International Land Measurement Standards (ILMS) to help standardise land tenure and ownership rights in India

By Sunil Agarwal, Associate Dean and Director, School of Real Estate, RICS School of Built Environment, Amity University

Land is as much a controversial subject in India as it is internationally. It is easy to challenge land in the absence of organised records, especially land ownership. This has resulted in many lengthy disputes in many countries. In India, according to the National Institution for Transforming India (Niti Aayog), on an average land disputes take twenty years to resolve, which is not desirable.

In an effort to improve standardisation of the land record system world over, the International Land Measurement Standard (ILMS) will be launched at the FIG Congress in Istanbul in May. ILMS standard is a set of guidelines aimed to standardise land tenure and ownership rights to make the ownership of land more secure and permanent. The ILMS rules will standardise ways in which property rights to land are allocated, transferred, used, or managed. The standard has been draftedby the ILMS Coalition, a partnership of30 not-for-profit organisations.

ILMS is one part of a global solution to standardising land tenure and ownership and could be the key to helping India move to a transparent, fair and secure land transfer system. It will set a standard for classifying, defining, measuring, analysing, presenting and reporting land information, which can be applied at regional, state, national or international level. In practice, ILMS can be adopted by governments putting in place functioning LIS (Land Information Search) or on a transaction driven basis.

According to the World Bank, 70 per cent of land and property in the developing world is unregistered and is outside formal markets.It is to be noted that land has been transacted in India for thousands of years and there is an evolved system to do it. However, digitisation of land records and standards, will vastly improve the ease of doing business. ILMS will ensureland tenure and property value isformally recorded so as to prevent land and property misappropriation, disputes, unfair compensation, legal and reputational risksof investors besides enhancingpersonal economic opportunities andland acquisition. It would also help governments raise money through better management of land revenue records and also yield better property taxation in areas where municipal bodies do not have information or have varied information on properties.

There are varied and different practices in various states in India to maintain land records, which adds to a lot of confusion. While the Government of India launched the ‘Digital Land Records Modernisation Programme’ in 2008 to modernise management of land records and lower the rate of land related disputes, the pace of its implementation has been rather slow.

The issue of land governance figures prominently in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted in 2015 and within the New Urban Agenda global initiative to which India is a signatory.The first of these SDG goals includes an ambitious target for all men and women to have equal rights to ownership and control over land and other forms of property by 2030.

ILMS coalitionworks with other important land initiatives as well such as the Open Geospatial Consortium working group on land administration, the UN–Habitat Global Land Tool Network initiative on the valuation of informal land and settlements, the USAID–Thomson Reuters ‘Land Matters’ initiative and the UK Department for International Development’s project Land: Enhancing Governance for Economic Development.

Currently, there is ambiguity about land, especially agricultural land, whereby even if some details are furnished on the transaction document or government records, it becomes difficult to locate the same at the site and also there are significant variations, resulting in distortions in valuation and leading to disputes. This problem also exists in urban areas and ILMS could be the answer to this issue.

The ILMS standard seeks to engage all stakeholders in the land ownership, registration, measurement and transaction process. It will also help forge direct links between land professionals, legal advisors and financial reporting by de-risking the land transaction process for all parties and implementing an agreed land information framework. As they currently stand, the ILMS stipulate that any land transaction include a description of the physical boundaries and total area of the piece of land in question, a description of how it is used, and any associated buildings or services.

In addition, the standards mandate information on two especially complicated issues: ownership and type of tenure, and an estimate of the value of the land, including clarity on how that estimate was ascertained.


About RICS

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) is a professional body that accredits professionals within the land, property, construction, and infrastructure sectors worldwide.Through RICS’ credential and professional standards, it creates confidence in markets and is known for effecting positive change in the built and natural environments


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