THE Lok Sabha has approved The Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill to prevent the accused involved in bank fraud and other such economic offences from fleeing the country. Incidentally, the investigative agencies are facing hurdle after hurdle to repatriate such offenders who have taken shelter in some foreign countries .The Opposition questioned the Government’s sincerity in taking any action against such offenders. The House later passed the legislation by a voice vote as Finance Minister Piyush Goyal said the Government had brought an ordinance before introducing the Bill in Parliament which reflected its “aggressiveness” in acting against black money and such offenders. Goyal also asked why the UPA Government had not brought a similar legislation during its ten –year regime. The Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill 2013 empowered the agencies to seize properties which are not only in the name of offenders but also the ones that are ‘benami’.The Opposition demanded to bring the Bill with retrospective effect to book offenders who have already fled. But the Finance Minister said it was not possible as the Government “knows how to bring the accused to book”. During two-hour debate on the Bill, the Opposition questioned the Government’s sincerity in acting against economic offenders saying many of them have fled the country during its rule, even as the BJP maintained that the banks were being helped to recover their money. RSP member NK Ramachandran followed by several other Opposition MPs charged the Government with allegedly felicitating Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi and other economic offenders to flee the country under its nose. Calling for a Joint Parliamentary Probe into these incidents to bring out the truth, Ramachandran from Kerala said the Bill should be sent to The Standing Committee for evaluation saying he was opposed to rule by ordinance .Initiating the debate on the bill, Nishikant Dubey (BJP) strongly supported the measure saying it will allow the Government to recover its dues from the absconding offenders. He claimed that absconding accused like Mallya, Modi, and Choksi were “products of the Congress Government”. The Congress Government had “facilitated” them to commit scams. He alleged that then Finance Minister P Chidambaram had “tweaked rules” to help certain firms linked to some of these accused days before the BJP Government took over in 2014.He further said INR 9.93 lakh crore of the INR 10 lakh crore of NPA of banks had originated during the UPA era. Countries like the United Kingdom, The United States of America and China have amended their laws to sternly deal with such offences. But the UPA Government never did it. Shashi Tharoor (Cong) said there was a significant gap between the Government’s “rhetoric and action” and took a dig, saying that Nirav Modi was photographed with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Davos. The Prime Minister had promised to be a “chowkidar”.But he has failed in the capacity, he said referring to a number of economic offenders fleeing the country.
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