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Bill to amend Enemy Property Act passed in Rajya Sabha

The Rajya Sabha on Friday passed a Bill to amend a 49-year-old law to guard against claims of succession or transfer of properties left by people who migrated to Pakistan and China, amid a walkout by the entire Opposition.

The Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Bill, 2016, which amends the Enemy Property Act, 1968, was passed by voice vote in the Rajya Sabha despite the opposition demanding deferring of the debate on the draft legislation for a threadbare deliberation next week.

The measure was passed by the Lok Sabha in March last year. After this, the Rajya Sabha had sent it to a select committee, following whose recommendations, the government had moved a number of amendments to it.

After the amended bill was passed by a voice vote by the Rajya Sabha, it was returned to the Lok Sabha for final passage just before it was adjourned for the day.

Earlier when the bill was taken up in the Upper House for consideration and passage, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said “many senior members including the Leader of Opposition are not present in the House for a variety of reasons. Therefore the bill should be taken up for discussion and passage on the next working day.” Ramesh’s views were echoed by other members including Javed Ali Khan (SP) and Sukhendu Shekhar Roy (AITC) who also sought taking up the bill for discussion next week.

However, the government decided to take up the bill for discussion on Friday itself and later got it passed by a voice vote after the entire opposition, angered over the government’s insistence, walked out of the House.

Explaining the rationale for urgency to get the bill passed, Finance Minister and Leader of the House Arun Jaitely said the ordinance effecting the amendments in the Act would lapse on March 14, 2017 and this was a security issue also. Elaborating on the measure, he said it was a principle that government should not allow commercial interests or properties of an enemy country or its citizens. Jaitley said the right of the enemy property should vest in the Government of India and not in the heirs of the citizens of the enemy countries.

Despite repeated requests by opposition members, the government took up the bill, which was passed after a brief discussion in the absence of any opposition member. The government was so determined to pass the bill on Friday that over half dozen ministers were present in the House to ensure its smooth sail.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh Minister, who was supposed to reply to the debate on the bill, did not say much observing that the Leader of the House has already explained about it in detail and there was no need for his explanation.

Union ministers present in the House during the passage of the bill were Manohar Parrikar, JP Nadda, M Venkaiah Naidu, Suresh Prabhu, Piyush Goyal, Prakash Javadekar, Ananth Kumar and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.

The amendments proposed include that once an enemy property is vested in the Custodian, it shall continue to be vested in him as enemy property irrespective of whether the enemy, enemy subject or enemy firm has ceased to be an enemy due to reasons such as death.

The new Bill ensures that the law of succession does not apply to enemy property; that there cannot be transfer of any property vested in the Custodian by an enemy or enemy subject or enemy firm and that the Custodian shall preserve the enemy property till it is disposed of in accordance with the Act.

The amendments are aimed at plugging the loopholes in the Act to ensure that the enemy properties that have been vested in the Custodian remain so and do not revert to the enemy subject or firm. The Bill also prohibits civil courts and other authorities from entertaining disputes related to enemy property.


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