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Revised land price quashed

Aerial view of Bhubaneswar

Cuttack, Dec. 14: Orissa High Court today quashed the revised benchmark value of land fixed by the state revenue department in Khurda district, including Bhubaneswar, which came into effect on September 1.

Lawyers and deed writers at the Khurda and Khandagiri registration offices had stopped registration of land for nearly two months beginning September 2 protesting against the revised benchmark valuation which they termed “arbitrary”. The prices were hiked from 10 to 20 per cent for various locations in the city.

They were also protesting the fact that before the final revision of benchmark valuation was announced on September 1 by the district valuation committee, the Khurda district administration had hiked the last valuation prices by 10 per cent in April.

This is because till then the district committee had failed to arrive at a consensus. The strike was finally called off on November 26.

The court said the revision was contrary to provisions of law as the new benchmark was fixed by a District Level Valuation Committee that was “not properly constituted”.

The ruling assumes significance as a buyer is supposed to pay seven per cent of the benchmark value of the land.

The secretary of the Capital Bar Association had challenged the revised benchmark valuation through a PIL. One Hrudananda Mangaraj had also sought quashing of the revised benchmark valuation in a separate petition.

The state government had justified the revision on the ground that there had been a jump in the price in Bhubaneswar and its outskirts and the government was losing revenue because of low registration charges and stamp duty.

Quashing the revised benchmark value, the division bench of Chief Justice V. Gopala Gowda and Justice B.K. Mishra directed the chairman of the District Level Valuation Committee to fix afresh the benchmark value of land by a properly constituted committee following the Odisha Stamp Act, one of the petitioner’s counsels Prafulla Kumar Rath told The Telegraph.

The court expected completion of the process within a period of three months to avoid any loss to the state revenue. The petitioners had alleged that the District Level Valuation Committee had revised the benchmark value of land for registration without considering objections. The authorities had not adhered to several provisions of law and wrongly constituted the land valuation committee. Besides, there was disparity in land valuation in various parts of the state capital and its outskirts and the value was hiked exorbitantly in some areas, the petitioners had alleged.

Advocates and deed writers had ceased work in Bhubaneswar for over 40 days, resulting in paralysis of sub-registrar offices.

The court observed that lawyers’ association and deed writers’ association were part of the democratic system. Hence, they were not expected to stop work in government offices and prevent entry of the public while the matter was pending in court.

The court advised them not to resort to this kind of activities in future.