The Tamil Nadu registration department, under registration and commercial taxes minister P Moorthy, has taken some bold steps to set right many anomalies, some of which are fraudulent activities involving government officials. In an interview with Padmini Sivarajah, the minister talks about his priority is to clean up the system and make it more people-friendly.
Q: What prompted you to bring about changes in the registration department?
Chief minister (M K Stalin) felt that though the registration department handled many sensitive issues, there was a disconnect between the public and officials. Our first task was to bridge that gap and do away with middlemen and brokers.
Q:You made sub-registrars move out of their elevated seating arrangement and forced them to sit on the same level as that of other staff. What is the objective?
Seats of sub-registrars were placed on a pedestal for ages. The practice was in vogue since the British era. But in modern times, you don’t find such practices even in district collectorates. Collectors and other senior officials sit at the same level as that of other staff. They stand up and receive people. It was imperative to have such a people-friendly approach in the sub-registrar offices also.
Q:What is your most important reform in the department?
Amendment to the Registration Act, 1908, has been the most significant one. It now enables the inspector general of registration to cancel fake documents. Earlier, the sub-registrar could just refer it to the court for cancellation. It caused a lot of delay in setting right anomalies and fraudulent activities. A new system is in place to check fake registrations. We have made it mandatory for document writers and advocates preparing papers for registration to affix their photos on the documents and sign before registration.
If it is found that they have registered fake documents, their licence and bar council registration can be cancelled. Moreover, the officials involved in the fraudulent act could face up to three years of imprisonment. This is a first in the country. Such measures will help check irregularities like impersonation and selling the same property to multiple people. Registering land based on the government prescribed guideline value is also important. If a person wants to obtain a loan based on the land in question, the price is hiked above the guideline value. All such practices will get checked now.
Officials, both at higher and lower levels, will have to face action if they are involved in irregularities. We had reports that large-scale irregularities were taking place in the past. They will act with caution now.
Q:What is your next big move?
We are in the process of constituting a committee to investigate large-scale property registrations that have taken place across the state during the previous AIADMK regime.
Q: Is there any link between such transactions and Kodanad burglary?
Only investigations can confirm that.
Q: Is the registration revenue hit hard by Covid-19?
We are hopeful that the trend would change fast.
Q: What are your plans for the commercial taxes department?
Our target is 100% GST compliance. People evading taxes would be brought to book. Officials helping tax evaders will face action.