Govt introduces bill to confiscate properties of fugitive offenders

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New Delhi, March 12: The government on Monday introduced the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill in the Lok Sabha.
The bill seeks to confiscate and sell properties of those offenders who try to evade the process of law in India by staying outside the jurisdiction of the country’s courts.
The bill will be applicable for all offences where the monetary value exceeds Rs 100 crore.
According to the bill, economic offenders are those individuals who have committed a scheduled offence involving Rs 100 crore or above and absconded from India or refused to come back to avoid or face criminal prosecution.
Fugitives such as jewellery designer Nirav Modi, the face behind Rs 12,700 crore Punjab National Bank loan fraud and Kingfisher’s Vijay Mallya will come under the ambit of the law.
The bill was introduced in the House by Minister of State Shiv Pratap Shukla amid opposition by BJD member Bhartuhari Mahtab.
Mahtab opposed the introduction of the bill saying it goes against the fundamental rights of the people.
He said the bill was based on the premise of “guilty till proven innocent” and objected to the provision of confiscating assets before being proven guilty.
Shukla, however, said that all the provisions can be debated during the discussion on the bill in the House.
The proposed bill will allow authorities to confiscate all the properties of a fugitive offender, including his or her benami properties.
The new law also has a provision to confiscate asset and properties of the fugitive on a foreign soil.
However, this will require international cooperation with the country concerned.
Under the proposed law, an accused person will not have any right to purse a civil claim in the case.
“There have been several instances of economic offenders fleeing the jurisdiction of Indian courts, anticipating the commencement, or during the pendency, of criminal proceedings. The absence of such offenders from Indian courts has several deleterious consequences – first, it hampers investigation in criminal cases; second, it wastes precious time of courts of law, third, it undermines the rule of law in India…,” said the statement of object and reasons of the bill.
It further said that most such cases of economic offences involve non-repayment of bank loans thereby worsening the financial health of the banking sector in India.
The existing civil and criminal provisions in law are not entirely adequate to deal with the severity of the problem.
“It is, therefore, felt necessary to provide an effective, expeditious and constitutionally permissible deterrent to ensure that such actions are curbed,” it said.
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). The bill adopts this principle.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his Budget in 2017-18 has said that the government was considering introducing legislative changes or even a new law to confiscate the assets of such absconders till they submit to the jurisdiction of the appropriate legal forum. (Agencies)