As per a press release by the Ministry of Finance dated March 01, 2018, the Union Cabinet has approved the proposal of the Ministry of Finance to introduce the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2018 (hereinafter referred as ‘the Bill’) in the Parliament in order to avoid further worsening of the financial health of the banking sector in India.
The purview of the Bill extends to those cases where the total value involved in economic offences is INR 100 crore or more.
Purpose of introduction of the Bill:
The Bill is aimed at laying down measures to deter fugitive economic offenders from evading the country and refusing to submit to the jurisdiction of Indian legal system. The Bill defines a fugitive economic offender as:
- An individual against whom a warrant for arrest has been issued in respect of a scheduled offence (refers to a list of economic offences contained in the Schedule to this Bill) by any court in India;
- He escapes India to avoid criminal prosecution; and
- includes those individuals who refuse to return to India to face prosecution under the law.
As per reports, the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has stated that “the government will try to get the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill passed in the upcoming second half of the Budget session while details regarding the National Financial Reporting Authority (NFRA) will be issued soon.”
Features of the Bill:
As per the press release by the Ministry of Finance, the non-conviction-based asset confiscation for corruption-related cases is enabled under provisions of United Nations Convention against Corruption (ratified by India in 2011) and this Bill adopts the same principle. The salient features of the Bill as the press release are as follows:
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; 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 resulting from the proceeds of crime; Confiscation of other property belonging to such offender in India and abroad, including benami property; Disentitlement of the fugitive economic offender from defending any civil claim; and An Administrator will be appointed to manage and dispose of the confiscated property under the Act.
This Bill has been proposed and approved with the intention to re-establish the rule of law by catering to the lacunae in the present laws. This is expected to increase the chances of banks/ financial institutions to recover from financial defaults committed by fugitive economic offenders.