When countries go to war, they generally seize the properties in their own nations of the people and organizations of the enemy country. This occurred amid the First and the Second World Wars when both the United States and the United Kingdom seized properties of German companies and nationals. Properties that are seized under these conditions are alluded to as ‘enemy property’. The thought behind grabbing these properties is that an enemy nation ought not be permitted to exploit its benefits in the other nation in the time of war.
India too seized properties belonging to Pakistani and Chinese natives when it was at war with these nations. Indian Parliament, passed The Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Bill, 2016, making amendments to the law relating to confiscation of enemy property in India.
At the point when wars broke out amongst India and China in 1962, and India and Pakistan in 1965 and 1971, the central government assumed control over properties of residents of China and Pakistan in India under the Defense of India Acts. These Acts characterized a “enemy” as a nation that conferred a demonstration of animosity against India, and its nationals. The properties of enemies in India were named ‘enemy property’. The properties included land, buildings, offers held in organizations, gold and jewellery of the nationals of enemy nations. The duty of the organization of enemy properties was given over to the Custodian of Enemy Property, an office under the central government.
The Defense of India Acts were brief laws that seized to work after the wars ended. To supervise the enemy property seized in the midst of the wars, the lawmaking body requested the Enemy Property Act in 1968. This law set out the forces of the Custodian of Enemy Property for organization and defending of the enemy properties.
The Enemy Property Act gave enemy subjects certain rights as for their properties vested in the Custodian. However, the vagueness in their rights and the forces of the Custodian to oversee these properties brought about question being raised under the steady gaze of the courts. Some of these debates identified with Indian residents testing whether they could acquire enemy properties having a place with their predecessors who were nationals of enemy nations.
The Supreme Court settled some of these issues in 2005. It decided that the Custodian of Enemy Property was controlling the property as a trustee, and the enemy kept on being its proprietor. Hence, on the demise of the enemy, the property ought to be acquired by their legitimate beneficiaries.
In 2010, the government provided an Ordinance to extend the forces of the Custodian with respect to enemy property. It looked to forever vest enemy’s property in the Custodian even if there should arise an occurrence of his demise or an adjustment in his nationality. However, the Ordinance lapsed.
In 2010, the government issued an Ordinance to expand the powers of the Custodian regarding enemy property. However, the Ordinance that sought to permanently vest enemy property in the Custodian even in case of the enemy’s death was not passed.
5 more ordinances were issued on the subject and the issue of attracted legislative interest again in 2016. These Ordinances went a step further and effectively negated the Supreme Court decision of 2005, and made the central government the owner of enemy property. While the first four Ordinances lapsed, the last Ordinance, issued in December 2016, has been replaced by the law passed by Parliament this week.
The Bill names the Custodian as the owner of enemy property from 1968. It also nullifies the legal sales undertaken by enemies of enemy properties since 1968. A person who would have invested in an enemy property in good faith when the sale and purchase was legal, can now lose the property. It also prohibits Indian citizens who are legal heirs of enemies from inheriting enemy property. Further to that, it prohibits civil courts and other authorities from hearing certain disputes relating to enemy property.
As per the new law, an Indian citizen who has legally bought an enemy property after 1968, can be divested of his rights in the property. However, this situation could be challenged in court as a violation of Article 14, which guarantees the right to equality and protects people from arbitrary actions of the government.
Further, following the passage of the Bill, judicial recourse on enemy property disputes will only be available before High Courts and the Supreme Court, limiting the options available to people whose property rights have been affected.