Modi govt starts the critical process of selling ‘enemy properties’ which could earn it Rs 1 lakh crores

The Narendra Modi government has started the process of auctioning off more than 9,400 enemies properties in the country, which is expected to fetch it a whopping Rs 1 lakh crores. The government, as a result, has issued guidelines and directed the office of the “Custodian of Enemy Property for India” to submit the list of such properties within three months.

This news seems to be confirmation of reports published this January which speculated that such a move could be undertaken by the government. Enemy properties are basically the properties owned by those individuals who have migrated to countries like Pakistan and China and have also taken their citizenship. Specifically as per the act, ‘enemy property’ refers to any property belonging to, held or managed on behalf of an enemy, an enemy subject or an enemy firm.

This move came after the amendment to the Enemy Property Act in 2017 and 2018, which ensured that the heirs of those who migrated to Pakistan and China during Partition and later would have no claim over the properties left behind in India. The highest number of these properties are located in Uttar Pradesh numbering 4,991, followed by West Bengal with 2,735. Of the total properties, about 9,280 belong to Pakistani nationals and some 126 belong to the Chinese.

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This one legislation had been stalled by the Congress party, the details of which can be read in this Swarajya piece. An extract:

It is with the case of Raja Mahmudabad that the tale of Congress’ treachery begins. The counsel representing the kin was the then minority affairs minister Salman Khurshid. After the case, the United Progressive Alliance government was forced to promulgate an ordinance that would essentially overturn the Supreme Court decision. Khurshid led a cross-party delegation and convinced the then prime minister Manmohan Singh to not only allow the ordinance to lapse but also to not table the bill (which was extremely diluted) in Parliament.

On 29 August 2010, Mohammed Adeeb, MP, wrote to the Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, and reminded him that around 41 MPs had met the prime minister on the day the Enemy Property Bill was set to be tabled. “He was very kind and had assured the MPs that the bill would not come through and indeed the bill was not tabled then. He had also assured us that the ordinance would be allowed to lapse.”

The ordinance lapsed on 6 September 2010. The Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Second Bill 2010 was tabled in the winter session of 2010, but the bill didn’t even come up for discussion due to adjournment.

Now reports claims that the Home Ministry has now constituted a district level valuation committee, and an inter-ministerial disposal committee so that the whole process can be completed on time.

The valuation of these properties needs to be estimated by the district level valuation committee which will mark it by considering either a circle rate or a rate fixed by the district administration. The Enemy Property Disposal Committee would in turn advice the central government regarding the manner with which the property should be dealt with, which includes its possible sale and usage.

When it comes to a vacant enemy property, the custodian is authorised to sell it partly or in whole for the maximum possible price after taking prior permission from the central government. All the proceedings of the sale would go to the “consolidated fund of India”.

The enemy properties in this country and possible action on them has been a long-standing topic in India, with the enemy property act now passed by the Modi government facing stiff opposition from the opposition, especially the Congress party. This has resulted in the Congress getting criticised for possibly jeopardising India’s security interests vis-à-vis it’s positioning.

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