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Enemy properties

Topics Covered: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Enemy properties

What to study?

For Prelims: Meaning of enemy properties and key features of the enemy properties act.

For Mains: Significance and key features of the act.

Context: A Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by Union Home Minister Amit Shah will monitor the disposal of over 9,400 enemy properties, which the government estimates is worth about Rs 1 lakh crore.

  • Two committees headed by senior officials will be set up for the disposal of immovable enemy properties vested in the Custodian of Enemy Property for India under The Enemy Property Act.

What are enemy properties?

Properties that were left behind by the people who took citizenship of Pakistan and China.

  • There are 9,280 such properties left behind by Pakistani nationals and 126 by Chinese nationals.
  • Of the total properties left behind by those who took Pakistani citizenship, 4,991 are located in Uttar Pradesh, the highest in the country. West Bengal has 2,735 such estates and Delhi 487.
  • The highest number of properties left by Chinese nationals is in Meghalaya (57).West Bengal has 29 such properties and Assam seven.
  • The estimated value of all enemy properties is approximately Rs 1 lakh crore.

Who oversees these properties?

Under the Defence of India Rules framed under The Defence of India Act, 1962, the Government of India took over the properties and companies of those who took Pakistani nationality.

These “enemy properties” were vested by the central government in the Custodian of Enemy Property for India. The same was done for property left behind by those who went to China after the 1962 Sino-Indian war.

The Tashkent Declaration of January 10, 1966 included a clause that said India and Pakistan would discuss the return of the property and assets taken over by either side in connection with the conflict.

However, the Government of Pakistan disposed of all such properties in their country in the year 1971 itself.

How did India deal with enemy property?

The Enemy Property Act, enacted in 1968, provided for the continuous vesting of enemy property in the Custodian of Enemy Property for India. Some movable properties too, are categorised as enemy properties.

  • The 2017 amended Act expanded the definition of the term “enemy subject”, and “enemy firm” to include the legal heir and successor of an enemy, whether a citizen of India or a citizen of a country which is not an enemy; and the succeeding firm of an enemy firm, irrespective of the nationality of its members or partners.
  • The amended law provided that enemy property shall continue to vest in the Custodian even if the enemy or enemy subject or enemy firm ceases to be an enemy due to death, extinction, winding up of business or change of nationality, or that the legal heir or successor is a citizen of India or a citizen of a country which is not an enemy.
  • The Custodian, with prior approval of the central government, may dispose of enemy properties vested in him in accordance with the provisions of the Act, and the government may issue directions to the Custodian for this purpose.

Sources: the Hindu.