In a recent notification, the Ministry of Home Affairs said that it has started the process of eviction and sale of enemy properties in the country. This includes the eviction and sale of immovable assets left behind by the people who took citizenship of Pakistan and China.
Presently, there are 12611 establishments identified as enemy properties in India. The total estimated value of these properties is more than 1 lakh crore. The enemy properties will be sold through e-auction on the e-auction platform of Metal Scrap Trade Corporation Limited, a PSU. The Custodian of Enemy Property for India (CEPI), an authority created under the Enemy Property Act, will conduct the process.
Earlier the union govt had sold movable enemy properties like shares and gold, and now immovable enemy properties are being sold.
What are enemy properties?
Enemy property refers to any property owned by individuals or entities that are considered “enemies” of the state. This usually includes individuals or entities who are citizens or residents of countries that are at war with India or have been deemed to be a threat to the security and sovereignty of India. Enemy property may include real estate, buildings, land, bank accounts, shares, and other assets. According to the enemy Property Act of 1968 (amended in 2017), the Custodian of Enemy Property for India (CEPI) holds certain rights in regard to the enemy properties in India.
What does the latest notification say in this regard?
According to Home Ministry’s notification, the rules for disposing of enemy properties have changed. According to these rules, before selling any properties, the procedure for evicting hostile properties must now be started with the help of the District Magistrate or Deputy Commissioner responsible.
The notification further said that if an enemy property is less than Rs 1 crore in value, the custodian must first make a purchase offer to the occupant. If the resident rejects the offer, the enemy property must be sold in accordance with the rules. The CEPI will dispose of any enemy property valued at less than Rs 100 crore and more than Rs 1 crore by e-auction or any other method as defined by the central government and at the price set by the Enemy Property Disposal Committee.
The Home Ministry added that the CEPI shall utilize the Metal Scrap Trade Corporation Limited’s e-auction platform for the e-auction of enemy properties. Officials in the home ministry have confirmed that so far, by selling the enemy properties, the government has obtained more than Rs. 3400 crores. The sold enemy property contains only movable assets like shares, gold, etc.
All enemy properties will be surveyed
Through the Directorate General of Defence Estates (DGDE), the Home Ministry has launched a nationwide inspection of enemy properties in 20 states and 3 Union Territories. The prime motive of this survey is to identify, locate, and then monetize these properties. CEPI is primarily expected to identify these properties in this survey and DGDE will then assess the present condition of these properties to evaluate their prices.
A brief account of enemy properties in India
12,485 of the 12,611 enemy properties in India owned by the CEPI were earlier linked to Pakistani people, while 126 were related to Chinese nationals. The state of Uttar Pradesh has the highest concentration of enemy properties (6,255), followed by West Bengal (4,088 properties), Delhi (659), Goa (295), Maharashtra (208), Telangana (158), Gujarat (151), Tripura (105), Bihar (94), Madhya Pradesh (94), Chhattisgarh (78), and Haryana (71).
The following states also have enemy properties – 71 in Kerala, 69 in Uttarakhand, 67 in Tamil Nadu, 57 in Meghalaya, 29 in Assam, 24 in Karnataka, 22 in Rajasthan, 10 in Jharkhand, 4 in Daman and Diu, and 1 in each of Andhra Pradesh and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
The Enemy Property Act
In India, the Enemy Property Act was first enacted in 1968, shortly after the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965. The purpose of the Act was to provide for the vesting of enemy property in the Custodian of Enemy Property for India. The Custodian is responsible for managing and administering enemy property on behalf of the government.
The Enemy Property Act has undergone several amendments over the years. The most significant of these was the amendment made in 2017. Following the claims of heirs of Raja Mohammad Amir Mohammad Khan, on his properties across Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, the Act was amended. This amendment denied the legal heirs their right over the enemy property. This amendment also expanded the scope of the Act to include not just the property of individuals who are from the enemy states, but also the property of their descendants or heirs who are citizens of India. The amendment also allowed the government to sell enemy property, which was previously prohibited.
Powers to the Custodian of Enemy Property for India (CEPI)
As per the Enemy Property Act of 1968, the Custodian of Enemy Property for India has extensive powers to manage and administer enemy property. The purpose of these powers is to ensure that enemy property is not used to fund activities that pose a threat to national security.
These include the power to – 1. Take over and manage the enemy property on behalf of the government. 2. Collect and receive all rents, profits, and income from the enemy property. 3. Sell, lease, or otherwise dispose of the enemy property as directed by the government. 4. Take legal action to protect and preserve the enemy property. 5. Pay all expenses related to the management and administration of enemy property.
The latest amendment to the Act in 2017 expanded the scope of the Custodian’s powers to include the power to sell enemy property, which was previously prohibited. The amendment also allowed the government to use the proceeds from the sale of enemy property for public welfare.
Public reactions in the past over action against enemy properties
The enemy properties linked to Pakistan are obviously connected to Muslims. It is notable that executing any action against such properties is a task to be carefully handled by the ministry of home affairs, because local Muslims connected to that property in some or another way may create some hindrance in the procedures to be followed. In one of the recent examples of such hindrances, protests in Chennai staged by the controversial Islamic organization Tamil Nadu Thowheed Jamath (TNTJ) can be cited as a prominent one.
In January 2021, the officers from Custodian of Enemy Property for India, Mumbai, accompanied by revenue authorities and local police, arrived at Chennai to seal off the Thowheed Jamath headquarters, which is registered as the property of Pakistan under the Enemy Property Act 1968. The Thowheed Jamaat, whose building is registered as the property of Pakistan, had received several notices from the state authorities for violating the Enemy Property Act. Following no action from their end, officers from Custodian of Enemy Property for India, Mumbai, accompanied by revenue authorities and local police, sealed the office.
As the news spread, the office-bearers of TNTJ assembled near the premises from different parts of the city and protested against the action. The protest continued for nearly two hours causing a severe nuisance to the public.
Reportedly, the building was initially been granted to Abdul Rahman, the Vice President of TNTJ, for the purpose of running a lungi firm. However, Rahman has been using the building for serving as the headquarters of the TNTJ. In fact, Rahman only holds the power of attorney, since the actual property belongs to Tuba Khaleeli, who now lives in Pakistan.
At that time, Abdul Rahman, Vice President of TNTJ, said that the office of Thowheed Jamaath is located on the enemy property, and when the Union government decided to dispose of the enemy property, they started paying rent to the government. He added that the radical Islamic organization also thought of purchasing the land.