NATIONAL

Enemy Property Bill passed amid walkout

Determined effort:Finance Minister Arun Jaitley speaks in the Rajya Sabha in New Delhi on Friday.PTI/ TV GRAB

Determined effort:Finance Minister Arun Jaitley speaks in the Rajya Sabha in New Delhi on Friday.PTI/ TV GRAB  

Government of India should have right over such assets and not the heirs of citizens of enemy countries, says Jaitley

The Rajya Sabha passed the The Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Bill, 2016 on Friday, in the sixth attempt after ordinances were passed to keep the Bill alive, following fierce objections by the Opposition parties.

As the government introduced the Bill for consideration in the Rajya Sabha, the entire Opposition walked out. The government’s determination to pass the Bill was evident as 10 Union Ministers were present in the House to ensure that it was passed.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who was supposed to reply to the debate on the Bill, did not say much observing that the Leader of the House Arun Jaitley had already explained it in detail.

The 49-year-old law was amended to guard against claims of succession or transfer of properties left by people who migrated to Pakistan and China.

Defer it, says Opposition

The Bill, which amends the Enemy Property Act, 1968, was passed by 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 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, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said “many senior members including the Leader of the Opposition are not present in the House for a variety of reasons. Therefore the Bill should be taken up for discussion on the next working day.” His views were echoed by other members including Javed Ali Khan (SP) and Sukhendu Shekhar Roy (AITC). However, the government took up the Bill for discussion 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 urgency to get the Bill passed, Mr. Jaitley said the ordinance effecting the amendments in the Act would lapse on March 14 and this was a security issue also.

Elaborating on the measure, he said it was a principle that the government should not allow commercial interests or properties of an enemy country or its citizens. Mr. 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.

Union Ministers present in the House were Manohar Parrikar, J.P. 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.

No transfer allowed

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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