The Fugitive Economic Offenders Ordinance 2018

The Fugitive Economic Offenders Ordinance 2018 has come into force after getting Presidential assent. The Enforcement Directorate is getting ready to tighten noose against all those who fled the country after defrauding people and defaulting on bank loans.

A Fugitive Economic Offender is a person against whom an arrest warrant has been issued in respect of a scheduled offence and who has left India so as to avoid criminal prosecution, or being abroad, refuses to return to India to face criminal prosecution.

A scheduled offence refers to a list of economic offences contained in the Schedule to this Ordinance.

Important provisions of the ordinance:

Special court: The ordinance makes provisions for a special court under the Prevention of Money-laundering Act, 2002 to declare a person as a Fugitive Economic Offender. Scheduled offences worth Rs. 100 crore or more will come under the purview of the ordinance.

Power To Attach Properties: With the assent of the President of India, Fugitive Economic Offenders Ordinance, 2018 is promulgated. The new Law lays down the measures to empower Indian authorities to attach and confiscate the proceeds of crime associated with economic offenders and properties of economic offenders.

Trial In The PMLA Courts: Since the proposed law would utilise the existing infrastructure of the Special Courts constituted under the Prevention of Money-laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA) and the threshold of scheduled offence is high at Rs. 100 crores or more, no additional expenditure is expected on the enactment of the Bill.

No Immunity To Offenders: The ordinance would also enable the courts and tribunals to disallow the fugitive economic offender from putting forward or defending any civil claim.

Aim Of Deportation: Major impact will be that the offenders will return to India to submit to the jurisdiction of Courts in India to face the law in respect of the scheduled offences. Other Major Impact will be that it will 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.

The ordinance was mooted in response to the growing practice of debt-laden Indian citizens flying abroad in a purported attempt to evade the law-enforcement agencies of India.

The significance of this move:

The Ordinance is expected to re-establish the rule of law with respect to the fugitive economic offenders as they would be forced to return to India to face trial for scheduled 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.

The government had in Budget 2017-18 announced that it was considering a law that would enable it to seize the property such absconders, following which the Union Cabinet had on March 1, 2018, approved the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill 2018 to be introduced in Parliament. The Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on March 12 but was not passed due to disruptions and adjournments in both Houses of Parliament.

 

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