Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2018
In News: The Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill has been passed by Lok Sabha, and will now have to be passed by the Rajya Sabha.
What is the Bill about?
The bill empowers authorities to attach and confiscate properties and assets of economic offenders like loan defaulters who flee the country.
- Aimed at preventing culprits of economic offences from evading the legal process and fleeing the country
- Re-establish the rule of law as the accused will be forced to return to India and face trial for his offences. This would also help the banks and other financial institutions to achieve higher recovery from financial defaults committed by such fugitive economic offenders, improving the financial health of such institutions.
When will this Bill come into effect?
Cases in which the total value involved in such offences is Rs. 100 crore or more – in order to ensure that courts are not over-burdened with such cases.
Who is a fugitive economic offender?
As per the original bill of 2017, the “fugitive economic offender” means any individual against whom a warrant for arrest in relation to a scheduled offence has been issued by any court in India, who:
(i) Leaves or has left India so as to avoid criminal prosecution; or
(ii) Refuses to return to India to face criminal prosecution.
What comes under Economic offences?
Offences under the following Acts:
- Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881;
- Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934;
- Central Excise Act, 1944;
- Customs Act, 1962;
- Prohibition of Benami Property Transactions Act, 1988;
- Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002; and
- Indian Penal Code
- Making an application before the special court for a declaration that an individual is a fugitive economic offender;
- Attachment of the property of a fugitive economic offender and proceeds of crime;
- Issue of a notice by the special court to the individual alleged to be a fugitive economic offender;
- Confiscation of the property of an individual declared as a fugitive economic offender or even the proceeds of crime;
- Disentitlement of the fugitive economic offender from defending any civil claim; and
- Appointment of an administrator to manage and dispose of the confiscated property under the act.
The Way Forward
- Special court will obviously require a lot of technical expertise. We need to talk about how can we strengthen these special courts, how can we man them with experts how can we get them outside help in terms of consultants or of people who can support them and understand the technicalities. It is important for the time-bound nature of the how these trials are supposed to proceed and how it may get impacted.
- The capacity of our legal system needs to get better. The issue of lack of time, and domain knowledge and expertise needs to be taken care of.
- Government needs to focus a lot on how the rules are made and framed in a manner that they reflect the true spirit of the law.
- Govt. needs to reach out to different countries with whom we don’t have as yet the arrangement to have enforcement of the provisions under the law. We need to really expand that list to make sure that very few countries are left; as a matter of fact no country should be left out of the purview of the contracting laws.
Connecting the Dots:
- Critically analyse the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2018.