New Delhi : Against the backdrop of sharp political divide, government on Monday said it will bring a "fresh bill" to amend a law governing properties left behind by those who went to Pakistan during partition, in effect withdrawing the draft legislation introduced in the Lok Sabha.
The government's move came after uproar by Samajwadi Party and RJD which termed the Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Bill as "anti-Muslim" and wanted changes which were strongly opposed by the BJP and the Shiv Sena.
Home Minister P Chidambaram said after extensive discussions, members had sought more time to study the amendments along with the Ordinance that was issued on July 2. "It is a reasonable request... We will bring a fresh bill incorporating the amendments in the Winter Session of Parliament," he said.
This prompted the BJP to question the "intention" of the government behind the move.
Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj said the BJP was prepared to support the Bill in its original form but not with the amendments arguing that in such a case, the Bill should be referred to a Parliamentary Standing Committee.
"The BJP will oppose if the Bill is brought along with the amendments. You will have to send it to the Standing Committee where a better discussion can take place. In that case we are with you," she said.
The Bill ran into trouble when the government moved certain official amendments after consultations with the Samajwadi Party and the RJD which left the BJP fuming.
The draft legislation 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 about 2,000 such properties in India.
Swaraj said the BJP suspects that the government would allow the ordinance to lapse and bring in a new one incorporating the amendments.
Senior BJP leader L K Advani said it seems the government wanted the ordinance to lapse which would happen if this bill is not passed in Parliament. "It seems that you don't want to take it (bill) to the Standing Committee," he said.
The amendments proposed now would undo the ordinance practically, Advani said adding that it was perhaps for the first time a bill to replace an ordinance has not been moved.
"I do not want to answer hypothetical questions... You are looking for ghosts where none reside. Amendments were proposed after extensive consultations and some parties required more time to study. What is unusual about it? This is nothing new or surreptitious," Chidambaram said. He said there was no reason to harbour any ill-will and the government would bring a fresh draft legislation to Parliament. PTI