Land Grabbing: The Theft of Land

Posted On : February 23, 2022
Land Grabbing: The Theft of Land
Land grab is a violation of the right to property. It is a subject of civil and criminal laws and roams around lawful provisions like adverse possession as explained here.
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India is a country where land and other natural resources are worshipped. Here, an ordinary man invests his blood and flesh, his whole life, in order to own a piece of land for his family. Then one day, he comes to know that someone else has misappropriated the property and he, although the rightful owner, has no proof of ownership of the same.


Land is something which may have a variety of definitions. It may be an indicator of national development for the government, a profitable asset for corporations. Some people take land as the umbilical cord to their territory. If lost, it is not a loss of property but identity, loss of being, similar to detaching a plant from its roots. Sometimes, it is greed that leads to unlawful entitlement or unauthorised possession of land while the rights of lawful owners are violated. If you have questions like what is land grabbing and why is it a concern, you will find all your answers here under.


What is Land Grabbing and Why is it a Concern?

Any act or attempt to acquire or occupy any land or property that belongs to another person through unlawful means without any lawful entitlement can be understood as land grabbing. It may be individuals, big corporations or the so called ‘land mafias’ responsible for land grabbing.

It is a matter of concern for the sake of the proprietary right of any person. One may not even be aware that the land they put in so much effort to own is taken away by someone through illegal means. It can happen with anyone and it becomes the responsibility of the aggrieved to lead the matter before the court of law and prove as to why they are the lawful owner. To know ‘how do I file a case against land grabbing?’, check below.

Is Land Grabbing Illegal?

Had there been no right to property, land grabbing would be justified. But there are provisions related to ownership of land which decide the extent of enjoyment of rights related to the same. Lack of ownership makes it against the law to enjoy a right that exclusively belongs to the rightful owner.

Land Grabbing: Criminal Provisions

The Indian Penal Code, 1860 (I.P.C.) deals with penal provisions that declare any activity as illegal in India. Given below are the examples of land grabbing:


Cheating (Section 415 of I.P.C.) - When someone deceives another, induces another person through fraud or dishonesty to deliver a property to another. The essence is that such transfer or delivery is likely to cause damage or harm to that person in body, mind, reputation or property. In case of land grab, it may sometimes be an instance of cheating.


Mischief (Section 425 of I.P.C.) - When someone with intention or knowledge destroys any property or makes such changes therefore destroying or diminishing the value or utility. Illegal encroachments are an example of mischief.


Criminal Trespass (Section 441 of I.P.C.) - When someone enters a premises possessed by another with the intention to commit an offence, intimidate, insult or annoy. Here, the entry may be lawful or unlawful. In this case, the scenario applies to a tenant refusing to leave after completion of duration of tenancy agreement.


House Trespass (Section 442 of I.P.C.) - When someone commits criminal trespass in a tent, building or vessel being used for human dwelling (residential occupancy) or used as place of worship or for the purpose of custody of property. This provision is analogous to violation of tenancy with reference to the nature of property.


Criminal Intimidation (Section 503 of I.P.C.) - When someone threatens another with injury to body, reputation or property, it is also an offence. The intention might be to alarm the person concerned, or make him do or abstain something which he otherwise is not legally obliged to.


Land Grabbing: Provisions under Civil Law

Immovable property related matters are usually dealt with under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (or C.P.C.) unless there is some criminal transaction as per the facts of the case. The section 5 of Specific Relief Act (S.R.A.), 1963 contains provisions related to recovery of specific immovable property. According to it, any person who is rightfully entitled to possess a specific immovable property may recover the same as per provisions of C.P.C. Also, in case of wrongful dispossession from the property, Section 6 of S.R.A. applies. The aggrieved party can also apply for temporary or permanent injunction (Stay order). 

Land Grabbing Act

In India, there is no specific law related to land grabbing at the central level. However, there are certain states in India like Gujarat, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh that have Land Grabbing Act regulating the provisions around land grab. The Act specifies routes to be followed in case of violation through land grab.

Adverse Possession

In property law, “Possession is nine points of ownership” is an accepted norm that depicts the importance of possession in case of ownership disputes. The uninterrupted possession of an immovable property for a certain period grants ownership rights to such possessor. Legal aspects related to adverse possession are given in the Limitation Act, 1963. As per law, if a person possesses another person’s immovable property for 12 years in continuity, he/ she is entitled to the title of that immovable property. Hence, if you do not reside in your property for years, it does not affect your title of ownership. But if someone else is in possession of your property, it should not go uninterrupted for years. Otherwise that person may become the rightful owner as per the Limitation Act.


Documents for Proof of Ownership

  • Agreement to Sale or Conveyance deed
  • Title deed
  • Power of Attorney
  • Property Tax Returns
  • Khata
  • Record of Rights
  • Record of Tenancy and Cultivation
  • Akaraband


Mutation of Property

For a sale of immovable property, particularly of the land, mutation is a familiar process for many. After a sale or transfer of property takes place, the transfer of ‘title of ownership’ has to be recorded with the land revenue department. This process is called the mutation of property and is essential for deciding the tax liability by the authorities. The process of mutation takes place every time a sale or purchase of property takes place, for inheritance of property, for power of attorney relating. Skipping the process of mutation of property is often the root cause of land grabbing. 

How to Prevent Land Grab?

To avoid a case of land grabbing, make sure you comply with the pointers below:

  • Registration of property as per the laws applicable
  • Keeping the documents related to any estate with utmost care
  • Payment of utility charges (water, electricity, etc.) on time
  • Timely payment of government taxes (property tax, house tax, etc.)
  • Maintain record of all the above-mentioned receipts
  • In case of residing somewhere else, conduct regular inspections of the estate
  • Put up sign-boards and fences on the boundary of said property to repel trespassers

How do I file a case against land grabbing?

The process to be followed against land grabbing shall vary from case to case as mentioned under the criminal as well the civil laws. If the scenario matches with criminal provisions as mentioned above, one can contact police for land grabbing complaints. If your state has a Land Grabbing Act, the provisions have to be followed accordingly. Otherwise, one can pursue civil proceedings against such land grab. You may search for a property lawyer near you to seek legal advice on land grab.

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