The Modi government’s attempt to amend the 48-year-old Enemy Property Act has faced a stumbling block and is unlikely to clear the Rajya Sabha hurdle with four political parties opposing the move saying original law was balanced and fresh changes violate the basic principle of natural justice.
Congress, JD-U, CPI and Samajwadi Party said the proposed changes would result in punishing lakhs of Indian citizens and have no effect on any ‘Enemy Government’.
The representatives of the four parties — K C Tyagi (JD-U), K Rahman Khan, P L Punia and Husain Dalwai (all Congress), D Raja (CPI) and Javed Ali Khan (SP) — gave their dissent notes in the Select Committee report on amendments to the Enemy Property Act, 1968, tabled in Rajya Sabha on Friday.
“The provisions of the present Bill, 2016 are contrary to the aforesaid principles and if allowed to be inserted in the Act, 1968, not only the entire balance will be disturbed but also the same would not sustain in the courts of law. Thus, we are submitting this dissent note with the request that the same may kindly be treated and circulated as part and parcel of the report of this committee,” the dissent note said.
The MPs said that in their considered view, the provisions of the present bill violates the very basic Principle of Natural Justice, Human Rights and settled principles of law.
Furthermore, it adversely affects and results in punishing lakhs of Indian citizens and will have no effect on any enemy government.
In April, the government had promulgated an ordinance to amend the Enemy Property Act to guard against claims of succession or transfer of properties left by people who migrated mostly to Pakistan after the wars.
Since NDA government does not enjoy majority in the Rajya Sabha, the proposed amendment bill is unlikely to pass the Upper House hurdle as the four parties opposed the move.
The Centre had designated some properties belonging to nationals of Pakistan as “enemy properties” during the 1962, 1965 and 1971 conflicts. It vested these properties in the ‘Custodian of Enemy Property for India’, an office instituted under the central government.
The Enemy Property Act, 1968, regulates these enemy properties, and lists the powers of the custodian.
In the wake of the Indo-Pak wars 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 took over the properties and companies of such persons who had taken Pakistani nationality.
The central government through the Custodian of Enemy Property for India is in possession of enemy properties spread across many states in the country. In addition, there are also movable properties categorised as enemy properties.
After the 1965 war, India and Pakistan signed the Tashkent Declaration which included a clause saying that the two countries would discuss the return of the property and assets taken over by either side in connection with the conflict.
However, Pakistan government disposed of all such properties in their country in 1971 itself.
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 previous UPA regime in 2010. However, the bill introduced in Parliament
could not be passed due to various issues, including differences within the government itself.
The MPs belonging to the four parties now said in their dissent note that the 1968 law is a very balanced piece of legislation as it recognised that the enmity is not permanent and Indian citizens should not be deprived of their rights including inheritance and succession.
The principle of natural justice must be upheld and that the courts should have power to adjudicate on matters related to enemy property.
The Select Committee, headed by BJP’s Bhupender Yadav, has recommended that once the government implements the proposed
amendments to dispose of the enemy property under section 8A on the ground level by selling, the interest of the present occupant/tenant may be taken care of for the time being so that the tenants are not unsettled all of a sudden or the running business of the financial institutions/PSUs does not get disrupted.
The Committee was of the view that the just and fair system of delivery of justice should be incorporated in the rules governing the enemy property and the same should be given wide publicity for the benefit of stakeholders all over the country.
The Committee strongly recommended that proper investigation and due and transparent process must be followed during identification and declaration of enemy property.
After the proceedings of the custodian are over, the aggrieved person should be provided opportunity to represent his case to a designated officer of the Ministry of Home Affairs who must be easily available to the aggrieved persons. This should be specifically mentioned in the rules.