The Union Cabinet Saturday gave its nod for a proposal to promulgate Fugitive Economic Offenders Ordinance 2018 that would empower authorities to attach and confiscate properties and assets of economic offenders like loan defaulters who flee the country.The ordinance, which aims to deter economic offenders like Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi from evading the process of Indian law, was approved at a Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It will come into effect after the assent of the President.
The Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill was first introduced in Lok Sabha on March 12 but could not be passed due to logjam over various issues.
The Ordinance is expected to re-establish the rule of law with respect to the fugitive economic offenders as they would be forced to return to India to face trial for scheduled offences. Besides, it would help the banks and other financial institutions to achieve higher recovery from financial defaults committed by such fugitive economic offenders, thereby improving the financial health of such institutions.
A special forum is expected to be created for expeditious confiscation of the proceeds of crime, in India or abroad, which would coerce the fugitive to return to India to submit to the jurisdiction of Courts in India to face the law in respect of scheduled offences.
The ordinance defines a Fugitive Economic Offender as a person against whom an arrest warrant has been issued in respect of a scheduled offence and who has left India so as to avoid criminal prosecution, or being abroad, refuses to return to India to face criminal prosecution. Such economic offenders will be tried under Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
Further, in order to ensure that Courts are not over-burdened with such cases, only those cases where the total value involved in such offences is 100 crore rupees or more, is within the purview of this Ordinance.
If at any point of time in the course of the proceeding prior to the declaration, however, the alleged Fugitive Economic Offender returns to India and submits to the appropriate jurisdictional Court, proceedings under the proposed Act would cease by law. All necessary constitutional safeguards in terms of providing hearing to the person through counsel, allowing him time to file a reply, serving notice of summons to him, whether in India or abroad and appeal to the High Court have been provided for.
The Ordinance entails the following:
* 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
*Appointment of an Administrator to manage and dispose of the confiscated property under the Act.