Govt drops plans on Ordinance on Enemy Property

New Delhi: Taking into account the differing views of various political parties, government today dropped plans for a fresh Ordinance on the fate of properties left behind by those who went to Pakistan during partition and decided to bring a new bill in the next session of Parliament.

The Cabinet, at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here, noted that there was no urgency to bring an ordinance on Enemy Property to replace the one that has expired with the completion of the Monsoon session of Parliament on August 31.

During the Monsoon Session, the government was forced to withdraw the Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Bill, 2010 after the opposition by various parties.

The bill, brought in the backdrop of various court rulings, made it clear that judiciary would have no jurisdiction over occupation of such properties and the decision would solely be taken by the government.

At the Cabinet meeting, Home Minister P Chidambaram noted that several political parties had spoken in favour or against the bill and therefore it would be appropriate to take everyone on board on the issue, sources said.

Some ministers recalled that leaders from various parties had either met Leader of the Lok Sabha and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee or the Prime Minister to oppose the Ordinance.

Keeping these aspects in view, the Cabinet decided against bringing an Ordinance and instead opt for legislative route.

"The Cabinet decided to bring a bill on Enemy Property in the Winter Session of Parliament incorporating the original Ordinance as well as the official amendments," an official spokesman said.

With the government deciding against the fresh Ordinance, the Supreme Court judgement that such properties be given to the legal heirs would be applicable till a new law is enacted. On July two, the government had promulgated an Ordinance which barred courts to restore enemy property to heirs.

A month later, the government introduced in the Lok Sabha Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Bill, 2010 that made it clear that courts would have no jurisdiction over occupation of properties which have been left behind by those who went to Pakistan at the time of partition.

The Bill sought to replace an Act of 1968, was moved in view of a number of court judgements that "adversely affected the powers" of the custodians and the government of India as provided under the said law.

Enemy properties are those left behind by people who went to Pakistan during partition. There are about 2,000 such properties in the country.

The promulgation of the Ordinance and the subsequent moves to bring a Bill faced opposition both from within the government and also from some political parties.

With SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav and RJD chief Lalu Prasad dubbing the Bill as "anti-Muslim" the government offered to bring in some amendments, a move which saw the principal Opposition BJP up in arms.

Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj attacked the government for offering to introduce the amendments to favour a particular person and said that the BJP would oppose any such move.

She had also demanded that the Bill be referred to a Parliamentary Standing Committee, a idea which did not find much favour with the government.

Sensing the mood of the Lok Sabha, Chidambaram had offered to bring a fresh Bill incorporating the official amendments in the next session.