A Bill to empower the authorities to confiscate and sell assets of economic offenders, especially bank fraudsters and scamsters who have fled the country, was introduced in the Lok Sabha on Monday.

The Economic Offenders Bill 2018 was introduced by Shiv Pratap Shukla, Minister of State for Finance, in the Lower House amidst din over the PNB scam.

The Bill paves the way for confiscation of all assets, including benami assets, both within and outside the country, of declared economic offenders. The proposed law will apply for economic offences with monetary value in excess of ₹100 crore.

The Government’s move to enact such legislation comes in the wake of several high profile industrialists like liquor baron Vijay Mallya, and diamantaires Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi duping the banking system and evading the process of law in India by staying outside the jurisdiction of Indian courts.

All cases under the proposed law will be tried under the PMLA Act and the administrator will sell the fugitive's properties to pay off the lenders.

The proposed law will have an overriding effect over all other pieces of legislation. The offender will not be able to pursue any civil cases in India, a government statement said.

The Bill got introduced in the Lok Sabha on Monday despite BJD leader Bhartruhari Mahtab opposing its introduction.

He felt the Bill, when enacted, had the potential to be misused as it provides for the presumption of “guilty until proven innocent” for an accused.

“Anyone can be prosecuted or property can be acquired without the person being found guilty. These provisions are against the fundamental rights,” Mahtab said.

It may be recalled that the Union Cabinet had earlier this month given its nod for the Bill.

An explanatory note to the draft Bill said, “A fugitive economic offender is a person who has an arrest warrant issued in respect of a scheduled offence and who leaves or has left India so as to avoid criminal prosecution, or refuses to return to India to face criminal prosecution.”

The Government on Monday introduced a Chit Funds (Amendment) Bill 2018 to amend the Chit Funds Act 1982 and facilitate orderly growth of the sector.

Chit funds Bill

Shiv Pratap Shukla, Minister of State for Finance, introduced the Bill. The Bill, among other things, seeks to hike the commission of foremen from 5 per cent to 7 per cent.

The Bill provides for allowing the mandatory presence of two subscribers as required, either in person or through video conferencing, duly recorded by the foreman, while the bids are being opened.