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LS passes Enemy Property Bill amid Cong walkout

Statesman News Service | New Delhi |

The Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed the Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Bill, 2016, after an ordinance had to be promulgated five times. Home Minister Rajnath Singh said though the government was against the ordinance route, the Bill could not be discussed in the House due to certain reasons and as public interest was involved, it had to promulgate the ordinance.

Though there was support for the legislation, the Opposition criticism was that the government promulgated the ordinance five times which Saugata Roy of Trinamul Congress said “had created an all India record”.

The legislation got Rajya Sabha clearance after amendments made on the recommendations of a Select Committee of Rajya Sabha which examined the Bill.

According to the Bill, successors of those who migrated to Pakistan and China during Partition will have no claim over the properties left behind in India.

This Bill amends the Enemy Property Act, 1968, and was passed by voice vote in the Lok Sabha, incorporating the amendments made by the Rajya Sabha last week in the absence of Congress members who had walked out over the issue of government formation in Goa and Manipur.

The Lok Sabha had passed the Bill earlier but certain amendments were introduced to it in the Rajya Sabha, on the recommendations of a Select Committee. Those amendments had to be approved by the Lower House. RSP member N K Premachandran had moved a statutory amendment seeking to introduce clarity with regard to those properties which had already been acquired by the heirs of the ‘enemy’ property owners, a reference to nationals of Pakistan and China.

According to the Bill, “Enemy property” refers to any property belonging to, held or managed on behalf of an enemy, an enemy subject or an enemy firm. The government has vested these properties in the Custodian of Enemy Property for India, an office instituted under the central government. After the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965, the Enemy Property Act was enacted in 1968, which regulates such properties and lists the Custodian’s powers.

“The purpose of the Bill is to clarify the 1968 Act. Inheritance law will not be applicable on Enemy Property… This will put an end to the long pending issue which should have ideally happened in 2010 when the Bill was introduced,” Rajnath Singh said while replying to a brief debate on the Bill. The government brought the amendment Bill in the wake of a claim laid by the heirs of Raja Mohammad Amir Mohammad Khan, known as Raja of Mahmudabad, on his properties spread across Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. The matter is before the Supreme Court.

Five ordinances were promulgated on the Bill. The last one is due to expire today. Justifying the move to amend the Act, Singh rejected the contention of some MPs that it was against the principle of natural justice and amounted to human rights violations. “I wonder how it is against the principle of natural justice. Pakistan has seized the properties of Indian citizens… It will be natural justice if their property (of those who migrated to Pakistan) is not returned,” he said.

The minister assured the House that there will be no human rights violations following the amendments as the rights if Indian citizens are not being taken away. “The law only applies on heirs of enemy property… The tenants of those property will be governed by the Tenancy Act,” he said.