With Union home minister Rajnath Singh on Monday directing expeditious notification of the rules of Enemy Property Act 2017, the status of over 131 alleged ‘enemy properties’ belonging to the last Nawab of Bhopal and his elder daughter Abida Sultan has come back into focus.

On February 24, 2015, the home ministry vested control of the personal properties of the last Nawab of erstwhile Bhopal State. The move came after a three-year investigation by the office of the Custodian of Enemy Property of India (CEPI), a division of home ministry that handles properties of people who migrated to Pakistan. It cited 131 properties in Bhopal linked to the royal family, estimated to be worth Rs 5,000 crore. Numerous building developments are underway on some of the properties.

Last year, the district administration held a survey that indicated there are only two enemy properties in Bhopal, one of which, Nani Ki Haveli, was allocated by CRPF. However, CEPI has yet to put forth the stance of the district administration in court. Jabalpur-based lawyer Rajesh Pancholi, who represents the Pataudi family, told TOI, “CEPI has not updated Madhya Pradesh high court about the status of district administration survey.”

The Centre vested control of these properties in 2015, which was challenged in court. There is a high court stay on the matter. In his argument before MP high court, Pancholi, who is also Saif Ali Khan’s lawyer, had argued that Sajida Sultan was declared legal heir to Hamidullah Khan’s properties by the Indian government in 1961 through a gazette notification. The 2015 CEPI letter also cited takeover of properties belonging to Abida Sultan, who once was heir apparent and eldest daughter of the last Nawab of Bhopal, Hamidullah Khan. She migrated to Pakistan in 1950.

The last Nawab had three daughters. In the absence of Abida Sultan, Bhopal Nawab’s second daughter Sajida Sultan was declared the heir. Sajida was married to the Nawab of Pataudi Iftikhar Ali in Haryana. Their son was Tiger Pataudi and their grandson is Bollywood actor Saif Ali Khan. Property worth crores in Bhopal and adjoining districts of Sehore and Raisen (earlier part of Bhopal State) are at stake. In Bhopal, there is an estimated 2,600 acre land, while the Nawab’s personal property outside Bhopal is estimated at 3,000 acre .

Unconfirmed reports suggest that CEPI has given the state government a list of 133 properties, spanning 1,600 acres, to investigate. It includes palaces, prime real estate and various farms across Bhopal, Sehore and Raisen districts. The district administration and revenue department officials refused to comment on the matter. Agencies report that survey of 6,289 enemy properties is complete and that of the remaining 2,991 properties, which are vested with the custodian, will be completed soon. The estimated value of these 9,400 properties is around Rs 1 lakh crore.

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