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Enemy property bill withdrawn

Monday, August 30, 2010 06:33:20 PM, IANS

New Delhi: Giving in to vehement opposition by the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Samajwadi Party, the government Monday dropped a controversial bill to amend an act - that deals with properties left behind by those who migrated to Pakistan in 1947 - just before it was to be taken up by the Lok Sabha for discussion and passage.

The issue forced an adjournment of the house after an uproar over the proposed amendments to the Enemy Property Act, 1968, empowering the government to dispose of the migrant properties in India.

Home Minister P. Chidambaram said the bill that was listed in the business of the day would be now taken up in the next session as "some members have sought time to study the ordinance and amendments".

The bill first came up in the Zero Hour of the Lok Sabha when Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav criticised the government for "conspiring against Muslims with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)".

The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) supported the Samajwadi Party.

Mulayam Singh said his party will oppose the bill because "it is part of the Congress' anti-Muslim policy".

"It is a bill that would make Muslims second-class citizens and create an inferiority complex among them," the Samajwadi Party leader said.

He cited the Supreme Court order making "clear that the custodian of such properties, the government, should return the properties to the inheritors".

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal sought to assure that the government was bringing amendments to address their concerns.

Bansal said the Samajwadi chief had not read the amendments as certain contentious clauses have been changed.

This created an uproar in the house with BJP members objecting to Mulayam Singh's remarks and the minister's assurance as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Shiv Sena opposed any change in the bill.

An agitated Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj threatened to block the bill if the government brought in amendments.

"If Mulayamji will oppose the bill in present form, we will oppose the bill if changes are made to it," she said.

Swaraj said the bill should be referred to a joint parliamentary panel before being considered by the Lok Sabha.

AIADMK's Munisamy Thambidurai, who was presiding over the session, adjourned the house till 2 p.m. amid the din.

Lalu Prasad, Mulayam Singh and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Dara Singh Chauhan met Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who is also the Leader of the House, to resolve the issue.

Sources said BJP's ally Janata Dal-United (JD-U) leader Sharad Yadav was also present in the meeting attended by Home Minister Chidambaram and Minority Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid.

When MPs reassembled at 2 p.m., Deputy Speaker Karia Munda invited papers and bills to be laid on the table but skipped the bill to amend the Enemy Property Act listed at item number 10.

Swaraj objected again and wanted to know "what happened to the item number 10".

To this, Chidambaram said to defer the bill was "reasonable".

"If the members need more time to study the bill, we think this a reasonable request. We will bring a fresh bill in the next session," he said.

With this, the government will now have to re-promulgate the July ordinance restricting transactions of such properties because an ordinance lapses after six months if a bill to replace it is not passed by parliament.

The amendment makes 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.

There are over 2,000 such properties in the country.





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