From ET Realty
MUMBAI: The Office of the Custodian of Enemy Property (CEP) has 16,000 “enemy properties” across the country in its possession worth thousands of crores, including several buildings and plots in Mumbai and Thane.
Some instances of such properties in Mumbai are land and buildings in prominent locations in Mumbai and Thane owned by the Estate of KBHS Meherbaksh, and two cinema halls which were in the name of one Mohammed Suleman.
The CEP is currently fighting around 550 cases in the country as the India-based relatives of the owners of the properties, who shifted to Pakistan, have staked their claim to the assets. A government notification on January 7, empowered the CEP to evict encroachers from such properties and act against defaulters. Properties in the possession of the CEP are mainly in the form of land, houses, buildings, agricultural land, cinema halls, shares, debentures, lockers and bank accounts.
The office of the CEP was created under the Enemy Property Act, 1968, soon after the 1965 war between India and Pakistan. The Act empowered the government to set up a custodian to look after “enemy property”. It was used to confiscate all properties movable (shares or bonds) or immovable (like buildings or land) owned by people who chose to move to Pakistan or Bangladesh (then East Pakistan). It was amended first in 1977, soon after the 1971 war that created Bangladesh.
Among prominent people who shifted to Pakistan leaving their assets in India was Abida Sultan, (Saif Ali Khan’s ancestor) a heir of the last nawab of Bhopal. But the amendment to the Act will not have an impact on royal properties in Bhopal, said the actor’s lawyer, Rajesh Pancholi. “A notice was issued under the Act to Saif Ali Khan, but our argument is that it doesn’t apply to Indian citizens. We got a stay from the court,” said Pancholi.