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Enemy Property: legal short circuit

New Delhi: The proposed Enemy Property Amendment II Bill, if passed by the Parliament in the next winter session, will bring immense relief to some while it will create hardships for many more who could not succeed in obtaining a clear cut court decision in their favour. The cut-off date, 2 July, 2010, leaves out those whose suits are pending in the courts. This category includes many rightful claimants. Also left out are those who did not have the means for lengthy legal battles.

The matter gets further complicated by tenants holding possessions of the property. The tenants will have either to vacate or negotiate new agreements with the new owners of the property. Those who shed crocodile tears on the plights of such "miserable" tenants suppress many facts to garner support. Take the case of Hotel Gautam, which in 1947 used to pay a “princely rent of Rs 3 per month” and have been paying Rs 400 per month in 2010 for a property worth Rs 3.5-4 crores. The hue and cry for such “miserable” tenants by BJP makes no sense. The three-generation tenants are willing to buy the property and the sale proceeds would go to the custodian i.e., Govt. of India. But the BJP does not want the government to receive the sale proceeds – What a patriotic gesture!

Similarly, two plots in the name of Aisha Begum are under the possession of Chaudhary Chhotu Ram (PG) College, Muzaffarnagar. The two properties had been leased to the college where they have their agriculture farm and dairy farm. Since neither Aisha Begum nor her heirs are traceable, the sale value or lease rent shall go to the custodian i.e., the Govt. of India. This too seems quite objectionable to the BJP spokesperson who pours his venom on those who left for Pakistan and also on those who decided to stay. Balbir Punj, RS MP, asks: If those who migrated to Pakistan considered India as Dar-ul-Harb; why did then others opt to stay here and suffer the stigma of kufr?” Punj’s ire is that those who decided to stay went straight into Congress’ lap and thus Muslim League got converted into secular Congress!

However, for Assain, 80, in Kerala’s Mallapuram district the situation is quite precarious. Unaware of the fact that the property he bought was “Pakbhoomi” (Enemy Property) he built a house on 1.5 acre of land. Only in 2007 did he come to realise that he had been duped into buying a disputed property when the government refused to accept the property tax. What worries Assain is the imminent threat of eviction if the government decides to acquire the land.

100-room hotel that the Sikhwals run near the famous Nakhoda mosque on 19 Zakaria Street, Chitpore, Central Kolkata, has swank interiors that take people to good old Raj days. The land owned by Muhammad Halim has been confiscated by the government as no heir ever claimed it. The Rajasthan Seth has been enjoying the right (may be as tenant). BJP does not want the Seth to pay its actual market value to the government – now the rightful “owner.”

Reacting strongly to “minority appeasement” uproar, The Hindu in its editorial (28 Oct 2010) argues: “The property rights of a section of Indian citizens were wrongly taken away and a limited attempt is now being made to restore them. In fact, the government should have boldly taken this opportunity to change the very name of the Act, which not only projects a wrongful image of Indian Muslims, but also implicitly carries the suggestion that Pakistanis are enemies of India …. there was never any justification for the name then and now.”

Read also: Enemy Property Act: a Backgrounder

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-30 November 2010 on page no. 6

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