Enemy Property Ordinance:

Enemy Property Ordinance was re-promulgated by the Centre on April 2, 2016. An ordinance to amend the 46 years old Enemy Property Act, 1968 was approved by the President, Pranab Mukherjee on January 8, 2016.

With this, the NDA government has followed the footsteps of the UPA Government. UPA Government had also introduced an ordinance to amend the Enemy Property Act. However, the bill could not be passed due to several reasons including differences within the party itself.

Enemy Property:

Before anything, one needs to know what exactly is an ‘Enemy Property.’ As we all know after the India-Pakistan war of 1965 and 1971 and the Indo-China war of 1962, many people migrated to Pakistan and China. Then, what happened to the properties they left behind in India, you ask? Government of India took them over under the Defence of India Act. These properties called ‘Enemy Property’ were vested by the Central Government in the Custodian for Enemy Properties in India.

Custodian for Enemy Property:

The custodian of Enemy Property in India is the Indian Government Department that is empowered to appropriate property in India owned by enemy country nationals like Pakistan or China.

Enemy Property Act, 1968:

The Enemy Property Act, 1968 excluded Indian citizens from the definition of ‘enemy.’ Thereby extending protection to the heirs and successors of those who left for Pakistan/China. There have been heart-wrenching tales of many Indians being ousted from their own homes as the war had led to an internal partition. The legal heirs fought for his/her right as an Indian citizens. All the courts right from the Civil Court to the Supreme Court upheld the citizens’ right in what seemed to be some of the longest legal battles against the Government.

The Enemy Property Act, 1968 had the following provisions:
(i) The Act provided that the vesting of property in the custodian was temporary.

(ii) The courts had jurisdiction to hear cases under the Enemy Property Act, 1968.

(iii) The custodian’s role was to preserve, manage and control the property. The Custodian cannot transfer the property except in special circumstances like being unable to pay taxes, maintain or preserve the property.

(iv) Section 18 specifically provided for divesting of property vesting in the custodian.
These provisions were to be overturned with a retrospective effect under the UPA Government. UPA Government promulgated an Enemy Property Ordinance, 2010. However, the ordinance could not take form of an Act.

Enemy Property Ordinance, 2016:

Now the NDA Government has re-promulgated Ordinance and it is said to be more draconian than the 2010 ordinance. The provisions of the 2016 Ordinance are:
(i) ‘Enemy’ and ‘Enemy subject’ includes legal heirs, successors of an enemy, both whether he is citizen of India or citizen of country that is not an enemy. Succeeding firm of an enemy firm is also considered as ‘enemy firm’ irrespective of the nationality of the members and partners.

(ii) Indian citizens are bifurcated into two – those citizens who are legal heirs of people who have migrated to enemy country have no right to succession or inheritance.

(iii) The enemy property will continue to vest in the custodian even after the death, extinction or winding up of enemy, enemy subject or enemy firm.

(iv) The jurisdiction of the Civil Court is barred with no alternate forum and the bill nullifies all judgments by any court.

Over all, the Bill seems to be sham to grab properties that should actually belong to the Indian heirs. It strives to treat Indian citizens as foreigners in their own land just because they are the heirs of the people who had to migrate into the enemy country. The Enemy Property Ordinance, 2016 pulled out all the stops for those who had fought for so many years to have their rights recognised as citizens of India. The heirs had challenged the 2010 Ordinance and now they have challenged the Enemy Property Ordinance, 2016. The plight of such heirs and their fight for their rights can be read in detail HERE.

Status of Enemy Property Ordinance, 2016:

A number of states have to express their opinion on the Ordinance at the Select Committee meeting of the Rajya Sabha today, 19th April 2016. A written response was also sought from the states on April 11, by the panel headed by BJP MP, Bhupendra Yadav. Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, custodian of enemy properties for India Utpal Chakraborthy, officers from Law Ministry and Home Ministry, various other experts and stakeholders have expressed their views before the panel. The panel will submit its report to the Parliament during the next session that begins on April 25th.

Picture courtesy: Wikimedia

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