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7 Feb 2017

SC keeps hands off ordinance

TT, New Delhi, Feb. 6: The Supreme Court today declined to interfere with the NDA government's decision to re-promulgate the Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation Act), 2016, asserting that an "enemy's property" in India "must come to the country".
Chief Justice J.S. Khehar and Justice N.V. Ramana said the government was free to promulgate an ordinance to take over movable and immovable assets of "enemies" and legal heirs of such people from hostile countries like Pakistan and China.
"An enemy's property must come to the country. What happens when a person who is an enemy is dead? His property must come to the country," the apex court told senior counsel Anand Grover, who appeared for Congress Rajya Sabha MP Hussain Dalwai.
Dalwai had moved the top court challenging the ordinance - re-promulgated by President Pranab Mukherjee on December 23 - as being "unconstitutional" and "drastic".
Grover had contended that not only was Parliament not taken into confidence, but the ordinance also covered all properties belonging to the legal heirs of the enemy.
"It depends upon the issue," Justice Khehar said. "If the issue is very serious, or affects national interests, they (the government) are free to do it. You are an MP. You must also be sensitive. It should be debated in Parliament. Should we interfere at this stage? You can always raise the issue in Parliament," the CJI added, while proceeding to dismiss the petition.
Grover sought permission to withdraw the petition, saying any adverse remarks by the bench now would affect his client's right to raise it in Parliament. The court permitted him to withdraw the plea.
The ordinance had been promulgated by the Centre to amend the original Enemy Property Act, 1968, and the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act, 1971.
The original 1968 act vested all rights over enemyproperty in the Custodianof Enemy Propertyfor India, a government department.
After the India-China conflict of 1962, properties of Chinese nationals in India were vested in the custodian under the Defence of India Rules, 1962. After the India-Pakistan wars in 1965 and 1971, the movable and immovable properties of Pakistani nationals automatically got vested in the custodian.
The ordinance, initially brought in January last year before being promulgated for the fifth time in December, says the properties will continue to vest with the custodian not only on the enemy's death but even if he/she has a legal heir who is an Indian citizen.
It expanded the definition of enemy to include legal heirs of enemies even if they are citizens of India or of another country that is not an enemy, and nationals of an enemy country who subsequently changed their nationality to that of another country.
The ordinance also makes it clear that all rights, titles and interests in such property will vest with the custodian and no succession laws will apply to these properties.

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