Mumbai: HC permits tenants of ‘enemy property’ to undertake repairs, clarifies no claim in equity

Mumbai: HC permits tenants of ‘enemy property’ to undertake repairs, clarifies no claim in equity

A bench of Justices allowed four senior citizens who have been living there since 1957 to undertake repairs, upon clarification that they will not claim equity on it.

Urvi MahajaniUpdated: Tuesday, March 28, 2023, 09:53 PM IST
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Mumbai: HC permits tenants of ‘enemy property’ to undertake repairs, clarifies no claim in equity | Representative Image

The Bombay High Court on Tuesday allowed the tenants of Kishori Court in Worli, an “enemy property” owned by a Pakistani national, to undertake repairs.

A bench of Justices Gautam Patel and Neela Gokhale allowed four senior citizens who have been living there since 1957 to undertake repairs, upon clarification that they will not claim an equity on it.

HC asked to submit statement of expenses

While permitting the tenants to undertake repairs immediately, the HC asked them to send copies of all estimates to the custodian. In addition, they were asked to send consolidated statement of expenses periodically or after completion. “We clarify that the four petitioners will bear responsibility of quality of work being done and not the Custodian of Enemy Property,” the bench said.

The HC had, on Monday, restrained the Custodian of Enemy Property from passing final orders but permitted the hearing to proceed, on jurisdiction, in its show-cause eviction notice to them.

Stop work notice issued by custodian of enemy property challenged

The HC starting hearing a petition filed by the four tenants earlier this month seeking permission to carry out tenantable repairs, citing urgency before the onset of monsoon. They challenged a ‘stop work’ notice issued on February 1, 2023, by the Custodian of Enemy Property. On March 13, after their petition was filed, the assistant custodian in Mumbai issued the show-cause notice to the tenants for eviction. One of the tenants, KM Desai, challenged the eviction notice contending that it lacked a jurisdictional basis.

According to Desai’s plea, the property has been in existence since 1937 and his late father became a tenant in 1957. Desai claimed that the rent was paid to Hamida Begum, alias Kishori Shaikh, a Pakistani national and erstwhile landlady. After the property was declared as enemy property, and was given to the Custodian of Enemy Property, they have been paying rent to it.

Petitioners pointed actions must be taken under Enemy Property Act

The Enemy Property Act was promulgated in 1968 following the 1965 India-Pakistan war. Custodian of Enemy Property was formed under the Ministry of Home Affairs, which is empowered to take appropriate steps relating to properties in India of Pakistani nationals.

The court had noted that the although the tenants have been paying rent since the 1950s, they have been now told that they must enter into leave and licence agreements with the Custodian of Enemy Property, failing which proceedings will be initiated under the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act 1971.

The petitioners pointed out that any actions in this case has to be taken only under the Enemy Property Act. The HC has disposed of the petition.

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