Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill gets president’s assent

President Ram Nath Kovind has given assent to the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2018, that will deter offenders to evade legal process in India and flee the country. The bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha on 25 July and by the Lok Sabha on 19 July. A fugitive economic offender is an individual against whom warrants for arrest is issued for his involvement in select economic offenses involving an amount of at least ₹ 100 crores and has left India so as to avoid criminal prosecution.

The Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, 2018, allows designated special court to declare a person as a fugitive economic offender and to confiscate his property, including ‘benami’ ones.

Justifying the financial limit of ₹ 100 crores for invoking the provisions of this new law, finance minister Piyush Goyal had recently said in Parliament that it was being done to “catch the big offenders and not to clog the courts”.

The Enforcement Directorate will be the investigative agency under the Act, he had said.

The president has also given nod to other laws, including the Negotiable Instruments (Amendment) Act, 2018, the State Banks (Repeal and Amendment) Act, 2018, and the Specific Relief (Amendment) Act, 2018.

The Negotiable Instruments (Amendment) Act, 2018, is aimed at allowing a court to try offenses related to cheque bounce expeditiously and direct the drawee to pay a minimum of 20% of the cheque amount as interim compensation.

The State Banks (Repeal and Amendment) Act, 2018, is to repeal two other laws—The State Bank of India (Subsidiary Banks) Act, 1959, and the State Bank of Hyderabad Act, 1956—and to further amend the State Bank of India Act, 1955.

The Specific Relief (Amendment) Act, 2018, grants a party the right to seek damages from the other side in case of a breach of a business contract and to reduce the discretion of courts in such matters. Bills in these regards were approved by Parliament recently.

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