March 15th, 2017
The Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed the amended Enemy Property Bill, approving changes to the 1968 Act, suggested by the Rajya Sabha last week. The new law denies families of those who moved to China and Pakistan during partition the right to reclaim “enemy properties” seized by the state.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh called the bill “natural justice”, while analysts suggest the bill unfairly targets Muslim minorities in the country.
What is the Enemy Property Act, 1968?
Following the partition of the Indian subcontinent, massive displacement of people on both sides occurred. After the 1965 war with Pakistan, the Indian government took over properties and companies of people who became Pakistani nationals after Independence, declaring their assets as “enemy property”. However, upon their death, their Indian families/legal heirs had rights over the property.
A five decade old law, the Enemy Property Act was passed by the Indian Parliament to provide for the continuous vesting of all rights, titles and interest over enemy property in the custodian.
It gave the government the right to seize the ‘enemy property’ of people who moved to both Pakistan and China following wars with both nations.
The Pakistani government had also enacted a similar law, espousing properties of those who moved to India.
What are the amendments made to the Act?
On March 11, the Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Bill 2006 was passed by the Rajya Sabha in the sixth attempt after ordinances were passed to keep the Bill alive. The entire opposition had walked out of the Upper House as 10 Union Ministers desperately ensured its approval through a voice vote.
The Lok Sabha accepted the amendments made by the Rajya Sabha and passed the bill on Tuesday.
The retrospective amendments to the law extend the definition of ‘enemy’ to include legal heirs of declared enemies, even when the heir is an Indian citizen, or of a country not deemed to be an enemy.
The new Bill ensures that the law of succession (transfer of property upon the death of a declared enemy) does not apply to the enemy property. There cannot be a transfer of any property vested in the Custodian by an enemy or enemy subject or enemy firm and that the Custodian shall preserve the enemy property till it is disposed of in accordance with the Act.
The Indian government said that the changes are made in the “larger public interest” and will plug “loopholes to ensure that enemy properties worth thousands of crores (millions) of rupees do not revert to the enemy or enemy firm”.The Bill also prohibits civil courts and other authorities from entertaining disputes related to
The Bill also prohibits civil courts and other authorities from entertaining disputes related to the enemy property.
The Logical Indian take
The number of properties with the Custodian of Enemy Property, estimated at more than Rs 1 trillion ($15 billion) has risen to about 16,000 from 2,100 – nearly all taken from Muslim families.
In 2005, the Supreme Court had ruled that legal heirs who are Indian citizens can reclaim the so-called enemy property, following decades of petitioning by the family of the erstwhile Raja of Mahmudabad, who left India after partition in 1947.