Free Press Journal

Economic Offenders Bill passed in Parliament


New Delhi : Parliament on Wednesday passed a legislation that provides for confiscation of assets of big economic offenders who flee the country to avoid prosecution, as the government looks to deter likes of Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi from absconding.

The Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2018 was passed by a voice vote in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday. The Lok Sabha had cleared it on July 19.

While introducing the bill in the Upper House, Finance Minister Piyush Goyal said there have been many instances of economic offences for past several decades, reports PTI.

The existing laws does not allow the authorities to adequately deal with the severity of the problem, he said.

“(Existing) criminal law does not allow us to impound their property,” he said, while explaining the rationale behind the bill, which replaces an ordinance.

“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 the assets of such absconders till they don’t present themselves before the courts. We will also work out what has to be done with the confiscated assets,” Goyal said.

Soon after the minister moved the bill, Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu also remarked: “What is agitating the common man in the country is whether the system is so helpless” in dealing with economic offenders.

Later replying to the debate, Goyal said there cannot be a situation when economic offenders run away from the country and also protect their properties.

“This Bill will deter people from running away. And those who have already fled, they return out of fear of attachment of their properties.”

The government is also making efforts to get those accused, who have gone abroad to escape the legal process, extradited, he said.

Rebutting opposition charges that the government has failed to bring back black money, Goyal said: “We are fighting against black money and forcing offenders to face the legal process”.

Justifying the financial limit of Rs 100 crore for invoking the provisions of fugitive economic offender law, Goyal said it was being done to “catch the big offenders and not to clog the courts”.

The Enforcement Directorate will be the investigative agency under the Act, he said.

There are provisions of special courts to declare a person fugitive economic offender in an expeditious manner.

Once a person is declared offender, his or her property would be confiscated, managed and disposed of, he said, adding that the attachment of properties would be done in a time-bound manner and effectively.

With opposition members protesting that they did not get copies of amendments moved by one member, the Chairman ordered an enquiry into the matter. Naidu although said his office had informed him that it was circulated on July 24.

During the debate, the opposition members attacked the government for lack of will to act against the culprits despite having several laws.

Congress member Vivek K Tankha criticised the government saying there was “no shortage of laws in India. But they get away because the government does not have the will to stop the willful defaulters.”