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Ordinance on Enemy Property Promulgated for Third Time
Jun 04, 2016

The Centre has for the third time promulgated an ordinance to amend a nearly 50-year-old law to guard against claims of succession or transfer of properties left by people who migrated to Pakistan and China after the wars. President Pranab Mukherjee has approved The Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Third Ordinance, 2016.

  • Enemy property refers 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-Pakistani War of 1965, the Enemy Property Act was enacted in 1968, which regulates such properties and lists the Custodians powers.

  • The first ordinance was issued on January 1, and another one was issued on April 2 this year.

  • The promulgation of the ordinance for the third time was necessitated as The Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Bill, 2016, to replace the ordinance, is pending in the Rajya Sabha and to give continuity to the second executive order issued in April.

  • The bill was passed by Lok Sabha on March 9. However, it could not get Rajya Sabha nod from where it was referred to a Select Committee.

  • An ordinance lapses after 42 days from the day a session begins unless a bill to replace it is approved by Parliament.

Highlights of the Bill

  • The Bill amends the Enemy Property Act, 1968, to vest all rights, titles and interests over enemy property in the Custodian.

  • The Bill declares transfer of enemy property by the enemy, conducted under the Act, to be void. This applies retrospectively to transfers that have occurred before or after 1968.

  • The Bill prohibits civil courts and other authorities from entertaining disputes related to enemy property.

  • The Act allows transfer of enemy property from the enemy to other persons. The Bill declares all such transfers as void. This may be arbitrary and in violation of Article 14 of the Constitution.

  • The Bill prohibits civil courts from entertaining any disputes with regard to enemy property. It does not provide any alternative judicial remedy (e.g. tribunals). Therefore, it limits judicial recourse or access to courts available to aggrieved persons.

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 have been spread across many states in the country.

The term Enemy Property was coined in the United Kingdom in the context of German commercial holdings within the country during the First World War. Rather than have the British Pound Sterling funnelled into Germany during the war, it was decided that earnings from enemy-controlled entities should flow to a custodian and their assets frozen.


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