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Ordinance on Enemy Property Bill

The Union Cabinet has recommended repromulgating an Ordinance to amend the nearly 50-year-old Enemy Property Act to guard against claims of succession or transfer of properties left by people who migrated to Pakistan and China after the wars.

Enemy Property Ordinance was ratified by the Lok Sabha in January 2016 and when it went to Rajya Sabha, it was referred to a Select Committee.
The duration of this Ordinance is going to expire in the first week of April 2016. Hence, union cabinet has decided to repromulgate the ordinance till the receipt of the report of the Select Committee.
  • A bill to replace the executive order was also introduced in Parliament in the Budget session. While it was cleared by the Lok Sabha, the opposition in the Rajya Sabha forced the government to refer it to a Select Committee of the Upper House. Since there were little chances of the bill replacing the ordinance getting Parliamentary nod soon, the Rajya Sabha was prorogued recently to ensure a fresh ordinance could be issued.

An ordinance lapses if it is not replaced by an Act of Parliament within six weeks or 42 days of the beginning of a Parliament session.

Enemy Properties Bill:
Enemy Properties Bill includes amendments to plug the loopholes of the Enemy Property Act, 1968.

The amendments include:
  • Once an enemy property is vested in the Custodian, it shall continue to be vested in him as enemy property irrespective of whether the enemy, enemy subject or enemy firm has ceased to be an enemy due to reasons such as death and others.
  • The law of succession does not apply to enemy property. There cannot be 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 provisions of the Act.
  • A new section has been inserted in the Bill to say that “the Custodian, may, after making such inquiry as he deems necessary, by order, declare that the property of the enemy or the enemy subject or the enemy firm described in the order, vests in him under this Act and issue a certificate to this effect and such certificate shall be the evidence of the facts stated therein”.    

The Enemy Property Act was enacted in the year 1968. It provided for the continuous vesting of enemy property in the custodian. The Union Government through the Custodian of Enemy Property for India is in possession of enemy properties spread across many states in the country.
  • To ensure that the enemy property continues to vest in the Custodian, appropriate amendments were brought in by way of an Ordinance in the Enemy Property Act, 1968 by the then Government in 2010.
  • However, the ordinance lapsed on 6 September 2010. Later on 22 July 2010, it was introduced in Lok Sabha in form of a Bill but was withdrawn and another bill with modified provisions was introduced in the Lok Sabha on 15 November, 2010. This bill was thereafter referred to the Standing Committee. However, the said bill could not be passed during the 15th term of the Lok Sabha and it lapsed.

Enemy properties:
In the wake of the Indo-Pak war of 1965 and 1971, there was migration of people from India to Pakistan. Under the Defence of India Rules framed under the Defence of India Act, the Government of India took over the properties and companies of such persons who had taken Pakistani nationality. These enemy properties were vested by the Union Government in the Custodian of Enemy Property for India.

After the 1965 war, India and Pakistan signed the Tashkent Declaration on 10 January 1966. The Tashkent Declaration inter alia included a clause, which said that the two countries would discuss the return of the property and assets taken over by either side in connection with the conflict. However, the Government of Pakistan disposed of all such properties in their country in the year 1971 itself.

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