO) is only undertaking deed registration under the central registration act 1908 and does not verify the ownership of the land. Property fraud is also rampant in many forms in our country.
The revenue department/ Revenue & Panchayati Raj department is the custodian of the land records. They are the authority to maintain the land record details. The various other transactions related to change of ownership through sale, loan, mortgage, release of mortgage, crop updation initiated by other departments are approved by the revenue department officials and the RoR gets updated. Land records is under the jurisdiction of state laws.
The Land records system deployed in the various states facilitate the mutation of land. The change in ownership of the land, the cultivators, the crop grown, the source of irrigation, rights and liabilities are what is stored and maintained. The Record of Rights document is what is required for farmers to obtain benefit from the Government in the form of subsidy for seeds, fertilizers and for other purposes like securing loan, for sale etc.
The Registration departments in the country use a software independent of the land records system. The complete document pertaining to the property to be registered is uploaded along with meta data by the citizen. It undergoes approval process and at final stage ,biometrics of the parties is taken. Then the sale deed document is printed, signature is obtained from purchaser and seller and uploaded again into the system for future issuance of certified copy.
Some of the major challenges faced in this sector include increase in the number of Land related litigations, difficulty to track double selling of the same land or landed property , non-existence of unique record or golden record of ownership, lack of system to facilitate citizens to verify the land records, lot of paper work for obtaining loan from banks using land as collateral security, financial institutions do not get the factual picture of the piece of land for providing loan as they rely heavily on property for collateral security, delay in the obtaining documents from revenue and financial institutions etc.
The farmer has to spend time and money to collect all the documents such as RoR, mutation extract, crop certificate etc that are necessary for securing loan, subsidy and any other benefit from the Government.
There is a need to ensure that the data in the land records system, registration system etc. are not susceptible to alteration as each of these departments rely totally on the integrity of the other to initiate transactions. Hence there is a need for trust to use a common source of data to perform approvals for different activities so as to avoid the problem.
History shows that duplicate registration documents are generated by tampering original documents and the properties are being sold on the basis of the tampered documents. Also one property is being sold to multiple purchasers by keeping each other under dark.
As compared to other data, Land records data need to be accurately stored in the blockchain. The existing history of transactions on a piece of land first needs to be inserted into the blockchain after approval by Revenue functionaries in the State. The approved data will be digitally signed and stored. This will be a starting point for any mutation.
The certificates issued by the Revenue Department will be stored in the blockchain and can be used by the other agencies like the bank for any of the verification process during a transaction on the land parcel / farmer.
The transactions related to change of ownership through sale, loan, mortgage, release of mortgage, crop updation is initiated by other departments. During the initiation of above mentioned transactions, the verification of the details need to be done using the blockchain data. After the approval of transaction in the respective database such as completion of deed registration / approval of loan by the bank, the transaction details should be stored in the blockchain.
Specifically, the registration department will fetch details w.r.t a survey number from the blockchain and ensure that the ownership of the land parcel indeed rests with the prospective seller before initiating a sale. After obtaining the signature of the purchaser and seller in the sale deed, the scanned document should be moved in to Blockchain Network to create a block. Once the block is created it cannot be edited or tampered. Likewise the chain of block is created every time the property title is changed from one person to another.
By implementing smart contracts, certain events such as registration of the land can automatically initiate the mutation request in the land record, the approval of loan by the bank can update the rights and liabilities, crop details updation can trigger the updation of cultivators and crop details in RTC. Smart contracts can also facilitate the payment of subsidy to farmers on failure of crops. In cases when the entitlement is only for certain types of farmers, the eligibility can be ascertained from the blockchain.