NEW DELHI: The Union Cabinet has approved amendments to the Enemy Property Act that will allow ‘enemy property’ returned to its owner or lawful heir prior to July 2, 2010, by the court to remain with him/her. This will pave the way for implementation of a Supreme Court order directing custodian of Raja of Mahmoodabad to return his multi-crore properties across UP and Uttaranchal to his legal heir Raja Mohammad Amir Khan. The lawful heir must be an Indian citizen by birth, a condition fulfilled by Raja Mohammad Amir Khan. Properties left behind by persons who acquired Pakistani citizens were taken over by government custodian, after 1965, and labelled as enemy property. The Cabinet meeting saw home minister P Chidambaram and minority affairs minister Salman Khurshid sparring over the proposed law. Mr Chidambaram has been insisting on the supremacy of the executive to decide on the issue. It is learnt that the home minister raised his reservations over Mr Khurshid’s activism in the matter. It took the prime minister’s intervention to bring a truce. According to a PIB release on the Cabinet decision, if the enemy property was divested from the custodian before July 2, 2010, it shall stand transferred to and vest or continue to vest in the custodian. “If, however, the enemy property was divested from the custodian by a valid order made under Section 18 prior to July 2, 2010, or where the property had been returned to the owner or his lawful heir by an order of the court; and if the lawful heir is a citizen of India by birth, such enemy property will continue to remain with such person,” the release added. Importantly, the new bill, which will have retrospective effect, proposes to take away the powers of the courts to issue directions to the custodian to restore enemy properties to the owner or their legal heirs. “The enemy property shall continue to vest in the custodian till it is divested by the central government…to the owner or his lawful heir…No court shall order divestment from the custodian or direct the central government to divest enemy property,” said the amendments approved by the Cabinet on Wednesday. The proposed amendments indicate reluctance on part of the government to block the restoration of Raja of Mahmudabad’s sprawling properties across Lucknow, Sitapur, Barabanki, Lakhimpur Kheri and Nainital. The government, worried that the apex court’s 2005 order restoring Pakistani citizens whose properties in India were taken over by the Custodian after 1965, brought in an ordinance of July 2, 2010, nullifying the court order. Raja of Mahmoodabad’s properties to his legal heir would encourage similar lawsuits by Pakistani citizens whose properties in India were taken over by the custodian after 1965, brought in an ordinance of July 2, 2010, nullifying the court order.
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