Ravi Shankar Prasad
In picture: Union Minister for Law and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad.Press Information Bureau

The central government on Thursday announced the start of sale of shares that are part of "enemy property" owned by the individuals and entities who left the country at the time of partition.

Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad informed the media that the amount generated from the sale of the shares of these properties will come under the receipts from disinvestments. The decision was taken after a cabinet meeting yesterday.

The move highlights the government's decision to dispose of enemy property; recently it had enacted a law to claim the scrips whose values are now estimated at Rs.3,000 crore at current market prices. The Times of India has reported that one of the biggest enemy properties held by Raja Mahmudabad in Lucknow, has challenged the move by the government.

An official statement on the issue said that in total around 6.5 crore shares in 996 companies of over 20,000 shareholders are under the custody, out of which 588 are active companies. 139 companies of the entire lot are listed.

It is to be noted that the law dealing with the issue was held in the Parliament due to opposition's resistance but later it was promulgated as an ordinance before its final passage. Law Minister Prasad said, "The decision will lead to monetization of movable enemy property lying dormant for decades. Sale proceeds will be used for welfare programmes."

The decision is likely to buttress the government's effort to raise Rs.80,000 crore in the current fiscal year through disinvestment that has been sluggish so far this year. In the initial seven months, it has only managed to raise just over Rs.10,000 crore and the finance ministry is relying on buybacks to meet the target. The Rs.80,000 crore target is crucial to maintaining the overall fiscal deficit target set for the current financial year.

In a statement, the government further added that "before initiation of the sale of any enemy shares, the custodian will certify that the sale of the shares is not in contravention of any court order. "