New Delhi: President Ram Nath Kovind has given assent to the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2018, that will deter offenders to evade legal process in India and flee the country. The bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha on 25 July and by the Lok Sabha on 19 July. A fugitive economic offender is any individual against whom warrants for arrest is issued for his involvement in select economic offences involving amount of at least ₹ 100 crore and has left India so as to avoid criminal prosecution.
The Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, 2018, allows designated special court to declare a person as fugitive economic offender and to confiscate his property, including ‘benami’ ones.
“All the rights and title in the confiscated property shall, from the date of the confiscation order, vest in the central government, free from all encumbrances," the Act says.
Justifying the financial limit of ₹ 100 crore for invoking the provisions of this new law, finance minister Piyush Goyal had recently said in Parliament that it was being done to “catch the big offenders and not to clog the courts".
“This bill is an effective, expeditious and constitutional way to stop these offenders from running away. Legislative changes or a new law must be in place to confiscate assets of such absconders till they don’t present themselves in front of the courts. We will also work out what has to be done with the confiscated assets," Goyal had said in Rajya Sabha.
The Enforcement Directorate will be the investigative agency under the Act, he had said.
The president has also given nod to other laws, including the Negotiable Instruments (Amendment) Act, 2018, the State Banks (Repeal and Amendment) Act, 2018, and the Specific Relief (Amendment) Act, 2018.
The Negotiable Instruments (Amendment) Act, 2018, is aimed at allowing a court to try offences related to cheque bounce expeditiously and direct the drawee to pay a minimum of 20% of the cheque amount as interim compensation.
The State Banks (Repeal and Amendment) Act, 2018, is to repeal two other laws—The State Bank of India (Subsidiary Banks) Act, 1959, and the State Bank of Hyderabad Act, 1956—and to further amend the State Bank of India Act, 1955.
The Specific Relief (Amendment) Act, 2018, grants a party the right to seek damages from the other side in case of a breach of a business contract and to reduce discretion of courts in such matters. Bills in these regards were approved by Parliament recently.