Bills and Acts Current Affairs

Lok Sabha passes Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2018

Lok Sabha has passed Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2018 that aims to curb practice of evading criminal prosecution by economic offenders fleeing from country to evade clutches Indian law by remaining outside jurisdiction of Indian courts.. The bill will replace an ordinance promulgated by President in April 2018.

Key Features of Bill

Fugitive economic offender (FEO): It has been defined as person against whom an arrest warrant has been issued for committing an offence listed in schedule (enlisted in the this law) by any court in India, but he leaves or has left India to avoid criminal prosecution or  refuses to return to India to face criminal prosecution. It is applicable in cases where total value involved in such economic offences is Rs.100 crore or more.

Special Court: It establishes Special Court under the Prevention of Money-laundering Act (PMLA), 2002 to declare a person as FEO. The court will appoint ‘administrator’ to oversee confiscated property. It will be responsible for disposing of confiscated property and t property will be used to satisfy creditors’ claims.

Attachment of property: It empowers director or deputy director (appointed under Prevention of Money-Laundering Act, 2002) to attach any property mentioned in application with permission of special court. These properties can be attached provisionally without the prior permission of the special court for 30 days. The attachment will continue for 180 days, unless it is extended by special court. If at the conclusion of proceedings, person is not found to be FEO, his properties will be released.

Bar on filing or defending civil claims: The bill allows any civil court or tribunal to disallow person declared FEO, from filing or defending any civil claim. Further, any company or limited liability partnership where FEO is majority shareholder, then promoter, or a key managerial person (such as MD or CEO) will also be barred from filing or defending civil claims.

Powers of director: The director or deputy director will have powers vested of civil court. These powers include entering a place on the belief that individual is FEO and directing searching of building or seizing documents.

Appeal: Under this law, appeals against orders of special court will lie before High Court.

Background

There have been several instances of economic offenders (eg Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi) fleeing country to evade clutches Indian law to remain outside jurisdiction of Indian courts. The absence of such offenders from Indian courts has several deleterious consequences. It hampers investigation in criminal cases, wastes precious time of courts of law, undermines rule of law in India.

Further, most such cases of economic offences involve non-repayment of bank loans thereby worsening financial health of banking sector. Moreover, existing non-coherent civil and criminal provisions in law are not entirely adequate to deal with severity of problem. This bill will provide effective, expeditious and constitutionally permissible deterrent legal teeth to enforcing agencies to ensure that such actions of FEO are curbed.

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Rajya Sabha passes Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2013

Rajya Sabha has passed Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2013 to amend various provisions of Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA), 1988. The amendment to PCA, 1988 was necessitated to its review existing provisions to bring it in line with United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) as agreed by India.

Background

The amendments to PCA, 1988 were first brought by UPA government in 2013. The Bill was then referred to Parliamentary Standing Committee, Law Commission of India (LCI) and then in December 2015 to select committee. The report of select committee was submitted in 2016 and again it was moved in August 2017, but was not be taken up.

Key Features of Bill

Giving bribe made punishable offence: The Bill introduces offence of ‘giving a bribe’ as direct offence. Person who is compelled to give bribe who reports matter to law enforcement authorities within seven days will not be charged with this offence.

Redefines Criminal misconduct: The bill redefines provisions related to criminal misconduct to only cover two types of offences viz. illicit enrichment (such as amassing of assets disproportionate to one’s known income sources) and fraudulent misappropriation of property.

Prior approval for investigation: It makes mandatory for taking prior approval of relevant Government or competent authority to conduct any investigation into offence alleged to have been committed by a public servan. Such approval will be not necessary in cases that involve arrest of person on spot on charge of taking a bribe.

Trial Time limit: The bill set trail time period within two if it is handled by special judge. In case of delays, reasons for it must be recorded for every extension of six months obtained. However, total period for completion of trial may not exceed four years.

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