The Karnataka Land Revenue (Third Amendment) Act, 2022 received the assent of the Governor on 18th January, 2023, and was notified in the Karnataka Gazette on January 19, 2023. It introduces a new Section 94-E in the Land Revenue Act, 1964. It seeks to address the issue of unauthorised occupation and utilization of government lands for cultivating plantation crops. Government lands have been unauthorisedly utilised for cultivating various plantation crops such as coffee, areca nut, rubber, and cardamom.
It provides that any family that has been cultivating plantation crops in unauthorised occupation of Government lands prior to the first day of January, 2005 and has been continuing to be in possession of such land on the date of commencement of this amendment, i.e., January 19, 2023 then such land shall be leased to such family upto an extent of twenty-five acres for a period not exceeding thirty years by the concerned Deputy Commissioner. The Deputy Commissioner is required to further prescribe the terms and conditions and the manner of the lease as he deems fit. The Deputy Commissioner is further required to prescribe the payment of rates associated with the grant of lease of such lands.
The Karnataka State Government is expected to roll out schemes under the new law soon. While such schemes will be specifically rolled out in districts such as Kodagu, Chikkamagluru, Hassan, and Shivamogga where such plantation crops are mainly cultivated, eligible beneficiaries can approach the deputy commissioner of their respective districts to get leases registered in their favour under this new law.
Revenue Minister R Ashoka, who presented the Bill before the legislative assembly, said that the objective of the Bill is to help farmers with small land holdings. He said the scheme is meant to protect the interest of small farmers and the landholders will not be permitted to utilise the land parcel for commercial exploitation such as developing resorts or homestays.
The amended law also clarifies that all legal disputes pending before the civil courts in various districts of the state will also stand abated forthwith. This shall be a piece of welcome news for many such small farmers who have been persecuted for trying to earn a livelihood through cultivating crops on public/government owned lands. This law provides them relief from such persecution for simply trying to earn their subsistence through any means they can access and provides them the opportunity to apply for leasing such lands and practice their vocation peacefully, and in a dignified manner.
The new section 94-E also includes an explanation addressing what a ‘family’ as mentioned by the section means. For the purposes of Section 94-E, a family means and includes the husband, wife, unmarried daughters, and minor sons as the case may be. Interestingly, married daughters and sons who have attained majority whether married or not have been specifically not included. The legislature has not provided any rationale behind this decision"