Crackdown on economic offenders: Lok Sabha passes bill to allow confiscation of fugitives’ assets
Piyush Goyal said the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill 2013 gave power to the agencies to seize properties which are not only in the name of offender, but also the ones that are ‘benami’.india Updated: Jul 19, 2018 22:28 IST
The Lok Sabha on Thursday passed a bill that empowers authorities to attach and confiscate the assets of fugitive economic offenders and aims to deter them from fleeing the country in an attempt to evade prosecution.
The Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2018 replaces the fugitive economic offenders’ ordinance that was promulgated in April to initiate seizure of assets of jewellers Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi, who fled the country after being accused of the Rs 13,000crore-Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud.
The bill allows for a person to be declared a fugitive economic offender if an arrest warrant is issued against him/her for any specified offence involving over Rs 100 crore and the accused leaves the country and refuses to return to face prosecution.
Speaking during a two-hour-long debate on the bill, finance minister Piyush Goyal said the proposed legislation will ensure justice is not denied.
He said the government’s move to bring an ordinance reflected its “aggressiveness” in taking action against black money offenders.
Initiating the debate, Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) member NK Premchandran said he supported the provisions of the bill but added that the government should not have brought an ordinance.
Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Nishikant Dubey blamed the previous UPA government for the rise in non-performing assets of the banks. He said absconding accused like Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi were “products” of the Congress government, which had also “facilitated” their scams.
“Rs 9.93 lakh crore of the Rs 10 lakh crore of NPAs had originated during the UPA era. Countries like the UK, the US and China amended their laws to deal with such offences, but the UPA government never did it,” he said.
Congress member Shashi Tharoor, however, said the bill was poorly drafted and would not withstand the judicial scrutiny.
He questioned the logic behind the provision putting the minimum value of offence before the special court at Rs 100 crore, and demanded removal of the threshold.
“This 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 (rhetoric),” Tharoor said.
Taking a dig at the BJP, he brought up the issue of Nirav Modi’s photograph with PM Narendra Modi in Davos. Kalyan Banejree of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) termed the bill as “eyewash” and claimed that it had some provisions that could be misused.
First Published: Jul 19, 2018 20:21 IST