Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Status of Property Rights In India – A First Hand Account.

Since I am home for the summer break from college, I've been doing some great legal work with my grandpa who is a lawyer in the High Court Of Andhra Pradesh. It's been a great ride. All the things and lively discussions I expected at law school that never materialized did actually happen in my grandpa's office. I am insanely happy to know that life after law school will be so much more than the boring rants by college professors in soporific classrooms. Incidentally, the case that we have been working on for the past week or so is in relation to the property we own, or more precisely speaking, relates to the property I own. Applying and integrating Objectivism to the facts of the case gives the awesome feeling of a sum and I logically feel the pride oozing through my head. Wow!Whoever said pride was a sin!!

Putting on my legal hat for awhile here is a brief background of the case: My grandpa bought a piece of property in the 1960's which was worth pennies but which later turned out to be a great investment. I mean, the value of the land which my grandpa bought was worth about Rs. 500 then and now is valued at about Rs. 5 crores of so. An Act was passed by the legislature of India called the Urban Celing Act in 1975 which mandated that a family unit may own land upto a certain extent only and any land beyond the ceiling limit would be confiscated by the government and would be redistributed as the government saw fit. However, there was a clause in the Act that said that a family unit would only include the mother, father and their minor children excluding the major child. In other words, if there existed a major child when the Act came into force he or she would be considered as a separate family unit and could own land as apart from the parents and the minor children. Like any man wanting to protect his property, my grandpa transferred the then worthless piece of land to his son (herein after referred to as 'The Idiot'). A partition was executed in good faith and the said land went to The Idiot who later taking advantage of the good faith and soaring prices declared that it was indeed his land and that a real partition was executed, thereby depriving my grandpa of his rightful property. However, our case against The Idiot is that there are many adverse circumstances to the case as The Idiot did for a long time behave like his partitioned land was a part of the joint family property and so on and so forth. There is a long story after all of this but not relevant to the purpose of this post.

Here is case that is directly a consequence of the Urban Ceiling Act through which the government unjustly tried to deprive men of their property which they earned and rightfully deserve to keep. Such cases are rarely tracked and remain to be the unseen effects of such monstrous statutes. God only knows, how many partitions and what kind of other twisted means were resorted to by good men to protect their property – and god only knows how many people were defrauded in ways we cannot imagine like we were in the present case. Now we are forced to go to Court and plead that the partition was nominal and fictitious -- to which the Court will reply a partition is a partition in law and that there is no such thing as a fictitious partition in law. We are now forced to ask the Court to look at the whole context instead of looking at the partition as an isolated fact in a vacuum. THIS is the status of property rights in India today.

Such statutes are the direct implication of altruism in the realm of politics. As I noted earlier, if it is widely accepted today that one person has a duty to other people then nothing stops the government from initiating force to fulfill a cause so 'noble'. Altruism, as Ayn Rand pointed out, does not require one's consent and is far from benovolence to which altruism is equated with today. As long as the fact that living for onself is not accepted as proper and moral, it is only the names and the means of statutes that seize people's wealth will differ, but their goals and intentions will remain the same.

As Ayn Rand correctly noted, property rights are the practical implementation of the right to life and liberty. If man does choose self-preservation and takes the liberty to think and act according to one's highest judgment and is denied the fruits of his labor, just what is the point of saying that one still upholds the right to life and liberty? None! When the purpose of the law is inverted in so gross a fashion, that it becomes not the protector of men's rights but its chief destroyer, who then, in reason, is the guilty party: the man who secretly acts in self-preservation [as a result seeks to protect his property] or the government who usurps its citizens rightful labor? I swear the first thing that hit me when I was evaluating the issue was the following quote by Ragnar Danneskjöld from Atlas Shrugged: "When robbery is done in open daylight by sanction of the law, as it is done today, then any act of honor or restitution has to be hidden underground."

Well said, Miss Rand.


trishula said...

I like the "The Idiot" part ...

khartoum said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
khartoum said...

Heh! couldn't resist calling a spade a spade..