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Telangana HC tells govt to resume land registrations in old way, sans Aadhaar, caste details

The Telangana government can resume non-agricultural property registrations in the old procedure, as long as it doesn’t collect Aadhaar and caste details of owners and their family members, following an order by the Telangana High Court. Last month, the court had prohibited the state government from collecting the details on its new Dharani land records portal, ruling that the mandate was violative of the right to privacy. Meanwhile, the fate of the Dharani portal continues to hang in the balance.

State IT and Municipal Administration minister K.T. Rama Rao announced on Twitter that the registration of non-agricultural properties would commence on Friday, in accordance to the High Court’s order.

The Dharani portal is part of the government’s efforts to digitise land records, and usher in larger land reforms, in the state. All land registrations were stopped in September, when the state reformed its Revenue Act. The process was supposed to be made entirely digital, via the Dharani portal. Through October, citizens were told to enter their property ownership details on the portal. Submission of Aadhaar and caste details (only broad categories such as OC, SC and ST) were mandatory.

The freeze on registrations, which has been suspended since September 7, has caused a backlog of nearly two to three lakh documents, officials told the Times of India. A senior official reportedly said that it has caused a revenue loss of over ₹2,000 crore in the past three months. The state government was, according to the court, under the impression that all registrations — even in the previous method — were supposed to stop.

However, on Thursday, the High Court told the government that it had, in fact, never stayed the registration of non-agricultural property at all. Essentially, it said that the stay only applied to the collection of Aadhaar and caste details, and not registrations “in toto (as a whole)”. Hence, the government can continue to register property in the old way, without the Dharani portal.

The state advocate general, meanwhile, gave an undertaking to the court that the government will not insist on submission of Aadhaar and caste details of owners and their family members. Furthermore, he asked that the state be allowed to register non-agricultural property using the previous, “Computer-aided Administration of Registration Department (CARD)”. The CARD system will require property owners to submit their Property Tax Identification Number (PTIN) for registration, which the court allowed.

The next hearing of the cases is scheduled for December 16.

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