Torrens Title System
The Torrens Title System is followed in the UK, Canada and many East European countries and is named after Sir Robert R Torrens, who introduced it in South Australia in 1858 and later lobbied for its adoption in other parts of the country. To understand this system, let’s have an overview how this system works at present in our country:
In our country, land is a state subject, so the states may have slightly different mechanism. In most cases, the land owner’s name is recorded in the records of the local registrar office. When this owner sells the land, a deed is prepared which is called “registry’ in common parlance. This deed contains the names of the seller(s) and the buyer(s), ownership status, location and legal description of the property. This information is abstracted from each deed to next deed on further sale. The deed is presented to the sub-registrar in the land revenue office and when the sub-registrar is satisfied with that the title is a good title, the deed is duly registered in the land revenue records.
The biggest problem with this process is that there is no “central” registry and each deed presents itself as a proof of land ownership. This increases the possibility of falsifying the deeds and land fraud cases.
Torrens Titling System
The Torrens system does away with all the above process. In this system, there is a direct registration of title in a central registry. It will involve identifying all the parcels of land, entering them in a register and specifying the owner. Further, the state guarantees ownership, becomes the keeper of all land and title records, and the title becomes a certificate of valid ownership. If the owner wants to sell his land, that certificate will serve all the purpose.
In our country, many have advocated the Torrens Titling System mainly because it may bring the transparency in the land records and land sale-purchases. In this context, the government had also prepared a draft “Land Titling Bill 2011” to create a digital infrastructure for land records; however, that bill has been deferred as of now.
As per this bill, a land title guaranteed by the state provides a conclusive proof of title to property ownership and provides and certifies the land boundaries based on actual ground surveys. These titles are then recorded on an ‘electronic register’, which is accessible online to the public. Under this bill, a registration authority will be set up, functioning under deputy commissioners of each district after amending the Indian Registration Act, 1908, the Transfer of Property Act, 1882, and the Indian Contract Act, 1872.
- More Transparency
- Less forgery; less litigation
- Access to financial instituons because of state guarantee of ownership deeds.
- Unique identification of the property
- Clear record of history of past transactions.
Issues with Implementing the Torrens Titling System
In current context, the Torrens Titling System would be very much similar to the dematerialization of the land records akin to the demat share accounts. This system can be very effective in bringing a new level of transparency when the land deeds are guaranteed by the state. There are some problems in this context which shall be sooner or later will be addressed:
- India has 12 crore farmers and millions of shops and houses. Creating a digital infrastructure is surely a mammoth’s task. Torrens Titling system requires a huge burden on state exchequer for the initial survey to be done by the trained people.
- Land is a state subject. The implementation will vary from state to state. Some states would need huge resources for having an initial systematic survey done.