The Cabinet on Wednesday gave post-facto approval to promulgation for the fourth time of an ordinance to amend the nearly five-decade old Enemy Property Law to guard against claims of succession or transfer of properties left by people who migrated to Pakistan and China after wars. "Cabinet today gave post facto approval to repromulgation of the Ordinance," Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told reporters after the Cabinet meeting.
President Pranab Mukherjee had on Sunday night re-promulgated an Ordinance to amend the Enemy Property Act (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants Act of 1971), which is pending approval in Rajya Sabha. He had however expressed disapproval that the ordinance was not placed before the Cabinet before being forwarded to him.
'Enemy property' refers to any property belonging to, held or managed on behalf of an enemy, an enemy subject or an enemy firm. The government has vested these properties in the Custodian of Enemy Property for India, an office instituted under the central government. After the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965, the Enemy Property Act was enacted in 1968, which regulates such properties and lists the Custodian's powers.
The Ordinance was for the first time promulgated on January 7 this year. It was passed by the Lok Sabha in March 9 and was subsequently referred to Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha. It was re-promulgated for the second time April 2 and a third time incorporating the amendments suggested by the Rajya Sabha Select Committee on May 31. Since its validity was to expire on August 28, the President promulgated the fourth Ordinance on the subject.
The ordinance was promulgated again as Parliament is not in session. An ordinance lapses after 42 days from the day a session begins unless a bill to replace it is approved by Parliament. As per the proposed amendments, 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, etc.
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 enemy firm. Enemy properties are spread across many states in the country.