LS takes up Bill to deter fugitive economic offenders

New Delhi,  The Lok Sabha on Thursday took up a bill that provides for measures to deter fugitive economic offenders from evading prosecution by staying outside the jurisdiction of Indian courts.

Taking part in the discussion on The Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2018, BJP’s Nishikant Dubey blamed the previous Congress-led UPA government for the rise in non-performing assets of banks.

Opposition parties, however, termed the Bill as “eyewash”, saying the government wanted to be seen to be taking action in various cases involving Lalit Modi, Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi, all of whom are living outside the country.

Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) member N.K. Premchandran, who had on Wednesday moved a statutory resolution, said he supported the intent behind the Bill, but the government should not have resorted to an ordinance, he said.

He said the bill was introduced in the Budget session of Parliament and efforts should have been made to pass it in that session.

Congress member Shashi Tharoor said the Bill was poorly drafted and would not withstand judicial scrutiny.

He questioned the logic behind the provision putting the minimum value of offence before the special court at Rs 100 crore. He said the threshold should be removed.

“This (the Bill) will not survive a constitutional test. It has been brought purely for optics and to play to the gallery. It suffers major lacunae. Any Bill we pass should be legally sound. It is too serious an issue to become another jumla,” he said.

Tharoor said the government should also review its extradition process with other countries.

Nationalist Congress Party member Supriya Sule said there was a provision of confiscation of property in the Criminal Procedure Code also. She said the banking system should improve. There was a need to look into problems of employees who worked in companies floated by the fugitive offenders.

Kalyan Banejree of Trinamool Congress termed the Bill as “eyewash” and said it had some provisions which could be misused.

BJP’s Nishikant Dubey said bank NPAs had gone up as some high-value loans were given during the UPA rule without adequate scrutiny.

According to the Bill, a person can be declared as a fugitive economic offender (FEO) if an arrest warrant is issued against him for any specified offences involving over Rs 100 crore and he has left the country and refuses to return to face prosecution.

To declare a person an FEO, an application will be filed in a Special Court designated under the Prevention of Money-Laundering Act, 2002.

The Bill provides for confiscation of any FEO’s property bought from the proceeds of crime as also his other assets, benami or otherwise.

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