The Enemy Property Act has turned two senior cabinet ministers into adversaries. Salman Khurshid, minister for corporate affairs and minority issues, directly targeted Home Minister P Chidambaram during the Union Cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
Khurshid was under the impression that in previous meetings it was decided that before the legislation will be passed in next session of Parliament, an ordinance would be issued by the government. No such ordinance has been issued.
After the Indo-Pakistan war in 1965, the government issued the Enemy Property (Custody and Registration) Order, 1965. Under this act all immovable properties in India, belonging to or held by or managed on behalf of Pakistan nationals, stood vested in the custodian of enemy property. This is how the entire property (running into several hundreds of acres) in Lucknow belonging to the Raja of Mahmoodabad got vested with the custodian.
Khurshid, who is openly supporting the cause of the heir of the Raja of Mahmoodabad, was so livid that he kept arguing against Chidambram even after the matter ended.
In fact, the home ministry took an opinion of Attorney General G E Vahanvati on the lapsed ordinance and acted accordingly. At the end Khurshid wondered if Chidambram is siding with other side. Chidambram retorted what he has been saying in public that he has no connection whatsoever with any party involved in this issue.
In spite of the tussle, the Cabinet approved the proposal of ministry of home affairs to introduce the Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Second Bill, 2010 to make amendments to the Enemy Property Act, 1968. The amendments, among other things, provide for the following:
- The enemy property shall continue to vest in the custodian till it is divested by the central government.
- The enemy property could be divested only to the owner or his lawful heir.
- If the enemy property was divested from the custodian before July 2, 2010, it shall stand transferred to and vest or continue to vest in the custodian. If, however, the enemy property was divested from the custodian by a valid order made under section 18 prior to July 2, or where the property had been returned to the owner or his lawful heir by an order of the court; and if the lawful heir is a citizen of India by birth, such enemy property will continue to remain with such person.
- The transfer of any enemy property shall not include any transfer or any claim of transfer made through oral will or oral gift or if it has been done without the permission of the competent authority.
- No court shall order divestment from the custodian or direct the central government to divest enemy property.
- The central government is authorised to direct the custodian to sell or dispose of enemy properties in such manner as may be prescribed.
- To amend the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act, 1971 to declare the custodian, deputy custodian and assistant custodian of enemy properties as estate officer in respect of the enemy properties.
The amendments will have retrospective effect.