Why 6 MPs flagged Enemy Property Bill
One in every four members of a Parliamentary panel on Enemy Property Bill have opposed the Bill and the panel's view on it. As many as six members of Parliament gave a note of dissent when Rajya Sabha's Select Committee on the Bill was recently submitted and made public. Their argument: provisions of the Bill violate basic principles of natural justice and would result in punishing lakhs of Indian citizens.
The dissenting MPs include:
- KC Tyagi from Janata Dal (United)
- D Raja (Communist Party of India)
- Javed Ali Khan (Samajwadi Party)
- K Rahman Khan (Indian National Congress)
- P L Punia (Indian National Congress)
- Husain Dalwai (Indian National Congress)
According to them, some provisions of the Bill also violate Article 14, 19 and 300A of the Constitution of India.
What exactly is an enemy property and what is this law all about? Here is a lowdown:
Who exactly is this 'enemy'?
The properties left back in India by those who moved to China and Pakistan during and after the wars of 1962, 1965 and 1971 are called 'enemy' properties. Originally, the government took them under its control. This was done under the Defence of India Rules and the Defence of India Act, 1962. A government office called the Custodian of Enemy Property for India (CEPI) was given charge. The Enemy Property Act was enacted in 1968 specifically for regulating these enemy properties and listing the powers of the Custodian.
Are these properties in a large number?
The government owns such enemy properties across many states and they include both movable and immovable properties. The immovable properties are said to be worth over Rs 1 lakh crore, while the movable property is valued at more than Rs 3,000 crore.
What was the need of bringing a new law?
For several decades, enemy properties were automatically vested in the Custodian and even the courts left it at that. However, in the last decade, many cases were filed in Indian courts and several judgments came that introduced new aspects related to rights over the properties.
This made amendments necessary. In July 2010, the UPA government introduced the Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Bill, 2010, to amend the Enemy Property Act, 1968 and the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act, 1971. This bill, however, was withdrawn and a modified version was introduced in November 2010.
Is the UPA Bill still around?
No. The 2010 bill could not be passed during the 15th Lok Sabha and it lapsed. The NDA government brought an Ordinance last January and the Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Bill, 2016 was introduced in Lok Sabha on 8 March, 2016 to replace it.
Its objective is to ensure that 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', individual or firm, has ceased to be an enemy due to any reason including death. It will also ensure that law of succession does not apply to enemy property and that there cannot be transfer of any property vested in the Custodian. Lok Sabha passed the Bill on 9 March and it was then referred to the Select Committee, which has now given its report. Next, the Bill will be brought to the Rajya Sabha for passing.
What are the concerns raised by the dissenting MPs?
They say that this Bill does not "follow the lines" on which the the UPA's Bill was based. Further, they say that the 1968 Act itself is very clear that the vesting under the Act is temporary. In fact, the later judgments are also consistent with this approach and 2010 Bill maintained this balance. Accordingly, these MPs have proposed over 20 amendments to the new Bill, spanning across various clauses.
Edited by Sahil Bhalla