Fugitive Economic Offenders Ordinance, 2018 (“the Ordinance”) lays down the measures to empower Indian authorities to attach and confiscate proceeds of crime associated with economic offenders and the properties of the economic offenders and thereby deter economic offenders from evading the process of Indian law by remaining outside the jurisdiction of Indian courts.
The Ordinance makes provisions for a Court (‘Special Court’ under the Prevention of Money-laundering Act, 2002) to declare a person as a Fugitive Economic Offender.
Who is a fugitive economic offender?
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.
Scheduled offences –
A scheduled offence refers to a list of economic offences contained in the Schedule to this Ordinance. Further, in order to ensure that Courts are not over-burdened with such cases, only those cases where the total value involved in such offences is 100 crore rupees or more, is within the purview of this Ordinance.
Salient features –
The Fugitive Economic Offenders Ordinance, 2018, inter alia provides for –
- making an application before the Special Court for a declaration that an individual is a fugitive economic offender;
- attachment of the property of a fugitive economic offender and proceeds of crime;
- issue of a notice by the Special Court to the individual alleged to be a fugitive economic offender;
- confiscation of the property of an individual declared as a fugitive economic offender or even the proceeds of crime;
- disentitlement of the fugitive economic offender from defending any civil claim; and
- appointment of an Administrator to manage and dispose of the confiscated property under the Act.
If at any point of time in the course of the proceeding prior to the declaration, however, the alleged Fugitive Economic Offender returns to India and submits to the appropriate jurisdictional Court, proceedings under the proposed Act would cease by law. All necessary constitutional safeguards in terms of providing hearing to the person through counsel, allowing him time to file a reply, serving notice of summons to him, whether in India or abroad and appeal to the High Court have been provided for.
Major impact –
- It is expected that a special forum to be created for expeditious confiscation of the proceeds of crime, in India or abroad would coerce the fugitive to return to India to submit to the jurisdiction of Courts in India to face the law in respect of scheduled offences.
- Since the proposed law would utilise the existing infrastructure of the Special Courts constituted under under the Prevention of Money-laundering Act, 2002 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. of beneficiaries –
The Bill 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.