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Enemy Property Bill Amendment

Enemy Property Bill Amendment
Highlights

The Lok Sabha on March 14 passed a bill – Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Act – to amend a 49-year-old law to guard against claims of...

The Lok Sabha on March 14 passed a bill – Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Act – to amend a 49-year-old law to guard against claims of succession or transfer by heirs of property left behind by those who migrated to Pakistan and China. Earlier on March 10, the Rajya Sabha had cleared the amendment.

The bill vests all rights, titles and interests over enemy property in the custodian and declares transfer of property by the enemy as void. The Bill decrees that all the heirs of the original “enemy” should also be considered enemies, in perpetuity, even if they hold Indian citizenship. Any transfer of such property out of government cutodianship after the 1968 Act will be retroactively revoked.

One of the controversial provisions of the bill is that it amends the definition of "enemy" and "enemy subject" to include the legal heir(s) or successor(s) of the enemy, even if the latter is a citizen of India or a non-enemy country. According to the new bill, the law of succession will not apply to the legal heir(s) or successor(s) of the enemy. The bill also prohibits civil courts and other authorities from entertaining disputes related to enemy property.

According to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, the larger principle behind the enemy property law, whether it is the 1968 Act or the present bill, is that any country with which India has gone to war, its citizens cannot be allowed to hold property in India. Jaitley cited the example of Raja of Mahmudabad, who left India in 1947, acquired nationality of Pakistan, but later his son and wife came to India and became Indian citizens.

The family members of the erstwhile ruler sought the possession of property left behind by him and the Supreme Court ruled in their favour. "The Raja of Mahmudabad had lost the title to his property by virtue of the 1965 law and certainly by virtue of the 1968 Act. He died in 1973. So how could his heirs claim his property which he did not own in 1973?" Jaitley asked. Around 2,100 properties seized in the wake of wars with China and Pakistan in the 1960s will forever remain the property of the Indian government.

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