Rajya Sabha passes Enemy Property Bill

New Delhi: The Rajya Sabha on Friday passed by a voice vote the Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Bill, 2016, after all opposition members present in the upper house walked out in protest one after the other.

The Lok Sabha passed the bill in March last year.

The bill amends the Enemy Property Act, 1968, to vest all rights, titles and interests over enemy property in the custodian and declares transfer of property by the enemy as void.

This applies retrospectively to all transfers that have occurred after the Act was passed.

One of the controversial provisions of the bill is that it amends the definition of “enemy” and “enemy subject” to include the legal heir(s) or successor(s) of the enemy, even if the latter is a citizen of India or a non-enemy country.

According to the new bill, the law of succession will not apply to the legal heir(s) or successor(s) of the enemy.

The bill also prohibits civil courts and other authorities from entertaining disputes related to enemy property.

When the bill was taken up, the opposition benches were virtually vacant as attendance is usually thin on Fridays. Besides, it being the weekend before Holi, many members might have left for their homes.

Congress member Jairam Ramesh pointed this out and asked the government to take up the bill on the next working day.

Similar protests were lodged by Congress member Rajiv Shukla, Trinamool Congress` Sukhendu Sekhar Roy and Samajwadi Party`s Javed Ali Khan.

However, the government ignored the opposition`s request and went ahead to take up and pass the bill.

The treasury benches, on the other hand, were sufficiently bolstered by the presence of senior Ministers Arun Jaitley, Rajnath Singh, Ananth Kumar, Prakash Javadekar and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.

As for opposition`s question as to the urgency to take up the Bill on Friday, Finance Minister and Leader of the House Arun Jaitley said that the Enemy Property Ordinance promulgated by the President is going to lapse on March 14.

Speaking on the bill, Jailtey said: The larger principle behind the enemy property law, whether it is the 1968 Act or the present bill, is that any country with which India has gone to war, its citizens cannot be allowed to hold property in India.”

“If the house wants to negate this principle, let the house say so,” he added.

Earleir, Jaitley cited the example of Raja of Mahmudabad, who left India in 1947, acquired nationality of Pakistan, but later his son and wife came to India and became Indian citizens.

The family members of the erstwhile ruler sought the possession of property left behind by him and the Supreme Court ruled in their favour.

“The Raja of Mahmudabad had lost the title to his property by virtue of the 1965 law and certainly by virtue of the 1968 Act. He died in 1973. So how could his heirs claim his property which he did not own in 1973?” Jaitley said.