In a setback to the government, the standing committee on home affairs of Parliament has "unanimously" rejected a controversial bill to enable legal heirs of those who migrated to Pakistan to hold on to their properties.
The committee's report, which was submitted to Rajya Sabha chairman Hamid Ansari on Thursday, said it "strongly feels" that the enemy properties worth crores of rupees should not go into the hands of those who do not have any legitimate claim over them. It wants the bill to be withdrawn and replaced with a fresh bill.
The government can reject the panel's findings but numbers in Parliament are an issue for the bill to be passed in the present form in the two Houses.
The panel led by BJP leader M Venkaiah Naidu said the Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Second Bill, 2010 had "messed" up the issue and the proposed amendment to the Enemy Property Act, 1968 "failed" to satisfy the expectations of interested people.
The 1968-Act had declared the properties left behind by people who migrated to Pakistan during Partition as "enemy properties".
It was in response to Pakistan's act of seizing properties long ago of Indians and disposing them of in breach of the mutual agreement.
The panel said the issue of enemy property hit headlines last year when the government wanted to make an amendment to the 1968 Act to prevent Indian family members of those who had migrated to Pakistan from going to court to regain possession of the properties of their forefathers that had been seized as "enemy property", thereby, vesting it in a custodian.
The government brought a bill for this purpose but it could not be passed by Parliament. Meanwhile, the Congress and its allies came under pressure from various Muslim MPs, including ministers. So it brought a second bill to make further amendment.
The committee said it studied the second bill against the backdrop of protests that the second bill was seen to benefit heirs of Raja of Mahmudabad's vast properties.
It finally took the view that "an heir should get only what the propositus had."
It recorded eminent lawyer Ram Jethmalani's opinion that when a person is dead, his heir gets what he owned.