M Tariq Khan
Lucknow, October 25, 2005
The scion of the erstwhile Raja of Mahmudabad is a content man. The family's honor has been restored. “The stigma, not to mention the pain, of 'enemy tag' that our family bore for 32 long years, has finally been removed. We have been exonerated and our stand has been vindicated by the court,” said a visibly happy heir apparent of the Mahmudabad Estate, Mohd Amir Mohd Khan.
The legal battle may have ended but the fight is far from over, he said ensconced firmly in a chair in his ancestral Mahmudabad House located behind the Qaiserbagh Baradari. So, why is the blue blood still on the boil? “You can draw your own conclusions,” was his enigmatic reply. But let me say this that our ancestors fought against the British rule. It was in this very Kothi that the historic Lucknow Pact was signed at the all-party meet in 1916 in the presence of stalwarts like Gokhale, Tilak and Chittranjan Das etc. Yet, the property we owned and inherited was declared 'enemy property' simply because my father, who was in Muslim League, for some reasons, went to Pakistan, said the only son of the Raja. Khan cited a strange coincidence that the judgment came on the 16th day of Ramzan, the day by the Islamic calendar on which his father passed away.
Apart from prime properties like Butler Palace, the Kapoor Hotel-Royal Café Building in Hazratganj, a portion of Janpath Market, Halwasiya Market (given on lease) and Mahmudabad Mansion opposite it, the Raja's real estate empire was spread over places like Sitapur, Lakhimpur, Nainital, Barabanki and last but not the least, Mahmudabad itself. Among them, the SP's residence in Lakhimpur, the official bungalows of the DM, SP and CMO in Sitapur and a hotel in Nainital is all that he could recall off hand.
Asked how he intended to get the apex court's order executed since most of the properties were occupied by several tenants/shopkeepers for a long time now, Khan said he would have to consult his lawyers before deciding upon the course of action. “Let me say this, however, that I am aware of the ground reality and people, who are living in these buildings may have their own problems. Off course, we won't do anything that is socially or morally unacceptable but at the same time a pragmatic solution would have to be worked out,” he said adding that he would be meeting the Chief Secretary in this connection soon.
A Congressman to the core, Khan does not hide his political proclivity. Rather, he revels in recounting how he met Indira Gandhi in 1980 and with whose help the matter was finally taken up by the Union Cabinet, which agreed to give him back 25 per cent of his properties. So, why didn't he accept the offer? “My wife had an apt analogy over that. She said that you couldn't be 'quarter' or 'half' pregnant. So why settle for only a part of what is rightfully yours and not the whole?” he quipped.
The Battle Royale
** The Raja of Mahmudabad had gone to Pakistan in 1957.
** His wife Begum Kaneez Abidi and son Raja Mohd Amir Mohd Khan stayed back.
**In 1962 government declared his properties as ‘evacuee property.'
** Later these properties were re-christened as ‘enemy property’ after September 1965 Indo-Pak War.
**Amir Mohd Khan moved court to reclaim his ancestral property.
**On October 21, 2005 Supreme Court ordered that these properties be restored to him within eight weeks.
THE COURT ORDER THAT STARTED IT ALL
October 24, 2005
In a significant judgment the Supreme Court has ordered restoration of all the properties of the Raja of Mahmudabad within eight weeks that were acquired after being declared as enemy property by the government.
The apex court's verdict comes 32 years after the only son of the Raja of Mahmudabad, Raja Mohd Amir Mohd Khan, who did not migrate to Pakistan at the time of the country's partition, filed a petition to reclaim his ancestral property. Dismissing the writ petition of the Union Government filed in this connection, a two-judge bench of Justice Ashok Bhan and Justice Altamash Kabir directed it to return all the buildings it had acquired of the Raja of Mahmudabad back to him within eight weeks.
The Union Government has been asked to pay Rs five lakh to the Raja towards the cost of the case. Here it is pertinent to mention that several senior government officials reside in these buildings that belong to the Raja and are located both in New Delhi and Lucknow. For instance in Lucknow alone, the Butler Palace, the UCO bank building in front of Halwasiya Market and the huge chunk of land that comprises the present day Janpath Market and the DRM office in Hazratganj all belong to the royalty.
Criticising the government stand, the apex court said that the provisions of law declaring a property as enemy property under section 2 (B) couldn't be invoked against an Indian citizen. Hence, the custodian of the Enemy Property, stationed in Mumbai, cannot stake claim to it bypassing the heir apparent, in this case, the son of the Raja.
The Raja of Mahmudabad had gone to Pakistan in 1957 but his wife Begum Kaneez Abidi and son Raja Mohd Amir Mohd Khan stayed back. In 1962 defence related laws were framed under which property of those, who had migrated, lock, stock and barrel to Pakistan was labeled 'evacuee property.' After the Indo-Pak war in September 1965, these very properties were re-christened 'enemy property,' as there was nobody to claim them rightfully.
Amir Mohd Khan had made several applications to the Central Government for restoration of his ancestral property after the death of his father in London on October 14, 1973 but it was to no avail. In March 1981, Commerce Ministry informed him that the Cabinet had decided to return but only 25 per cent of the Raja's property to the latter's heirs.