Acting on reports of a shady land deal, the Delhi government has halted the sale of properties of people who migrated from the national capital to Pakistan during the sub-continent's partition in 1947, a minsiter said on Sunday.
The order means that a questionable land deal for setting up a luxury hotel in Jama Masjid in the city's old quarters will be frozen.
"We had sought approval of Lt Governor Tejendra Khanna to stop sale and purchase of all enemy properties in the national capital," Delhi Revenue Minister Rajkumar Chauhan told IANS.
"We have got his permission and now we have issued a circular. Now no enemy property can be sold and purchased in the city," he added. "Enemy properties" across the country were previously referred to as "evacuee properties" and the nomenclature was changed in 1968.
"These properties are under the custody of central government," Chauhan added.
Asked what prompted Delhi government to take the action, Chauhan said: "We had some information about the matter and had also received several complaints regarding deals of enemy properties by the land mafia. These properties, which are spread across the city, are worth thousands of crores of rupees."
According to a senior Delhi government official, the issue came to light when the government received complaints regarding "a land deal of an enemy property between some mafia elements and a Dubai-based company to set up a luxury hotel near the Jama Masjid area".
"The government will look into all possible angles in this deal. It will also look into the role of government officials in the matter," the official added.
On reports of the involvement of a Delhi legislator in this particular land deal, Chauhan said: "I haven't got the name of any MLA of Delhi. We will get the complete matter investigated. However, which agency will look inquire into the matter has not been decided as yet."
"The new circular means that the land deal near Jama Masjid will now stand frozen. As far as investigations are concerned, it could be done by the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation), the Delhi Police, the vigilance department or any other agency," the official further said.
"We have got the list of all such properties from the centre. Now, proper and detailed records of these enemy properties will be made," Chauhan added.
The Indian government had promulgated the Administration of Evacuee Property Act in 1950 for the efficient management and administration of properties left behind by the citizens of undivided India who migrated to Pakistan after partition.
The Enemy Property Act was promulgated in 1968, prior to which the government issued two notifications on the issue September 10 and September 11, 1965, in the wake of the India-Pakistan war of that year.
The Custodian of Enemy Property is an Indian government department based in Mumbai.