Lok Sabha on 14 March 2017 passed the Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Bill, 2016. The bill was earlier passed with some amendments by the Rajya Sabha on 10 March 2017. The amendments to the bill were moved in the Lok Sabha by Home Minister Rajnath Singh. The Bill will replace the ordinance promulgated by the government. With this passage in both the houses of Parliament, the Bill will be sent to President Pranab Mukherjee for his approval.
Mukherjee’s nod on the bill will turn it into an Act. It guards against the claims of succession or transfer of the properties left by people who migrated to Pakistan and China after wars. The Bill seeks to amend the Enemy Property Act, 1968, to vest all rights, titles and interests in enemy property in the Custodian. It also declares transfer of enemy property by the enemy, conducted under the Act, to be void. This applies retrospectively to transfers that have occurred before or after 1968.
As per the amendments, 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. After the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965, the Act was enacted in 1968, which regulates such properties and lists the Custodian’s powers. The amendments are aimed at plugging the loopholes in the Act to ensure that the enemy properties that have been vested in the Custodian remain so and do not revert to the enemy subject or enemy firm.
Before passage in the two houses, Rajnath Singh clarified that the legislation does not violate the principles of natural justice and human rights. In the case of mistakes, where any property is declared as the enemy property, the affected party has the right to move to the grievance redressal mechanism, which is provided in the bill. Besides, he also clarified that no enemy property has been disposed of so far by the custodian.