The government on Monday withdrew the contentious Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Bill 2010, following stiff resistance from Samajwadi Party's Mulayam Singh Yadav and RJD's Lalu Prasad. A new bill would be brought, Home Minister P. Chidambaram told Parliament.
The shelved bill was meant to ratify an earlier Ordinance, which had sought changes to the existing Enemy Property Act. One of the main changes was to take away the "jurisdiction of courts" to decide disputes over assets of those who had migrated to Pakistan— making the government the sole arbitrator of such assets.
An Ordinance allows the government to bring laws when Parliament is not in session but it needs to be ratified within six months. A fresh Ordinance may be brought in again since the original one will now lapse.
The government had proposed six amendments to the Bill to address concerns, mainly from those who view themselves as Indian inheritors of these assets, largely Muslims, and also tenants occupying such properties, mainly Hindus.
Chidambaram said MPs wanted more time to study the Bill and amendments. "It is a reasonable request... We will bring a fresh bill in the winter session of Parliament," he said.
Mulayam Singh surprised the government by sharply opposing the bill, terming it "anti-Muslim". Lalu Prasad joined him. With SP and RJD opposing the bill, it was clear it would fall through in Rajya Sabha.
A group of Muslim MPs and the BJP continued their hostile positions on the Bill. The former wanted safeguards for Indian Muslims, while the BJP objected to changes in the Bill to appease a community. "We were rescued by Mulayam and Lalu," MP Mohd. Adeeb said.
BJP leader L.K. Advani criticised the government for not referring the bill to a panel for an evaluation by MPs. "The government looks determined to allow this bill to lapse. This is not correct," he said. The BJP believes the government wants to promulgate a fresh Ordinance with amendments.