The Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2018 has been passed in the Lok Sabha Thursday, which will empower authorities to attach and confiscate properties and assets of economic offenders. The bill will replace an ordinance promulgated by the government in April this year.
Speaking in the lower house, Finance Minister Piyush Goyal said the ordinance is the need of the hour. “Cases where the total value involved in such offences is Rs 100 crore or more, will come under its purview. Till 2014 nothing was done on this front,” he was quoted as saying by ANI.
Goyal also asked why the UPA government had not brought a legislation like this. He said the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill 2013 gave power to the agencies to seize properties which are not only in the name of offender, but also the ones that are ‘benami’.
To opposition demand to bring the bill with retrospective effect to book offenders who have already fled, Goyal said it was not possible as the legislation was and the government “knows how to bring the accused to book”.
During the almost two-hour long debate on the bill, the opposition questioned the government’s sincerity in acting
against economic offenders saying many of them have fled the country during its rule, even as the BJP maintained that the banks were being helped to recover their money.
The attack was launched by RSP member N K Premchandran, followed by several other opposition MPs, who charged the government with letting the accused like Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi to flee the country under its rule.
In April this year, the Union Cabinet led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi had approved the Finance Ministry’s proposal of promulgating the Fugitive Economic Offenders Ordinance, 2018. After the recent financial frauds came to fore in India, especially the Rs 13,000 crore PNB scam where diamantaire Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi fled the country, it became apparent that the existing civil and criminal provisions are not entirely adequate to deal with the severity of the problem.
The absence of offenders during investigations poses problems for the probing agencies apart from undermining the law of the country.
What will be the benefit from this bill?
The bill is expected to 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.
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