The Lok Sabha on Wednesday approved an amendment to the Enemy Property Act 1968 that gives the government blanket powers to take over properties ever owned by a person who left for Pakistan after Partition or China.
The Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Bill 2016 also proposes to nullify all transactions during the last five decades if it relates to an enemy property. Under this law – it is already in force by virtue of an ordinance issued in January – owners of such properties are treated as enemy subjects.
It does not matter that they are Indian citizens. The Enemy Property Act 1968 was enacted to take over the properties owned by people who left for Pakistan or China when India was at war with the two countries. Such properties were vested in the Mumbai-headquartered Custodian of Enemy Properties.
The Congress – which had promulgated a similar ordinance in 2010 but later backed out – did not oppose the legislation in the Lok Sabha. Like some other members, the party, however, asked the government to refer the legislation to a committee of MPs to ensure that it is legally sound.
In all, there are nearly 16,000 properties across the country that have either been or are being taken over by the CEP under the 1968 Act. Of these, the process to take over 9,400 properties – estimated to be worth Rs 1 lakh crore, or Rs 1,000 billion – has been completed.
Among those on the receiving end of the enemy property law is actor Sharmila Tagore.