President Pranab Mukherjee has approved the re-promulgation of the Enemy Property ordinance but is learnt to have questioned why he is being asked sign on the ordinance for the fifth time.
Official sources said the re-promulgation order was signed by the President late Thursday before he left for Hyderabad on a 10-day sojourn in the south. The ordinance will be issued by the Union home ministry.
Sources in Rashtrapati Bhavan said Mukherjee conveyed to the government that he was aware of the continuous disruption of the winter session of Parliament during which little government business could be transacted, but it was not in the order of things that an ordinance should be repeatedly promulgated. No ordinance has been promulgated five times, sources said.
There are contentious provisions in the Enemy Property Bill and, when it was listed during the monsoon session of Parliament, parties had insisted on consensus. The government then chose to go ahead with the GST Bill rather than push through the Enemy Property Bill.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi met the President on Wednesday evening, ostensibly to brief him about the Cabinet decision to take the ordinance route to amend the Payment of Wages Act, 1936 to allow employers of certain industries to make payments through electronic mode and cheques. That ordinance was also signed by Mukherjee before he left Thursday. But it was not clear whether Mukherjee raised his concerns about the enemy property ordinance at that meeting or when Home Minister Rajnath Singh met him recently.
This is not the first time Mukherjee has aired his discomfort over ordinances. In January last year, when he had already signed nine ordinances brought by the government in its first eight months, Mukherjee, while addressing students and faculty of central universities through teleconferencing, said that ordinances should be issued only under “compelling circumstances”.
“To meet certain exigencies and under compelling circumstances, the framers of the Constitution deemed it necessary to confer limited legislative power upon the executive by way of promulgation of ordinances when the legislature is not in session and circumstances justified immediate legislation. The framers also deemed it necessary to impose certain restrictions on this extraordinary legislative power by constitutionally mandating replacement of such ordinances within a timeframe by the legislators,” Mukherjee had then said
Home Ministry officials said though the approval from Mukherjee has been received, they plan to issue the ordinance by December 27 when the previous one — promulgated for the fourth time on August 29 — lapses since chances of getting the amendments passed by Parliament even in the Budget session next year look bleak.
An ordinance automatically lapses within six weeks of a Parliament session being convened — the understanding being that any ordinance would be passed as a Bill in the ensuing Parliament session. The present one lapses on December 27 as the winter session convened on November 16.
Lok Sabha had passed the amendment to the Enemy Property Act,1968 after it was proposed earlier this year. It is pending before a parliamentary select committee after Rajya Sabha referred it to the panel. A property belonging to, held or managed on behalf of an enemy, an enemy subject or an enemy firm is described as an enemy property.
There are 16,547 enemy properties worth Rs 1 lakh crore across India under the law that was passed to guard against claims of succession or transfer of assets the people, who migrated to Pakistan and China after 1962, 1965 and 1971 wars, had left behind. The government took over the properties of those who took Pakistani and Chinese nationalities under the law following the three wars.
– By Rahul Tripathi & Abantika Ghosh