The government on Thursday unveiled a bill which provides for confiscation of properties of "fugitive economic offenders" and deter economic offenders from evading the process of Indian law by remaining outside the jurisdiction of Indian courts, in a bid to preserve the sanctity of the rule of law in India.
The bill called 'Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, 2017' empowers government to confiscate fugitive property, a section that comes into force at once, while the central government may appoint a date by notification in the Official Gazette on which the remaining provisions will come into force.
The bill defines a ''fugitive economic offender'' as any individual against whom a warrant for arrest in relation to a scheduled offence has been issued by any court in India, who leaves or has left India so as to avoid criminal prosecution or refuses to return to India to face criminal prosecution.
"A scheduled offence refers to a list of economic offences contained in the schedule to this bill," a government statement said.
The government may appoint different dates of coming into force for different provisions of the Act.
The draft legislation is seen as a measure to deal with cases such as beleaguered liquor baron Vijay Mallya who has fled to the United Kingdom to evade Indian law.
The government is seeking Mallya's extradition from the UK as he has defaulted on loans worth Rs 9,000 crore from state-run banks linked to his now defunct Kingfisher Airlines.
"It is widely felt that the spectre of high-value economic offenders absconding from India to defy the legal process seriously undermines the rule of law in India. It is, therefore, felt necessary to provide an effective, expeditious and constitutionally permissible deterrent to ensure that such actions are curbed," a government statement said detailing the new "Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2017".
In his 2017-18, finance minister Arun Jaitley had said that the government is considering to introduce legislative changes or even a new law to confiscate the assets of such absconders till they submit to the jurisdiction of the appropriate legal forum. The bill has a provision for a court of law ('special court' under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act) to declare a person a fugitive economic offender.