Anil Malhotra, Ranjit Malhotra and G.S. Pannu, IG, NRI Affairs (front row)in the audience

NRI Property Issues

A special seminar was held on “Property Related Issues of NRIs / PIOs” on January 7, on the eve of the 8th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in New Delhi. The full-day seminar comprised of a unique gathering that heard out problems that NRIs faced on property issues in India. This was for the very first time that a free, fair and frank discussion had taken place involving the Government of India and various arms and agencies. The special session was structured by Anil and Ranjit Malhotra at the behest of Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs. The idea was to focus on important issues, key problems and to assist in drawing up concrete practical solutions to such problems. Anil Malhotra was requested to draw up the key recommendations of the seminar after observing, following-up and listening to the entire day’s proceedings during which three different sessions deliberated on key issues. By every account, the seminar was a success.

The seminar was split in three parts. The inaugural session saw formal addresses by Vayalar Ravi, Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs, Salman Khursheed, Minister for Corporate and Minority Affairs, Justice AR. Lakshmanan, Former Chairman Law Commission of India, Justice A.M. Ebrahim from Zimbabwe, Bimal Patel and A. Didar Singh, Secretary, Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs. 

The second session on the “Overseas Indian Perspective and Interactive Session” saw presentations, discussions and interactions on 
(a) Tenancy related issues
(b) Succession related issues 
(c ) Property registration related issues 
(d) Property investment related issues
(e) Issues related to institutional mechanism to seek time bound redressal. 

The presence of Minister of State in the Ministry of External Affairs Preneet Kaur (second from right) and Secretary, Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs A Didar Singh (second from left) raised the level of interactions. Also present (right) was Anshuman Magazine, CMD of CB Richard Ellis

Kumar Gera chaired the session. Presentations were made by Man Mohan Maheshwari from GOPIO, Shreedhar Kavil from New York and a case study was presented by Susheela Verma from the USA. Ranjit Malhotra, Vivek Gogia, Additional Commissioner, Delhi Police and Parry Singh, Real Estate Developer fielded a range of questions in the interactive session. 

The third concluding session relating to key recommendations and the valedictory address opened with the introductory remarks by Didar Singh. Anil Malhotra made the key observations of the seminar and Preneet Kaur, Minister of State for External Affairs delivered the valedictory address. Anshuman Magazine gave the concluding remarks. 

The gist of the problems identified by Anil and Ranjit Malhotra in their written presentation which was circulated to all the delegates at the Seminar are as follows: 

 *  A foreign based second or third generation descendant of an NRI seeks transfer of title of family property willed to him in rural or urban India. An aging NRI battles in Court to recover possession of urban property in metropolitan India wrested away by unscrupulous elements. Enthusiastic NRI owner sitting abroad desperately seeks remedies to locate share in rural agricultural property to claim ownership on the basis of inheritance. NRI families battle over division of land and property in exclusive control with custodians in India. Horrified NRI shockingly discovers divested share of family property on arriving in India on the basis of fraudulent documentation. Frantic NRI family members try to implement family settlement thwarted by local relatives occupying property locally. These real life instances are now common to NRIs and PIOs. 

 *  During the last over 50 years, large number of Indians have migrated and permanently settled in foreign countries leaving behind their homes, family and landed properties. Now, when the NRIs wish to recover their properties, they find them in forceful or illegal occupation of their trusted childhood guardians or overstaying tenants who have designs to grab the property. Agreements are dishonoured, trust is violated and faith is destroyed. Commercial real estate property of NRIs is grabbed with impunity. The NRI has neither the patience nor the time to fight a protracted legal battle in an Indian law court which may last a lifetime, if fought, waged and litigated till the Apex Court. Legal processes are cumbersome, tedious, technical and move at a snail’s pace. The bottom line is that the NRIs are at a great disadvantage leaving them disillusioned and disappointed. No existing legislation comes to their rescue or aid.

 *  Gullible, excited and patriotic NRIs with a fervor happily invest huge sums of pounds sterling, dollars or Euros in real estate, flats, or immoveable property in India. When it comes to taking actual physical possession of their prized immoveable asset in their homeland, the vulnerable NRI discovers to his horror that either the land or the flat does not exist or that he has been cheated into buying property which does not exist. Unscrupulous, unethical and unprofessional brokers, builders or real estate agents who had made these deals with the NRIs and promised the moon have either disappeared, are untraceable or flatly deny having made any commitment. The dumbfounded NRI is too stunned to react. With little time at his hand on his Indian visit or sitting in a foreign land, he does not know what to do. Who will help him? Should he go to the police or the administrative authorities or to a court of law for a judicial remedy? Where should he seek advice and how does he pursue the case? The questions are myriad but the solutions and answers lie submerged in a complicated web of long winded procedures which on initiation will proceed endlessly at a snail’s pace. The frustrated, dejected and defeated NRI gives up not knowing what to do.

 *  The above summarization is in brief a nutshell of the NRIs ailing property problems for which he seeks a consolidated, composite, timely and effective remedy. The NRI wants to reconnect with his homeland but is disillusioned, disenchanted and disheartened. It is in this backdrop that this paper looks at these peculiar problems with a focus on the state of Punjab which contributes highly to the migratory numbers.

 *  Broadly, property-related problems can be divided under four heads as follows:

(A) Issues relating to Landlord-Tenant Relationships in Punjab and Chandigarh.
(B) Issues relating to Succession, Wills and Inheritance - INDIA, NRIs and Wills.
(C) Problems arising out of Revenue Records and Agricultural Land Disputes—The Position Prevailing in the State of Punjab.
(D) Propositions arising out of Property Investment Related issues in India. 


March 2010

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