Enemy Property Bill

 

Enemy Property Bill

How about a sudden windfall of money – a massive amount? Isn’t that good news? A similar good new has come for the government as the Parliament (both the Upper House and Lower House, that is Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha, respectively), has passed what is known as “2016, Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Bill”.

Enemy Property Bill

Why is the bill good news for government?

The passing of the bill through the two houses is good news because, it will not empower the government to sell 1 lakh crore worth of assets. That wills easy the government pressure on the fiscal deficit front as the money that comes from the sales can be channeled towards narrowing down the fiscal deposit without straining the exchequer.

What really happens is that the bill will give CEP the necessary power to sell the Enemy Properties sitting in India. CEP is the acronym for Custodian of Enemy Property. 1968’s Enemy Property Act (old) prohibited the CEP from selling and monetizing such assets.

The old Act, appointed officials, who were responsible for being the custodians of such properties and their responsibilities included administration as well as management of such properties.

The question is, “which properties have been marked as enemy properties?”

Those properties which came under India’s possession after the following wars are considered as enemy properties:

  • Sino Indian war of year 1962 (Chinese victory)
  • Indo Pak war of year 1965 (Indian victory)
  • Indo Pak war of year 1971 (Indian victory)

After these wars, various enemy properties came under India’s possession and ever since then, they have been in India’s custody. Until now, because of 1968’s Enemy Property Act, it was not possible to sell such properties.

With the “2016, Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Bill”,Union Government’s Home Ministry’s authority gets the power to sell those properties.

How many enemy properties exist in India?

A Parliament Select Committee was formed for the aforesaid Bill. The committee prepared and delivered a report with important data in 2016’s May. As per the report released,

  • The total number of properties that belong to nationals of Pakistan but present in India is: 9,820 – all these are immovable properties and spread over a span of 11,882 acres of land.
  • The total number of properties that belong to nationals of China but present in India is: 149 – all these are immovable properties and are presently located in states of:
    • Assam
    • Delhi
    • Karnataka
    • Madhya Pradesh
    • Meghalaya
    • Rajasthan
    • Tamil Nadu
    • West Bengal
  • The total value of immovable properties that belong to Pakistan nationals is INR 1.04 lakh crores.
  • There are moveable enemy assets as well which include:
    • Listed company shares worth INR 2,610 crores. There are 266 such companies where shares (belonging to enemies (Pakistanis)) are present.
    • Unlisted company shares worth INR 24 crores. There are 318 such companies where shares (belonging to enemies (Pakistanis)) are present.
    • There’s INR 0.4 crores worth of jewelry and gold (belonging to Pakistanis).
    • There’s INR 177 crores worth of bank balances (belonging to Pakistanis).
    • There’s INR 150 crores worth of government securities investments (belonging to Pakistanis).
    • There’s INR 160 crores worth of fixed deposit investments (belonging to Pakistanis).

The image below shows the windfall gains for government once the assets are sold:

In 2008, ET Intelligence Group did some investigation on its own and it surfaced that the shares that were bestowed on custodians were listed in big companies such as:

  • CIPLA ACC
  • Bombay Burmah Trading Co.
  • DLF
  • Wipro
  • TATA and DMC Group Companies
  • Hindustan Unilever
  • Ballarpur Industries
  • Aditya Birla Nuvo
  • India Cement
  • Bajaj Electricals
  • ITC

These companies are all listed companies and total worth of shares (enemy property) in this companies stands at INR 2,610 crores!

A bit more about the Enemy Property Bill

According to Bhupendra Yadav, who chaired the committee and is also an MP stated that the custodians will now have the right to not only sell the enemy properties or dispose them but also have the power to removing those people who are illegally staying in those immovable properties. Because of this power vested with custodians, the government will also make necessary changes to what is known as “1971’s, Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorized Occupants) Act”.

The bill that has been passed is actually backward-looking or retrospective. It simply means that

  • Any enemy firm or any enemy individual will have to right of asking for a transfer back of the property from the custodian in charge.
  • Succession laws will not be applicable to any enemy property in India.
  • Civil courts cannot pass any ruling related to any enemy property in India.

These new changes have been made keeping in mind that previously, despite the fact that initially the courts automatically vested such properties in selected custodians and the courts did not interfere with any property-related decision made by the appointed custodians, at later stages, court interferences did take place in such a way that custodian’s powers where, negatively impacted. One such unique case is that of Raja Mohammed Amir Mohammed Khan versus the Union of India.

Also, it is notable that enemy properties lying in Pakistan have all been disposed by Pakistani government and no Indian individual and Indian firm had any say in that. So, the same should be applicable in India as well. This has been revealed by External Affairs Ministry.

Jatin Zaveri – an advocate of Supreme Court of India said that as per the old Enemy Property Act, Section 18 allowed depriving the custodian of his/her power and returning the Enemy Property to the owner. Now, with the new amendments and introduction of Section 8A, the enemy definition has been broadened and heirs and representatives of the enemy have been included in the fold. This will effectively bar anyone from claim a property and that the government will be free to dispose the property.

Hunt for more enemy properties

For 2015-2016, Home Ministry gave an annual report in which it was stated that two new custodian branch offices had been opened in Delhi and Lucknow in year 2014. Those offices are now conduction nationwide survey to find more of such enemy properties. Currently, searches are being conducted in the following states:

  • Delhi
  • Kerala
  • Madhya Pradesh
  • Uttar Pradesh
  • West Bengal

According to Bhupendra Yadav, Enemy Property is completely different from Evacuee Property. Here is the difference:

Enemy Properties: These are the fallouts of Sino-Indian and Indo-Pak conflicts that took place back in 1962 and 1965 & 1971 respectively.

Evacuee Properties: These are those properties that were evacuated by Pakistanis when Indo-Pak partition took place.

Pointers from Select Committee

The Select Committee said:

  • For Chinese Nationals’ assets, vesting period will be from 26th October 1962 to 10th January 1968.
  • For Pakistani Nationals’ assets, vesting period will be from 10th September 1965 to 26th September 1977.
  • Enemy properties should be identified within a period of 24 months starting from amendment enactment date.
  • Custodians should, immediately and without any delay, dispose non-contentious properties (enemy properties to be precise) after the bill has been passed by both the houses of the parliament.

Conclusion

We believe it is a good move because we don’t see a logic in giving back enemy properties to enemies that invade our nation or cause terrorism on our lands. If their property can be used for empowering our economy, we will have more budget allocation towards military upgrades that can help us thwart every attempt that enemies make to threaten the sovereignty of our great nation. What do you think?

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