Conversion of Paddy or Wetland in Kerala

No owner can convert paddy / wetland since 2008

The owner or the person in custody of any paddy land or wet land in Kerala shall not have any power to convert or reclaim such lands, since the enactment of the Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act, 2008 (2008 Act) on 12th August 2008. The removal of sand from wetland is also prohibited by the 2008 Act.

Subsequently, the Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Rules, 2008 (2008 Rules) have been formulated. The rules stipulate the procedures relating to conversion and related matters.

That means, if the land is noted as Nilam in the revenue records and is included in the data bank or draft data bank, the provision of the 2008 Act would apply to the conversion of such paddy lands.

Conversion of notified paddy land for residential & public purposes

However, there are two exceptions to this general rule. One is that the owner of the land can seek permission to convert paddy land for owner’s residential purpose, and the other is conversion of paddy land for public purposes.

District Authority gives permission for residential purpose

The owner of a paddy land can seek permission from the District Level Authorised Committee (DLAC) for filling up of an extent of 2.02 Ares in a Municipality / Corporation, and 4.04 Ares in panchayat area, of paddy land for construction of residential building, as per Section 9 of the 2008 Act.

The DLAC, is constituted by the District Collector with Revenue Division Officer (RDO) as presiding officer, Principal Agricultural Officer as convenor and three paddy cultivators as members.

The application shall be filed before the Convenor of the Local Level Monitoring Committee (Agricultural Officer) in Form 1 appended to the 2008 Rules, by affixing court fee stamp of Rs 10/-

Conditions apply for conversion: Such permission for conversion of filling up of paddy land for residential purpose is issued based on the following four conditions: –

  1. Such reclamation shall not adversely affect the ecological condition and the cultivation in the adjoining paddy land
  2. The owner of the paddy land or his family do not own a suitable land for this purpose in the district
  3. The building to be constructed is for his own purpose; and
  4. Such paddy land is not situated by other paddy lands

The permission is granted based on the report of the Local Level Monitoring Committee (LLMC) and the report should be send within sixty days. The DLAC should take a decision on conversion within one month.

The person aggrieved by the decision of the Committee can file an appeal before the District Collector, by affixing a court fee stamp of Rs 50/- on the appeal.

The order issued by the DLAC or the Collector shall indicate the Survey No, extent of land sanctioned for reclamation, and a sketch of it.

Govt can permit reclamation for public purpose

Similarly, the government can grant permission for conversion or reclamation of land for any public purpose, without affecting the cultivation of paddy land in the adjoining paddy land and free flow of water thereto.

Application for filling up of paddy land for public purpose shall be filed in Form 2 appended to the 2008 Rules, affixing Rs 10/- as court fee, before the LLMC.

The LLMC, after considering the purpose, extent of land and non-availability of other lands, should send its recommendation to the State Level Committee within sixty days.

The State Level Committee, headed by the Agricultural Production Commissioner, will examine the effects of reclamation, and submit a report to the government within a period of 90 days.

Then the State government, in genuine cases, grant permission and notify it in the Gazette, under Section 10 of the 2008 Act.

The term Public Purpose means the purpose for the schemes and projects undertaken or financed by the Centre or State Governments, Quasi-government Institutions, Local Government Institutions, Statutory Bodies, or other Schemes, and other Projects as specified by the Government from time to time.

The government can either suo motu or on an application from an aggrieved party cancel any order if the conditions stipulated in the order are not complied with.

Practices relating to unnotified land

Unnotified land is the land which is included as paddy land or wetland in the Basic Tax Register (BTR) but is not notified as paddy land or wetland in the data bank, or the land which has already been filled up before the commencement of the 2008 Act, or the report of the government agencies like Kerala State Remote Sensing Centres or the Local Level Committee declares not as paddy land.

No sanction required to construct a building of 120 Sq Mtr

For owners of the unnotified land, no permission from RDO is required under section 27A of the 2008 Act, for the construction of a residential building with an area of 120 Square Meters in a maximum extent of 4.04 Ares of land, or a commercial building with maximum 40 square meters in an extent of 2.02 Ares of land.

Procedure for conversion of unnotified land

An application for conversion of unnotified land should be filed before the RDO.

If the extent of unnotified land is less than 20.23 Ares the application for conversion must be in Form 6 appended to the 2008 Rules.

If the area is more than 20.23 Ares the application should be in Form 7 appended to the 2008 Rules. The application should include a plan for setting apart 10 per cent of the land for water conservation, with that area marked in blue and the other areas in red colour.

Every application for conversion should be accompanied by a fee of Rs 1000/, sketch of the land, and the details of building to be constructed in the land.

If the land is more than one hectare, the RDO, along with the Agricultural Officer and the Village Officer, should visit the land for verification. If the extend is less, the RDO can take a decision by obtaining reports from Village officer and Agricultural Officer.

In permissible cases, the RDO should issue orders for conversion denoting the area of land, survey number, and the plan for water conservation measures.

In unnotified land, RDO can permit change of nature

Since 30th December 2017, the day on which the Section 27A of the 2008 Act came into force, the change of nature of unnotified land can only be made with permission from the Revenue Divisional Officer (RDO), under Section 27A of the 2008 Act.

Under the section, the RDO can grant conversion of land for residential, commercial, or other purposes after considering reports of the Village Officer. If the area of land is more than 20.2 Ares, ten per cent of such land shall be set apart for water conservation.

If the land is filled up or naturally filled up before 4th day of July 1967, no fee shall be paid.

KLU Order applies to conversion from 4/7/1967 to 30/10 2017

The law applicable for conversion of any land from 4th July 1967 up to 30th October 2017, the date on which Section 27 A of the 2008 Act came into force, would be Clause 6 of the Kerala Land Utilisation Order, 1967 (KLU Order). The RDO was the authority to grant permission regarding utilization of such land for cultivation or residential purpose under the KLU Order.

The RDO is now empowered to permit conversion of unnotified paddy land up to 25 cents paying no fee but for lands in excess of 25 cents by paying the prescribed fee of 10 per cent of the fair value of the land in excess of 25 cents, under Section 27A of the 2008 Act. The Kerala High Court affirmed it in its judgement in State of Kerala & Ors. v Moushmi Ann Jacob.

Both statutes would not apply for conversion before 4th July 1967

Regarding any conversion before 1967 when the KLU Order came into effect, neither the KLU order nor the 2008 Act would apply. But for utilising such unnotified land as of now, permission from the RDO need to be obtained, under Section 27A of the 2008 Act.

In such cases where land conversion occurred before 4th July 1967, the RDO can receive any document such as sale deed, mortgage deed, license issued by governmental agencies etc of those times, in which the land is referred to as land, as proof of its conversion before that date. The RDO can also obtain the reports as to the age of the trees standing in the land, or the report of the remote sensing agencies, as proof of conversion before the date in question.

Changing revenue records like BTR

After RDO allows conversion of land by his order, the owner of the unnotified land should approach the Village Officer for including the changed nature of land in the revenue records like BTR, Thandaper Register etc.

District Collector can order restoration of filled land

The District Collector can take action to restore the original position of any paddy land or wetland reclaimed in violation of the 2008 Act and to realise the cost incurred for that from the holder or occupier of the said paddy land or wetland, under Section 13 of the 2008 Act.

Local government not to grant permission in reclaimed land

Local government should not give permission for carrying out any activity or construction in a paddy land or a wetland or an unnotified land which has been converted or reclaimed in violation of the 2008 Act, under Section 14 of the 2008 Act.

Police or Village Officer can seize vehicles or machinery

Any police officer or village officer can enter any premise or seize any vehicle or conveyance or machinery used for any activity in contravention of the 2008 Act and report the matter to the District Collector within 48 hours. The District Collector will then order confiscation of the objects seized. If the person pays a sum equal to one and a half times the value of the seized articles.

An aggrieved party can file an appeal on such confiscation to the District Court.

Further reading

  1. Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act, 2008
  2. Kerala Land Utilization Order, 1967
  3. Removal of a Property from the Data Bank