President Ram Nath Kovind on April 22, 2018 promulgated the Fugitive Economic Offenders Ordinance, which will allow the government to confiscate properties and assets of loan defaulters who flee the nation.
The President approved the ordinance following its approval by the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on March 12, but it could not be taken up for discussion due to disruptions in the house over various issues.
Key Provisions of the Ordinance
• The ordinance seeks to confiscate properties of economic offenders who have left the country to avoid facing criminal prosecution.
• The provision will apply for economic offenders who refuse to return, persons against whom an arrest warrant has been issued for a scheduled offence as well as willful bank loan defaulters with an outstanding of over ₹100 crore.
• The ordinance also provides for confiscation of assets even without a conviction and paying off lenders by selling off the fugitive’s properties.
• Such economic offenders will be tried under Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
Who is a Fugitive Economic offender?
The ordinance uses the term to define a person against whom an arrest warrant has been issued for committing an offence like counterfeiting government stamps or currency, cheque dishonour for insufficiency of funds, money laundering and transactions defrauding creditors.
A fugitive economic offender is one who has left the country to avoid facing criminal prosecution, or refuses to return to face prosecution.
• According to the ordinance, a director or deputy director appointed under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002 may file an application before a special court designated under the 2002 Act to declare a person as a fugitive economic offender.
• The application will contain the reasons proving that the concerned individual is a fugitive economic offender.
• The application will also have the information of the fugitive’s whereabouts, a list of properties believed to be proceeds of a crime, a list of benami properties or foreign properties and a list of people having an interest in these properties.
• Upon receiving the application, the special court will issue a notice to the individual, directing him to appear at a specified place within the stipulated time of six weeks.
• If the person appears at the specified place, the special court will terminate its proceedings under the provisions of the Bill.
• Any property belonging to the fugitive economic offender may provisionally be attached without the prior permission of the special court, provided that an application is filed before the court within 30 days.
• Appeals against the orders of the special court will lie before the high court.