A system of registering private lands in the maritime provinces in Sri Lanka was started during the Portuguese rule. However the present system of registering lands in the country was started with the Registration of Documents Ordinance introduced by the British in 1863 during their rule in Sri Lanka. In terms of this ordinance transfer of a land between two or more parties is done by means of a systematic document (deed) prepared by a Notary Public and registered in the Land Registry. In this process the transferee should possess the genuine ownership to the land and if otherwise the transferee will not gain the actual title to the land.
Under these circumstances the following problems arose creating unfavorable conditions both to the land owners and the socio-economic development of the country.
- Land disputes
- Land cases
- Breach of peace among the communities
- Fraudulent land transactions
- Decrease of productivity in lands
- Non- receipt of income to the Government due to the absence of proper land management.
With a view to eliminate these unfavorable conditions and to use lands for the development purpose, a system of issuing title certificates for lands together with a plan showing correct boundaries of respective land was started with the enactment of the Registration of Title Act No.21 of 1998 by the Parliament. This Act confirms the state ownership and the private ownership of land and the possibility of identifying suitable lands for development of the country is another benefit gained for this Act.
Land Commissions appointed by the then Governments in 1925,1955 and 1985 as well as the Commissions appointed to look into the causes for youth rebellion in the recent past have pointed out that the inequality in land ownership and non-availability of lands for many persons were also the basic causes for the public unrest. Paying attention to the findings of these Commissions and as a solution to the social unrest, the Government introduced the Registration of Title Act No. 21 of 1998.