Bill to amend Enemy Property Act introduced in Parliament

New Delhi: A bill to amend the 48-year-old Enemy Property Act to allow the custodians to continue to hold sway over such properties was introduced in Lok Sabha on Tuesday, March 8.

Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju introduced the Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Bill, 2016 to amend the Enemy Property Act 1968 and the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act 1971. loksabha The measure seeks to replace an ordinance promulgated to this effect on January 7.

The bill aims to amend the provisions of the Act declaring that all enemy property vested in the custodian of enemy property would continue to vest in the custodian irrespective of the death or extinction of the enemy.

The custodian of enemy property for India is an Indian government department that is empowered to appropriate property in India owned by Pakistani nationals. After the Indo-Pak War of 1965, the Enemy Property Act was promulgated in 1968. The Narendra Modi government, following the footsteps of the previous UPA government, has been keen to amend the Act.

While UPA government had promulgated the Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Ordinance, the Bill introduced in Parliament could not be passed due to various issues, including reported differences within the government itself. 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 of India took over the properties and companies of such persons who had taken Pakistani nationality. These enemy properties were vested by the Central Government in the Custodian of Enemy Property for India. After the 1965 war, India and Pakistan signed the Tashkent Declaration on January 10, 1966.

The Tashkent Declaration inter alia included a clause, which said the two countries 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 1971 itself.