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what is enemy property in India, and how has the government dealt with it?

  • Category
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    28th Jan, 2020

A Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by Union Home Minister will monitor the disposal of over 9,400 enemy properties, which the government estimates is worth about Rs 1 lakh crore.

Context

A Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by Union Home Minister will monitor the disposal of over 9,400 enemy properties, which the government estimates is worth about Rs 1 lakh crore.

About

  • In the wake of the India-Pakistan 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, 1962, the Government of India took over the properties and companies of those who took Pakistani nationality.
  • The same was done for property left behind by those who went to China after the 1962 Sino-Indian war.
  • The Tashkent Declaration of January 10, 1966 included a clause that said India and Pakistan 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

How did India deal with enemy property?

  • The Enemy Property Act, enacted in 1968, provided for the continuous vesting of enemy property in the Custodian of Enemy Property for India.
  • Some movable properties too, are categorised as enemy properties.
  • In 2017, Parliament passed The Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Bill, 2016, which amended The Enemy Property Act, 1968, and The Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act, 1971.
  • The amended Act expanded the definition of the term “enemy subject”, and “enemy firm” to include the legal heir and successor of an enemy, whether a citizen of India or a citizen of a country which is not an enemy; and the succeeding firm of an enemy firm, irrespective of the nationality of its members or partners.
  • The Custodian, with prior approval of the central government, may dispose of enemy properties vested in him in accordance with the provisions of the Act, and the government may issue directions to the Custodian for this purpose.

Which state has the highest number of such properties?

  • Together UP and West Bengal have over 80% of these immovable properties. Over 98% of it belongs to Pakistani nationals

Is it the first time such a rule is being enacted in India?

  • After the beginning of the Second World War the British had enacted a Defence of India Act in 1939.
  • Under this Act Germany, Italy and Japan were declared enemy countries and similar measures were adopted so their citizens should not be allowed to have any financial gain from India.
  • After Independence, the Act was abrogated as the Indian government did not identify these countries as India’s enemy.

Why were these amendments brought?

  • The thrust of the amendments was to guard against claims of succession or transfer of properties left by people who migrated to Pakistan and China after the wars.
  • The amendments denied legal heirs any right over enemy property.
  • The main aim was to negate the effect of a court judgment in this regard.
  • The statement of objects and reasons in the Bill said: “Of late, there have been various judgments by various courts that have adversely affected the powers of the Custodian and the Government of India as provided under the Enemy Property Act, 1968.
  • In view of such interpretation by various courts, the Custodian is finding it difficult to sustain his actions under the Enemy Property Act, 1968.”
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