Enemy Property Act
•Union Cabinet has recently approved the mechanism and procedure for sale of enemy property.
•The government has sold enemy properties worth Rs 1,874 crore in April 2019.
•In March 2019, the Centre had allowed state governments to put to public use some 'enemy' properties as it tries to sell over 9,400 such properties, worth over Rs 1 lakh crore, and Rs 3,000 crore worth of enemy shares.
•The guidelines for disposal of the Enemy Property Order, 2018, has been amended to facilitate "usages of enemy property by the state government exclusively for public use".
Origin of the law
•At the onset of the World War-II, the Defence of India Act, 1939, was enacted to lay the Defence of India Rules, 1939.
•Under the rules, the officer of the custodian of enemy property for India, Mumbai.
•This officer was made responsible for maintaining enemy properties till peace was restored. However, the office of the custodian of enemy property for India kept administering these properties even after the war ended in 1945.
•After India's war with China in 1962, and its two wars with Pakistan in 1965 and 1971, the office took over enemy properties under the Defence of India Rules.
•In 1968, the Indian government enacted the Enemy Property Act.
•The 2018 Bill amends certain provisions of this this legislation.
The Enemy Property Act, 1968
•It is an Act of the Parliament of India, which enables and regulates the appropriation of property in India owned by Pakistani nationals.
•The act was passed following the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965.
•Ownership is passed to the Custodian for Enemy Property for India, a government department.
•There are also movable properties categorized as enemy properties.
Amendments: Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Bill, 2016
•The Bill amends the Enemy Property Act, 1968, to vest all rights, titles and interests over enemy property in the Custodian for the Enemy Property for India.
•The Bill declares transfer of enemy property by the enemy, conducted under the Act, to be void.
•This applies retrospectively to transfers that have occurred before or after 1968.
•The Bill prohibits civil courts and other authorities from entertaining disputes related to enemy property.
•Heirs of those who departed from India after the wars of 1962 (with China), 1965 and 1971 (both with Pakistan) cannot claim ownership over enemy properties after the amendment.
•The Bill was approved by Parliament after the Lok Sabha in March 2017 passed the Bill through a voice vote.
Key Changes in the Amendment
•As the Bill comes into effect retrospectively.
•Any enemy property transfers that took place before that time and are opposed to the provisions of the new law will become null and void.
•According to the old law, the definition of enemy included as countries, including their citizens, that committed external aggression against India.
•The new definition also covers legal heirs of enemies even if they are citizens of India or any other country and nationals of an enemy country, who changed their nationality.
•The 1968 law prohibited the transfer of enemy property by an enemy if it was against public interest or if it was done to avoid transfer of property to the custodian. The new law prohibits all transfers by an enemy..
•No Indian laws governing succession rights will be applicable to enemy properties.
•Under the amended law, all rights, titles and interests in such properties will lie with the custodian.
•Under the old law, the custodian could sell an enemy property only "in the interest of preserving the property" or "to secure maintenance of the enemy or his family in India". Now, the custodian can dispose of an enemy property after getting an approval from the Central government.
•Earlier, the custodian was supposed to maintain the enemy and his family if they are in India from the income derived from the property. The custodian will no longer be responsible for providing for the enemy and his family.