Enemy Property Act

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Jun 15, 2022, 11:36

The Enemy Property Act came into force as a result of the wars fought by India against Pakistan and China in the 1960s. It was enacted after the Chinese aggression of 1962, and it came into effect in 1968, after the India-Pakistan War of 1965. It authorized the Government of India to appoint a Custodian for the properties belonging to Pakistani and Chinese nationals in India.

What Are Enemy Properties?

After the India-Pakistan wars of 1965 and 1971, people migrated from India to Pakistan. The Government of India appointed a Custodian for the properties of those who assumed Pakistani nationality since the properties were considered enemy property.

Many people of Chinese origin who were residing in India went to China after the Sino-India war of 1962. The Indian Government considered the properties left behind by the Chinese nationals in India too as 'enemy property' and appointed a Custodian for them.

The Central Government is in possession of enemy properties spread across many states through the appointed Custodian.

Did India Return Enemy Property?

The Tashkent Declaration of January 10, 1966, included a clause that stated that India and Pakistan would discuss returning the property and assets taken over by the governments of both the countries, but the Government of Pakistan breached the agreement and disposed of properties that were left behind by Indian citizens in Pakistan in the year 1971.

Hence, India too did not return the enemy property to the Pakistan Nationals who had left their property in India. It is believed that there are around 126 properties of Chinese nationals in India and they are mainly in the states of Meghalaya and West Bengal.

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Amendments to the Enemy Property Act

The Enemy Property Act of 1968, and the Public Premises Act of 1971, as amended by the Enemy Property Amendment and Validation Bill which was passed in 2017. The Act mainly applies to the descendants of the people who went to Pakistan and China during and after the partition and left behind their property.

The amended Act expands the definition of the term 'enemy subject' to include the legal heirs and successor of an enemy regardless of whether they are citizens of India or citizens of another country that is not an enemy. According to the amended Act, 'enemy firm' refers to the succeeding firm of an enemy firm, irrespective of the nationality of its members or partners.

The Act declares that all transfers of 'enemy property' are prohibited. It also applies retrospectively to transfers that have happened before or after 1968. It prevents any civil courts or any other authorities from entertaining disputes relating to enemy properties.

According to this Act, some movable properties are also classified as enemy property. The Act states that enemy property shall continue to vest in the Custodian even if the legal heir to the property is a citizen of India or a citizen of a country that is not an enemy. Even if an enemy or 'enemy firm' can no longer be considered an enemy due to death, extinction, winding up of business or change of nationality, the enemy property will continue to vest in the Custodian.

The Custodian can dispose of 'enemy property' in accordance with the provisions of the Act and with the approval of the government who can issue directions to the Custodian for this purpose.

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Why Was the Enemy Property Act Amended?

The amendments to the Act were made to safeguard against claims of succession or transfer of properties left behind by people who migrated to Pakistan and China after the wars. The amendments do not allow legal heirs to have any right over the enemy property. The main aim of the amendment was to negate the effect of any court judgment regarding 'enemy property' and 'enemy firms'.

To conclude, India is not the only country that has seized properties under the Enemy Property Act. India's neighbour Bangladesh, has seized 26 lakh acres of land from Hindus under their Enemy Property Act. China has expressed their concern over India's amended Enemy Property Act since Chinese authorities feel that the Indian Government will seize the assets of the Chinese companies doing business in India if both the countries are involved in a military battle.

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FAQs on Enemy Property Act

Q1) When was the Enemy Property Act enacted?

Enemy Property Act was enacted in the year 1962

Q2) When did the Enemy Property Act come into effect?

Enemy Property Act came into effect in the year 1968

Q3) With regards to the Enemy Property Act, when did the 2nd India-Pakistan war take place?

With regards to the Enemy Property Act, the 2nd India-Pakistan war take place in the year 1965

Q4) In the context of the Enemy Property Act, when did the Indo-China war take place?

In the context of the Enemy Property Act, when did the Indo-China war take place in the year 1962

Q5) In which year was the Enemy Property Act amended?

Enemy Property Act was amended in the year 2017.