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Why Modi govt focussed too much for Parliament nod on amended enemy property bill

Is There Any Link Between BJP's Urgency To Form The Government In Goa At Any Cost And To Get The Enemy Property (Amendment And Validation) Bill 2016 Passed From Both Houses Of Parliament In Budget Session? Let's Have A Look At The Details -

News Nation Bureau | Edited By : Arshi Aggarwal | Updated on: 28 Mar 2017, 07:17:17 PM
File picture of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Goa CM Manohar Parrkar (PTI Photo)

New Delhi:

The BJP surpassed every hurdle in Goa floor test as newly-appointed Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar on Thursday proved his government's majority in state assembly with 22 MLAs voting in favour of him. 

According to reports, NCP’s Churchill Alemao, three from MGP, three from Goa Forward and two Independents also supported Parrikar government. The Congress' own MLA Vishwajit Rane abstained from voting brought the party's number to just 16 in the house of 40 MLAs.

Two days before the floor test in Goa, the Central government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi managed to pass the Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Bill, 2016, which amends the Enemy Property Act 1968, in Lok Sabha on Tuesday.

The new act denies inheritance rights to heirs of individuals who left the country for Pakistan and China, completing the process after Rajya Sabha gave its assent to the long-pending legislation last week.

Earlier on March 10, Rajya Sabha passed the bill to amend a 49-year-old law to guard against claims of succession or transfer of properties left by people who migrated to Pakistan and China, amid a walkout by the entire Opposition.

Read | Manohar Parrikar takes oath as Goa CM

The Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Bill, 2016 was passed by voice vote in the Rajya Sabha despite the opposition demanding deferring of the debate on the draft legislation for a threadbare deliberation next week.

The measure was passed by the Lok Sabha in March 2015. After this, the Rajya Sabha had sent it to a select committee, following whose recommendations, the government had moved a number of amendments to it.

After the amended bill was passed by a voice vote by the Rajya Sabha on March 10, it was returned to the Lok Sabha for final passage just before it was adjourned for the day.

Now, the successors of those who migrated to Pakistan and China during partition will have no claim over the properties left behind in India.

Is there any link between BJP's urgency to form the government in Goa at any cost and to get the Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Bill 2016 passed from both Houses of Parliament in Budget Session? Let's have a look at the details -

263 enemy properties worth Rs 100cr in Goa

According to a Times of India Report, the home ministry has identified 263 enemy properties worth over Rs 100 crore in Goa that belong to Goans who have acquired Pakistani nationality. 

These properties assume significance as the Modi government is likely to take them over as the amendment bill has been passed by both Houses of Parliament.

Enemy properties are those whose survey numbers are registered in the names of Goans who migrated to Pakistan decades ago. After these Goans accepted Pakistani citizenship and India declared Pakistan an enemy state around 1965, their properties were declared enemy properties.

The TOI report says that most such properties are located in the talukas of Bardez and Salcete, while a few lie in Tiswadi, Bicholim and other parts of the state.

The home ministry has reportedly forwarded a list of enemy properties to both district collectors and has directed them to collect the lease rent from their occupants. Later, several people approached courts, staking claim to these properties.

The number of properties with the Custodian of Enemy Property has risen to about 16,000 from 2,100 a few years ago - nearly all taken from Muslim families - and are estimated at more than Rs 1 trillion.

Why Modi Govt is in hurry?

Explaining the rationale for urgency to get the bill passed, Finance Minister and Leader of the House Arun Jaitley had said the ordinance effecting the amendments in the Act would lapse on March 14, 2017 and this was a security issue also.

Elaborating on the measure, he said it was a principle that government should not allow commercial interests or properties of an enemy country or its citizens.

Jaitley said the right of the enemy property should vest in the Government of India and not in the heirs of the citizens of the enemy countries.

Despite repeated requests by opposition members, the government took up the bill, which was passed after a brief discussion in the absence of any opposition member.

The government was so determined to pass the bill on March 10 that over half dozen ministers were present in the House to ensure its smooth sail.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh Minister, who was supposed to reply to the debate on the bill, did not say much observing that the Leader of the House has already explained about it in detail and there was no need for his explanation. 

Union ministers present in the House during the passage of the bill were Manohar Parrikar, JP Nadda, M Venkaiah Naidu, Suresh Prabhu, Piyush Goyal, Prakash Javadekar, Ananth Kumar and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.

What are the amendments?

The amendments proposed include 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, enemy subject or enemy firm has ceased to be an enemy due to reasons such as death.

The new Bill ensures that the law of succession does not apply to enemy property; that there cannot be transfer of any property vested in the Custodian by an enemy or enemy subject or enemy firm and that the Custodian shall preserve the enemy property till it is disposed of in accordance with the Act.

The amendments are aimed at plugging the loopholes in the Act to ensure that the enemy properties that have been vested in the Custodian remain so and do not revert to the enemy subject or firm.

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

The Bill, once passed by Parliament, will replace the ordinance promulgated by the government after it failed to amend the Enemy Property Act, which guards against claims of succession or transfer of properties left by people who migrated to Pakistan and China after wars.

The Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Fifth Ordinance, 2016 was promulgated on December 22, 2016. It was promulgated four times in the past.

After the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965, the Enemy Property Act was enacted in 1968, which regulates such properties and lists the Custodian's powers.

The amendments are aimed at plugging the loopholes in the Act to ensure that the enemy properties that have been vested in the Custodian remain so and do not revert to the enemy subject or enemy firm.

About the act

The Enemy Property Act of 1968, enacted after the India-Pakistan War three years earlier, gave the government the right to seize assets of citizens who had moved to Pakistan or China following wars with the two countries.

Those who left India for Pakistan were Muslims, and relations between the two countries remain fraught after numerous conflicts. Pakistan enacted a similar law at the time and seized properties of those who left for India.

The amended law, which would apply retrospectively, extends the definition of "enemy" to include legal heirs of declared enemies, even when the heir is an Indian citizen, or of a country not deemed to be an enemy.

However, the government has said the amendments are in the "larger public interest" and will plug "loopholes to ensure that enemy properties worth thousands of crores (millions) of rupees do not revert to the enemy or enemy firm".

What did the court say?

The Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that legal heirs who are Indian citizens can reclaim so-called enemy property, following decades of petitioning by the family of the erstwhile Raja of Mahmudabad, who left India after partition in 1947.

But the amendment - also barring civil courts from hearing disputes related to enemy property - was passed late on Friday by the Rajya Sabha, despite a walkout by opposition members.

Why the amendments were needed?

The Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Fifth Ordinance, 2016 was promulgated on December 22, 2016. It was promulgated four times in the past.

After the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965, the Enemy Property Act was enacted in 1968, which regulates such properties and lists the Custodian's powers.

The amendments were aimed at plugging the loopholes in the Act to ensure that the enemy properties that have been vested in the Custodian remain so and do not revert to the enemy subject or enemy firm.

Enemy properties are spread across many states in the country.

The Enemy Property ordinance was for the first time promulgated on January 7, 2016. It was passed by Lok Sabha on March 9 that year but was subsequently referred to Select Committee of Rajya Sabha.

It was re-promulgated for the second time on April 2, 2016 and a third time incorporating the amendments suggested by the Rajya Sabha Select Committee on May 31, 2016.

Since its validity was to expire on August 28, 2016, the President promulgated the fourth ordinance on the subject a day before that.
An ordinance is promulgated again when Parliament is not in session and a bill to replace it is not passed.

An ordinance lapses after 42 days from the day a session begins unless a bill to replace it is approved by Parliament.

Analysts' views

A controversial bill that amends a five-decade-old law to deny families of those who moved to China and Pakistan the right to reclaim "enemy properties" seized by the state unfairly targets Muslims, analysts say.

"When the families are citizens of the country, how can the government consider them to be enemies and take away their right of succession?" said Rajya Sabha MP Husain Dalwai.

"It is against the constitution and it targets Muslims unfairly," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Is the Central government serious to take action against enemy properties across the country? Will the Central government start its action from Goa? The further steps and future course of action by the central government will give the answers of all these questions.

(With inputs from PTI, Agencies)

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First Published : 16 Mar 2017, 02:37:00 PM

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