LS passes Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, RS anti-corruption amendment

July 19, 2018
New Delhi:The second day of Parliament’s Monsoon Session on Thursday witnessed some productive time with the Lok Sabha passing the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill and the Rajya Sabha passing amendments to the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Both the houses, which were adjourned for the day after passing these two important bills, also expressed concern over incidents of mob lynching and fake news on social media, prompting Rajya Sabha Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu to ask the government to evolve a national policy to curb the menace.

After day-long discussion, the Lok Sabha passed a bill that provides for measures to deter fugitive economic offenders from evading prosecution by staying outside the jurisdiction of Indian courts.

Taking part in the discussion, BJP’s Nishikant Dubey blamed the previous Congress-led UPA government for the rise in non-performing assets of banks.

Opposition parties, however, termed the Bill as “eyewash”, saying the government wanted to be seen to be taking action in various cases involving Lalit Modi, Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi, all living outside the country.

Congress member Shashi Tharoor said the Bill was poorly drafted and would not withstand judicial scrutiny, questioning the logic of the provision putting the minimum value of offence at Rs 100 crore.

He also said the government should also review its extradition process with other countries.

Nationalist Congress Party member Supriya Sule said the Criminal Procedure Code also had a provision for property confiscation and also called for looking into problems of employees of companies of the fugitive offenders.

Kalyan Banejree of Trinamool Congress termed the Bill as “eyewash” and said it had some provisions which could be misused.

The Rajya Sabha passed the The Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2013 that has stringent punishment for those giving bribes — both individuals and organizations — besides the bribe takers, extends requirement of prior sanction for prosecution to former public officials and covers attachment and forfeiture of property.

Also prescribing imprisonment of a minimum of three years extendable upto seven years for giving bribe, it removes exemption for even “trivial” things given to an official.

During the discussion, members held that a distinction must be made between “coercive” (one who has been forced to pay bribes by those in authority) and “collusive” (one who willingly gives bribe to extract favours) bribe-giving and stressed that the current period of one week given to a coercive bribe-giver to report the matter was much less.

Minister of State for Personnel and Public Grievances Jitendra Singh, while replying to the debate, said this grace period for coercive bribe-giver may be increased.

The recent incidents of mob lynching rocked both the houses.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh for the first time admitted in the Lok Sabha that fake news on social media had resulted in many such incidents, saying the government had asked service providers to put a check on rumour mongering on social media.

He also said that “this is not the first time that such incidents have happened” and while condemning these incidents, said it was the responsibility of the states to take appropriate action.

Not satisfied with his response, the opposition walked out.

The Rajya Sabha also expressed concern over misuse of social media prompting the Chairman to ask the government to evolve a national policy after discussing with all stakeholders including political parties to combat the menace.

Naidu also suggested the house can hold a separate discussion on the issue.

Earlier, several opposition members flagged the issue of social media abuse and instances of mob lynching fuelled by the rumours on social media.

They demanded that the House condemn the attack on social activist Swami Agnivesh in Jharkhand and that the culprits be immediately arrested.

According to media reports, 20 people have died in lynching cases across the country this year.

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