Enemy Property Bill Clears Rajya Sabha. May Hit Sharmila Tagore, Saif Too

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Enemy Property Bill Clears Rajya Sabha. May Hit Sharmila Tagore, Saif Too

Rajya Sabha has cleared bill to amend Enemy Property Act after opposition walkout. (Representative photo)

NEW DELHI: 

Highlights

  1. Property owned by those who migrated to Pakistan, China can be seized
  2. It does not matter if someone else bought the property much later
  3. Over 16,000 properties across India could be taken over under new law
A stringent law that gives the central government unbridled powers to take over any property owned by people who migrated to Pakistan or China in the 1960s or later passed was passed by the Rajya Sabha on Friday.

The upper house's nod - where the ruling NDA alliance is in a minority - comes days after Uttar Pradesh, home to a majority of these properties, voted for the next state government.

Lucknow's Mohammed Amir Ahmad Khan, the erstwhile Raja of Mehmoodabad who got the Supreme Court verdict in his favour for his 900 properties in 2005 - may be one of the biggest losers. It could also give the government rights over the Estate of the Nawab of Bhopal inherited by Sharmila Tagore and her children including actor Saif Ali Khan because someone in the family of Mansoor Ali Khan, or Tiger Pataudi as he was better known, had settled in Pakistan four decades back.

The Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Bill will need to go back to the Lok Sabha - which had cleared a slightly different version in March last year - but getting it past the lower house will not be a problem. The Rajya Sabha was, but there weren't enough opposition MPs in the House when the government pushed the bill on Friday.

Finance Minister and Leader of the House Arun Jaitley rejected opposition requests to defer the bill, saying the ordinance, or an executive order to amend the law, addressed a security issue and would lapse on March 14. In protest, the Congress-led opposition walked out in protest, leaving the field open for the NDA government to pass the bill.

President Pranab Mukherjee had made his displeasure known when the NDA government sent him the ordinance for the fifth time in December last, wondering why the government was getting him to sign the ordinance - first issued in January 2016 - when they could not get it past the Rajya Sabha. BJP patriarch LK Advani had later offered to talk to the Congress to see the law through.

Comments
The changes to the Enemy Property Act 1968 provide that persons who left for Pakistan or China - the two countries that waged war against India - were enemies and their assets, enemy properties. It will not matter if someone else bought the property much later; the government still has the right to take them over without any compensation.

In early 2016, the government had identified over 16,000 properties across India that could be taken over under this law. A rough estimate had indicated that 9,400 properties, where the process to take over the properties had been completed, were valued at 1 lakh crore rupees. That is enough to fund the Modi government's entire Digital India campaign.

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