AFTER BRINGING amendments in The Enemy Property Act, 1968, the Union Home Ministry is proposing a set of rules for disposal of enemy properties, including renting out smaller properties to state governments and larger properties to the Army and paramilitary forces.“The Home Ministry is expected to discuss these suggestions with other stakeholders, including state governments and central forces, before releasing these guidelines,” a senior government official told The Indian Express.
As per the draft rules, smaller properties can be given to state governments on rent to set up their administrative headquarters, while larger properties can be given to the central security forces for setting up their headquarters or zonal units.
“There are also suggestions to sell off some of these properties to PSUs and state governments. However, there is opposition to this proposal as the Centre would not like to get into buying or selling (property) and earning profit. Also, some of these properties are iconic, and have sentiments attached,” said the official.
Properties which have been sold by the Custodian of Enemy Property (CEP), however, will not be considered for resale. A CEP is appointed by the central government and reports to the Home Ministry.
According to Home Ministry officials, there are nearly 16,000 enemy properties, mostly belonging to Pakistani citizens, spread across the country, valued at over Rs 1 lakh crore.
Uttar Pradesh tops the list with 5,000 such properties, while West Bengal has 2,735. Among the prominent properties are the Estate of KBHS Meherbaksh, two cinema halls in the name of Mohammed Suleman at Mumbai and Thane, and actor Saif Ali Khan’s ancestral property in Bhopal.
The government brought the amendment Bill in 2016 after the heirs of Raja Mohammad Amir Mohammad Khan, known as Raja of Mahmudabad, laid claim to his properties spread across Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. The Bill was passed earlier this year.
The enemy properties date back to the time when wars broke out between India and China in 1962, and India and Pakistan in 1965 and 1971. After the wars, the central government took over the properties of citizens of China and Pakistan in India, which were classified as ‘enemy properties’. The administration of enemy properties was handed over to the CEP.
Pakistan enacted similar laws to take over properties and assets of Indian citizens and companies in Pakistan during the wars. But unlike India, it sold off these properties in 1971.
As per the amended Act, the CEP is the owner of enemy properties, retrospectively from 1968. It also voids the legal sales undertaken by owners of enemy properties since 1968. The new Act further prohibits civil courts and other authorities from hearing certain disputes related to enemy properties.