Cabinet clears changes to Enemy Property Act

Transactions before July 2 will have legal sanction

The bill proposes to allow Indian legal heirs to inherit the properties of relatives who migrated to Pakistan after Partition.

The amendments to the act would ensure that such property is divested only to the owner or his lawful heir and continue to vest in the custodian till it is divested by the Centre. The heirs will have to prove their status to the government.

A meeting of the Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, approved the home ministry proposal to introduce the Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Second Bill, 2010 to make amendments to the four-decade-old law.

Earlier, there was no political consensus on the bill due to lobbying by Muslim MPs who pleaded to ensure that legal heirs are allowed to hold the property of their parents or grandparents who had migrated to Pakistan.

There are around 2,000 claimants to “enemy properties” in the country and courts will not have any jurisdiction over such property.

Consultations

The ordinance came after consultations with the home ministry. As per the amendments, any enemy property divested from the custodian before the commencement of the proposed legislation, ie July 2, 2010,  shall continue to remain with the custodian.  
Also, the transfer of any enemy property shall not include any transfer or any claim of transfer made through oral will or oral gift or if it has been done without the permission of the competent authority and no court shall order divestment from the custodian or direct the Central government to divest the property.

The Central government is authorised to direct the custodian to sell or dispose of enemy properties in such a manner as may be prescribed, to amend the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act, 1971 to declare the Custodian, Deputy Custodian and Assistant Custodian of Enemy Properties as Estate Officer in respect of the enemy properties are other features of the proposed amendments.

“We are not getting into legal things. The bill has been approved and will be introduced in Parliament where a discussion will take place,” Home Minister P Chidambaram said.
The government had to withdraw the bill initially after it faced opposition from the Rashtriya Janata Dal and Samajwadi Party as their leaders saw the Bill as anti-Muslim.

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