What is Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill 2018?

The Union Cabinet has approved a Bill – Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill 2018 to bring economic offenders under the law. Main objective of the Bill is to prevent economic offenders evade national laws by remaining outside the jurisdiction of Indian courts after committing economic offences.

Parliaments’ Budget session will consider the Bill.

The Bill addresses a serious problem created by economic offenders whereby they exit the country after making offences like large scale corporate default. To counter this menace, the Bill has the main thrust of seizing the assets of fugitive economic offenders. Proceedings against the absconding offenders staying in foreign jurisdiction is also expected to be strengthened with the passage of the Bill.

What is the coverage of the Bill?

The Bill covers economic offences that have a value of more than Rs 100 crores and where the offender makes economic offences listed in the schedule of the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill.  As per the Bill, a Court (‘Special Court’ under the Prevention of Money-laundering Act, 2002) has to declare a person as a Fugitive Economic Offender.

Who is a fugitive economic offender?

As per the original bill of 2017, the “fugitive economic offender” means any individual against whom a warrant for arrest in relation to a scheduled offence has been issued by any court in India, who:

(i) leaves or has left India so as to avoid criminal prosecution; or

(ii) refuses to return to India to face criminal prosecution.

What will be the impact of the Bill on economic offenders nesting abroad?

The Bill is expected to force fugitive economic offenders to return to India to face trial for the scheduled offences they have made. Though the draft Bill is mainly concentrated on seizure of the assets of the offender, the detailed provisions for the forced return of the offender is expected to be incorporated during the later stage.

What are the major features of the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill?

The Bill proposes to attach the property of the economic offender. For this, a special court should declare the person as fugitive economic offender. Following are the salient features of the Bill (Source: PIB):

  1. Application before the Special Court for a declaration that an individual is a fugitive economic offender;
  2. Attachment of the property of a fugitive economic offender;
  3. Issue of a notice by the Special Court to the individual alleged to be a fugitive economic offender;
  4. Confiscation of the property of an individual declared as a fugitive economic offender resulting from the proceeds of crime;
  5. Confiscation of other property belonging to such offender in India and abroad, including benami property;
  6. Disentitlement of the fugitive economic offender from defending any civil claim; and
  7. An Administrator will be appointed to manage and dispose of the confiscated property under the Act.

The Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill 2018 is expected to quicken and facilitate the seizure of assets of scheduled economic offender. More importantly, the Bill addresses the trending habit of economic offenders to exit the country and stay abroad to escape the legal proceedings in India.