Special Courts Current Affairs - 2019
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Parliament 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 as person against whom arrest warrant has been issued against him for any specified offences where value involved is over Rs. 100 crore and he has left ountry and refuses to return to face prosecution.
Special Court: The Bill empowers Special Court (designated under Prevention of Money-Laundering Act, 2002) to declare person as FEO based on application made. The Special Court will require person to appear at specified place at least six weeks from issue notice. Proceedings will be terminated if the person appears.
Confiscation of properties: The Bill allows director or deputy director (appointed under Prevention of Money-Laundering Act, 2002) to attach any property mentioned in application with permission of special court. Upon declaration as FEO, properties of person will be confiscated and vested in central government, free of rights and claims in property. Further it bars FEO or any company associated with him from filing or defending civil claims.
Bar on filing or defending civil claims: The Bill bars any court or tribunal may bar FEO or associated company from filing or defending civil claims before it.
Search warrant: The Bill does not require authorities to obtain search warrant or ensure presence of witnesses before search.
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.Under this law, appeals against orders of special court will lie before High Court.
The Union Government has framed a scheme to set up 12 Special Courts for a year to fast-track the trial of criminal cases against 1,581 MPs and MLAs. This decision was conveyed by Government to Supreme Court and is intended to end inordinate delay in prosecution of politicians in criminal cases.
Criminalisation of politics is one of the major concerns in India as several politicians facing charges of murder, corruption, rape and abduction continue to be lawmakers. In November 2017, the Supreme Court had asked Union Government to come up with scheme to set up special courts for trying criminal cases against legislators. It had directed the government that aim of the scheme must be disposing of 1,581 criminal cases involving political persons within a time frame of one year. The apex court was hearing a PIL filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay. The petitioner is seeking a lifelong ban on convicted politicians from contesting elections.
Proposed Government Scheme
Initially, 12 courts would be constituted. Two special courts will handle cases against 228 MPs and remaining 10 courts will be set up in 10 states viz. Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Kerala, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
These 10 states have number of MLAs booked for criminal acts more than 65. In states where there are less than 65 cases, the cases will be sent to existing fast track courts with the Supreme Court approval. The number of courts has been calculated on basis of 11th Finance Commission analysis which mandates that one such court can dispose of 165 cases per annum. The scheme is silent on special judicial forum to hear criminal cases against 44 Rajya Sabha MPs and also on which court will hear them.