New Delhi: The Central government on Wednesday approved amendments to the Enemy Property Act to ensure, among other issues, that such property is divested only to the owner or his lawful heir and continue to vest in the custodian till it is divested by the Centre.
A meeting of the Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, approved the proposal of the Ministry of Home Affairs to introduce the Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Second Bill, 2010 to make amendments to the Enemy Property Act, 1968.
An attempt to make amendments to the Act during the Monsoon session of Parliament failed due to repeated pleas and lobbying of cross-party Muslim MPs, including several ministers, who pleaded to ensure that legal heirs are allowed to hold the property of their parents or grandparents who had migrated to Pakistan.
Through an Act in 1968, the government had declared the properties left behind by people who migrated to Pakistan during partition as ‘enemy properties´.
“The fresh amendments that were placed before Parliament, however, have been incorporated in the new Bill. There is no change in the content of the Bill,” home minister P Chidambaram told reporters here.
The proposal for fresh amendments provide for ensuring that the enemy property shall continue to vest in the custodian till it is divested by the Central government and the enemy property could be divested only to the owner or his lawful heir.
According to the proposed amendments, if the enemy property was divested from the custodian before 2 July, 2010, it shall stand transferred to and vest or continue to vest in the custodian.
If, however, the enemy property was divested from the custodian by a valid order made under section 18 prior to 2 July, 2010 or where the property had been returned to the owner or his lawful heir by an order of the court; and if the lawful heir is a citizen of India by birth, such enemy property will continue to remain with such person.
Other proposed amendments include that transfer of any enemy property shall not include any transfer or any claim of transfer made through oral will or oral gift or if it has been done without the permission of the competent authority and no court shall order divestment from the custodian or direct the Central government to divest enemy property.
The Central government is authorised to direct the custodian to sell or dispose of enemy properties in such manner as may be prescribed, to amend the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act, 1971 to declare the Custodian, Deputy Custodian and Assistant Custodian of Enemy Properties as Estate Officer in respect of the enemy properties are other features of the proposed amendments.
The amendments will have retrospective effect.