The Union Cabinet of Narendra Modi government approved Fugitive Economic Offenders Ordinance 2018. The ordinance is expected to empower government authorities to nab absconders like jewellers Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi, Vijay Mallya. This ordinance will also enable government to seize the assets of economic offenders. No doubt, this will be a great help in tackling economic offenders who will make an attempt to evade Indian law by remaining outside the jurisdiction of domestic courts. Meanwhile, banks and other financial institutions will also be in a better position with the Ordinance. With higher recovery from defaults of the culprits, the health of the financial institutions is bound to improve. Anyhow, cases where the total value involved exceeds Rs 100 crore or more will be in the purview of the ordinance.
In the last few years, the Narendra Modi government has been embarrassed by so many cases where big time economic offenders have fled from the country. In many of these cases, the authorities directly or indirectly acknowledged that the existing civil and criminal provisions were not adequate to deal with the scenario or bring back the economic offenders. Adding embarrassment to the authorities, in many of these cases, the culprits even gave public statements that they are not going to face Indian law and come back the country. In view of such a precarious circumstance, the Union government in the finance budget hinted that the government is considering introduction of legislative changes or a new law to confiscate properties of absconders.
The political angle behind initiating such an ordinance is also clearly evident. When Narendra Modi led BJP to an emphatic victory over Congress and other opposition, one of the major poll promises was the assurance to nab loan defaulters and economic offenders. In reality, the situation was absolutely different as culprits with association with BJP, fooled the authorities and fled to evade Indian law and possible punishment. With existing law, it wasn’t possible to auction the properties also. Thus ahead of the Lok Sabha elections next year, BJP was facing political pressure to ‘act’ on this matter. The ordinance itself is a major assurance to such that the government is committed to the economic health of the country including the citizens as well as the public and private financial institutions.