Enemy Property Bill 2016 to be discussed today

NEW DELHI: A number of states are expected to express their views on the contentious Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Bill, 2016 at a Select Committee meeting of the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.

“States have been asked to give their response on the bill. We will move forward on the issue after we get the views of the states in tomorrow’s meeting,” a panel member said on on condition of anonymity on Monday.

The panel, headed by BJP MP Bhupendra Yadav, had in its meeting on April 11 sought written response of state governments on the bill that seeks to guard against claims of succession or transfer of ‘enemy’ properties of people who migrated to Pakistan and China after the wars.

It had then also voiced displeasure over states not sending senior officials before it to present their views on the measure.

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, Custodian of Enemy Properties for India Utpal Chakraborty, officers from the Home Ministry and Law Ministry and a large number of experts and stakeholders have already appeared before the panel and recorded their views.

The panel has been tasked to scrutinize the Bill and submit its report in the opening week of the next Parliament session which begins from April 25.

As such, the committee is rushing against time as the session comes to a close on May 13.

The panel had earlier called Chief Secretaries of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Uttarakhand and Delhi, but most of the states had sent junior officers while some sent only their Resident Commissioners based in Delhi, to which the panel members had taken strong objection.

The panel Chairman has asked the states to send senior officers of the states to tomorrow’s meeting.

The central government had designated some properties belonging to nationals of Pakistan and China 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 1968 Act regulates these enemy properties and lists the powers of the Custodian.

The Upper House had on March 15 adopted a motion for referring the Bill, which seeks to amend the Enemy Property Act, 1968, as passed by Lok Sabha, to the select committee.