After winning 32-year legal battle, a royal loses again

August 4th, 2010 - 3:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Pratibha Patil By Sharat Pradhan
Lucknow, Aug 4 (IANS) After winning a 32-year-long court battle following which huge properties were restored to the erstwhile royal of Mahmoodabad by the apex court in 2005, an amendment in the enemy property law - related to those who migrated to Pakistan during partition - has brought him back to square one.

Amir Mohammad Khan, the erstwhile raja of Mahmoodabad, about 80 km from here in Sitapur district, will have to begin handing back possession of these properties from Wednesday.

This follows an ordinance issued by President Pratibha Patil last week whereby even courts are not entitled to alter the status of any property that was once declared ‘enemy property’.

The Supreme Court, through its order, had entitled the erstwhile Khan to all properties that were seized by the government after his late father chose to migrate to Pakistan.

The court order was based on the plea that since Khan had chosen not to migrate with his father to Pakistan and has stayed on in India as a rightful Indian citizen, he was entitled to reclaim his rights over different properties taken over by the custodian - an official appointed by the government of India.

An Oxbridge alumnus, 63-year-old Khan used to teach astro-physics in both Oxford and Cambridge and was also a Congress legislator for a while.

Says the ordinance: “The enemy property vested in the custodian shall, notwithstanding that the enemy, or the enemy subject, or the enemy firm has ceased to be an enemy, due to death, extinction, winding up of business, or change of nationality, or that the legal heir and successor is a citizen of India, or the citizen of a country, which is not an enemy, continue to remain vested in the custodian, till it is divested by the central government.”

Home Minister P. Chidambaram is understood to be ready with the Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Bill 2010, which is to be tabled during the current monsoon session of parliament.

It is learnt that the Supreme Court order of 2005 had created major problems for the government, as owners of similar properties across the country sought restoration of their confiscated properties on the same plea.

The Mumbai-based official custodian of enemy properties as well as the external affairs ministry too were under tremendous pressure on the same account.

Eventually, the home ministry convened a meeting of the external affairs and finance ministries and the custodian June 18 following which it was resolved to make a suitable amendment in the law itself to shut the pandora’s box that was opened in the wake of the apex court verdict in case of the raja of Mahmoodabad.

With the ordinance in place, prime properties worth hundreds of crores of rupees in Lucknow’s main shopping centre, Hazratganj, Nainital, Sitapur and Lakhimpur-Kheri, some of which were restored to the raja, would go back to the custodian or its lessees.

Since the bungalows of the district magistrate, superintendent of police and chief medical officer in Sitapur had also been handed over to the raja, the official machinery is all set to get the possession of these buildings.

“We will take over these buildings now as the order of the apex court was invalidated by the ordinance,” district magistrate Sanjay Kumar told IANS.

Private tenants to whom such properties were let out by the custodian are feeling elated over the ordinance.

“It is our victory because we always maintained that the property of those who migrated to Pakistan should not go back to their heirs. After all we have also been deprived of what our ancestors held before the partition in Pakistan,” argued Sandeep Kohli, who owns a huge swanky showroom in one such building owned by the Mahmoodabad royalty in Hazratganj here.

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