The government on Thursday proposed a stringent legislation to confiscate properties of “fugitive economic offenders” to deal with persons like Vijay Mallya who flee the country to escape the law. The provisions of the proposed Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2017, once passed by Parliament, will override other legislations dealing with economic offences.
“It is widely felt that the spectre of high-value economic offenders absconding from India to defy the legal process seriously undermines the rule of law in India,” the finance ministry said in a statement.
“It is, therefore, felt necessary to provide an effective, expeditious and constitutionally permissible deterrent to ensure that such actions are curbed,” it added.
As per the draft law, a ‘fugitive economic offender’, means any individual against whom a warrant for arrest in relation to an economic offence has been issued and the person has left the country and refuses to return to India to face criminal prosecution.
It further proposes that the burden of proof for establishing that an individual is a fugitive economic offender will be on the authorities.
“The confiscation order of the Special Court will, to the extent possible, identify the property that constitutes proceeds of crime which are to be confiscated and in case such properties cannot be identified, quantify the value of the proceeds of crime,” it said.
The proposed law is to provide for measures to deter economic offenders from evading the process of Indian law by remaining outside the jurisdiction of Indian courts, “thereby preserving the sanctity of the rule of law in India”.
It follows announcement regarding it by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his Budget speech on February 1.
Jaitley had said the government was considering introducing legislative changes or even a new law to confiscate the assets of such absconders till they submit to the jurisdiction of the appropriate legal forum.
He had said that in the recent past, there have been instances of big time offenders, including economic offenders, fleeing the country to escape the reach of law.
“We have to ensure that the law is allowed to take its own course,” he had said.
Mallya, the 61-year-old chief of the erstwhile Kingfisher Airlines who owes over Rs 9,000 crore to various Indian banks, had fled India to escape legal proceedings in connection with the loans.
India is making efforts to get the embattled Indian tycoon extradited from the UK.