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Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2018 approved, will force offenders to return India and face trial, says Centre Govt

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Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2018

New Delhi: Amid PNB fraud row, the government has come up with a Bill to deter economic offenders from evading the process of Indian law by remaining outside the jurisdiction of Indian courts. The Union Cabinet has approved the proposal of the Ministry of Finance to introduce the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2018  in the Parliament. 

The Bill makes provisions for a Court (‘Special Court’ under the Prevention of Money-laundering Act, 2002) to declare a person as a Fugitive Economic Offender.

The cases where the total value involved in such offences is Rs.100 crore or more will come under the purview of this Bill.

Purpose of the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2018 Bill

The Bill is expected to include measures to compel the fugitive economic offenders to return to India to face trial for scheduled offences.

The government claimed it would also help the banks and other financial institutions to achieve higher recovery from financial defaults committed by such fugitive economic offenders.

It is expected that the special forum would be created for an expeditious confiscation of the proceeds of crime, in India or abroad. It would coerce the fugitive to return to India to submit to the jurisdiction of Courts in India to face the law for their offences, claimed the government.

What does Fugitive Economic Offender mean

A Fugitive Economic Offender is a person against whom an arrest warrant has been issued in respect of a scheduled offence and who has left India so as to avoid criminal prosecution, or being abroad, refuses to return to India to face criminal prosecution.

What are Scheduled offence

As per the government, a scheduled offence refers to a list of economic offences contained in the Schedule to this Bill. Further, in order to ensure that Courts are not over-burdened with such cases, only those cases where the total value involved in such offences is 100 crore rupees or more, is within the purview of this Bill.

Silent features of the FEO Bill, 2018 

  1. Application before the Special Court for a declaration that an individual is a fugitive economic offender;
  2. Attachment of the property of a fugitive economic offender;
  3. Issue of a notice by the Special Court to the individual alleged to be a fugitive economic offender;
  4. Confiscation of the property of an individual declared as a fugitive economic offender resulting from the proceeds of crime;
  5. Confiscation of other  property belonging to such offender in India and abroad, including benami property;
  6. Disentitlement of the fugitive economic offender from defending any civil claim; and
  7. An Administrator will be appointed to manage and dispose of the confiscated property under the Act.

Conditions

If at any point of time in the course of the proceeding prior to the declaration, however, the alleged Fugitive Economic Offender returns to India and submits to the appropriate jurisdictional Court, proceedings under the proposed Act would cease by law.

All necessary constitutional safeguards in terms of providing hearing to the person through counsel, allowing him time to file a reply, serving notice of summons to him, whether in India or abroad and appeal to the High Court have been provided for.

Further, provision has been made for the appointment of an Administrator to manage and dispose of the property in compliance with the provisions of law.

There have been several instances of economic offenders fleeing the jurisdiction of Indian courts, anticipating the commencement, or during the pendency, of criminal proceedings.

The absence of such offenders from Indian courts has several deleterious consequences – first, it hampers investigation in criminal cases; second, it wastes precious time of courts of law, third, it undermines the rule of law in India.

Further, most such cases of economic offences involve non-repayment of bank loans thereby worsening the financial health of the banking sector in India.

The existing civil and criminal provisions in law are not entirely adequate to deal with the severity of the problem. It is, therefore, necessary to provide an effective, expeditious and constitutionally permissible deterrent to ensure that such actions are curbed.

 It may be mentioned that the non-conviction-based asset confiscation for corruption-related cases is enabled under provisions of United Nations Convention against Corruption (ratified by India in 2011). The Bill adopts this principle.

In view of the above context, a Budget announcement was made by the Government in the Budget 2017-18 that the Government was 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.

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Foundation Stone of Shiv Dham at Mandi Laid, Will Cost Rs. 150 Crore

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Shiv Dham Mandi model

Mandi: Shiv Dham construction at Mandi would cost over Rs. 150 crores to the State. It was informed during the foundation stone laying ceremony of the Shiv Dham Phase-I to be developed at Kangnidhar. The First Phase of this project would be completed at a cost of Rs. 40 crore, the government said.

The Shiv Dham would be developed in an area of 9.5 hectares. Shiv Dham would have replicas of twelve Jyotirlingam, a statue of Lord Shiva and Ganesh, Museum, Food Court, Herbal Garden, Nakshatra Vatika, Amphi-theatre, Orientation Centre, Car Parking etc. 

Further, it was informed that the foundation stone of multi-storey parking was laid near U-Block. An estimated amount of Rs. 100 crore would be spent on Public-Private Partnership mode, the government informed.

There is also a proposal to construct Rs. 27 crore Anaj Mandi (Grain Market) in Mandi, it was informed.

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New Farm Laws May Sound Death Knell for States like Himachal: 19 Organizations Said While Expressing Solidarity with Farmers Protest

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Himachal PRadesh supports farmers protest

Shimla-More support is pouring in for the farmers protest from Himachal Pradesh. Today, about 19 social organizations, women’s organizations, and farmer groups issued a joint public statement in solidarity with the three-month long farmer’s movement in the country.

The statement demands the repeal of three new farm laws introduced by the central government and calls for strengthening minimum support prices, extending it to crops, especially fruits and vegetables grown for the market in Himachal Pradesh. The statement is critical of the non-democratic manner in which the bills were passed in the parliament in a hurry in the middle of the Covid-led lockdown.

Highlighting the issues with each of the laws the organizations condemned the fact that these are designed to benefit the large corporate houses which would ultimately break the back of the farmers.

The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020 has the potential of destroying the government-led APMC mandis, the organizations said.

The second law on contract farming puts the farmers in the dock by not just opening them to risks when getting into contracts with companies but also by closing the door of the courts for redressal for farmers, the statement said.

Also Read: Supporters in Himachal Displaying Solidarity With Protesting Farmers, Term Delhi Violence a Failed Conspiracy to Discredit Movement

Further, the statement said that the third law, the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020, as corporates are allowed to buy, store, sell produce minus regulation and accountability of any sort. It also seeks to restrict the powers of the government with respect to the production, supply, and distribution of certain key commodities. It is now evident that this will have a direct impact on the storage and distribution of subsidized grains by the government. This can turn out to be a direct threat to the food security of the country.

“For a state like Himachal Pradesh where a large section of the population depends heavily on food grains produced by the farmers of the plains and distributed at subsidized rates through the PDS these laws could prove to be a death knell,” the groups said in the statement.

Even for those who are able to procure from the market, the rising prices of commodities would be a direct hit on their pockets. Apart from the consumers, the farmers of the state will also suffer a setback. The absence of MSPs for fruits and off-season vegetables and lack of APMC markets here have already been a cause of concern for the cash croppers of the state, the statement read.

“In fact fruit and vegetable producer unions have been demanding extension of MSPs and better markets so that apple producers for example are not exploited by ‘middlemen’ and private vendors,” the organizations said.

In the Terai region where there is a surplus of maize produce, farmers are forced to sell it at Rs 1000 to 1200 whereas Rs 1850 is the MSP – but the markets are too far for them to access, they said.

The statement has also condemned the manner in which the state and central governments have tried to defame the peaceful protests through various tactics.

“The repression of those coming out in support of the farmer’s movement, be it activists or journalists reporting on the developments is utterly shameful and against the principles of democracy,” the statement said.

The groups said that they are also going to send this statement as a submission to the President of India demanding the repeal of the three laws.

Housing in makeshift camps, tens of thousands of farmers have been protesting on Delhi borders for nearly 100 days now. Though the protests had begun last year, the movement has seen massive growth in recent weeks as it receiving support from environmental activists, opposition parties, and even Western celebrities. Now, this farmer’s movement is spreading to the country’s northern and western farm belts.

The group of organizations that issued this statement include All India Democratic Women’s Association, HP (AIDWA), Bhumiheen Bhumi Adhikar Manch, HP, Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti, Citizens’ Rights Forum, Kangra, Ekal Nari Shakti Sangathan, HP, Ghumantu Pashupalak Mahasabha, Chamba, Himachal Kisan Sabha, Himalaya Niti Abhiyan, Himdhara Environment Research and Action Collective, Parvatiya Mahila Adhikar Manch, Right To Education Forum, HP, Samajik Arthik Samanta ke Liye Jan Abhiyan, Save Lahaul Spiti, Spiti Civil Society, Sirmaur Van Adhikar Manch, Sambhaavnaa Institute, SUTRA, Solan,  Tower Line Soshit Jagrukta Manch, Himachal Pradesh, and Zila Van Adhikar Samiti, Kinnaur.

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Ugly Brawl at HP Vidhan Sabha on Budget Session’s Opening Day, Five Congress Legislators Suspended for Rest of Session

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HP Vidhan Sabha

Shimla- The Budget Session 2021-22 of the Himachal Pradesh Vidhan Sabha witnessed an ugly scene on the opening day of the session. The situation was so tense that it led to a scuffle between BJP MLAs, Minister, and Congress legislator including the leader of opposition Mukesh Agnihotri. Congress alleged that its legislators were manhandled. Following this incident, five legislators including Agnihotri, Harsh Vardhan, Satpal Raizada, Vinay Kumar, and Sunder Singh Thakur were reportedly suspended for the rest of the session. Later, an FIR was also filed against the legislators at the Boileauganj Police Station.

It was shocking to see the Speaker, Deputy Speaker, and Chief Minister jumping into the brawl as it raised concerns about arrangement and management of security at the Vidhan Sabha.

The motion for their suspension was introduced and passed in the absence of opposition legislators.

What Happened at Vidhan Sabha

Mukesh Agnihotri disrupted the speech of the Governor saying that it includes no mention of crucial issues like price rise of petrol, diesel cooking gas, inflation, unemployment, corruption, back-door entries etc. Agnihotri said the speech was nothing more than a bundle of lies. Agnihotri claim that Dattatreya had skipped a major portion of his speech and had chosen to stay mum on these critical issues. Governor Bandaru Dattatraya, following din, did not read the entire speech and ended his speech within 15 minutes abruptly.

Subsequently, the proceedings were adjourned till 2 pm on Monday. 

When the Governor was leaving from Vidhan Sabha, Mukesh Agnihotri, along with other Congress legislators, blocked the road and did not let the Governor’s car leave the premises. Agnihotri was seen trying to lay on the bonnet of the car. Videos clearly showed legislator pushing each other and using a hostile tone. Minister Suresh Bhardwaj was seen falling down on the ground, while Deputy Speaker Hans Raj was seen pushing Congress legislators.

“It’s the first time in the history of Himachal Pradesh Vidhan Sabha that the Governor did not read the entire speech and allegedly fled the Vidhan Sabha,” Agnihotri said. He said that Congress legislators only wanted to speak to the Governor.

Agnihotri alleged that they were pushed, dragged, and manhandled even though they were only raising slogans and did not even touch the Governor or the Chief Minister. 

Speaking on the suspension of five Congress legislators, Vikramaditya Singh, MLA of Shimla (Rural) questioned as to why only action was taken on the Congress legislators and not the Deputy Speaker, Hans Raj. In videos, he was seen pushing Congress legislators.

The Speaker, HP Vidhan Sabha, Vipin Parmar condemned the ruckus and blamed it on the Congress legislators. He alleged Congress of manhandling the Governor. He said that the incident has brought embarrassment to the State Assembly and the constitution of India. 

Later, when the session was resumed, referring to the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Himachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly, the Chief Minister said that Rule number 30 says,

“No member shall interrupt the Governor when he is addressing the House; or display any placard; or shout any slogans; make nay protect; or raise any point of order, debate; or discussion; or otherwise willfully disrupt the proceedings, immediately preceding or during, or immediately following the Governor’s Address under Article 175 (1) of the Constitution and the Governor’s Special Address under 176(1) of the Constitutions, and the commission of any of the above lapses shall be treated as contempt of the House and dealt with as such under these rules.”

The session is scheduled to conclude on March 20.

The chief minister will present the budget for 2021-22 in the Assembly on March 6, Speaker Vipin Parmar had said on Thursday.

 

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