New Delhi: While there is a sharp increase of 226 percent in the number of complaints against economic offences, the prosecution of offenders is hit by delays and hundreds of cases have been pending for more than two decades. The issue has been taken up by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) on Black Money which has informed the government that 268 economic offence cases being handled by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) are pending for over 20 years and 661 cases with the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) have been pending for more than a decade.
It is learnt that SIT has asked the government to establish additional courts for conducting economic offences trial on a day-to-day basis. A direction from apex court has to be issued, SIT has recommended, to trial courts handling Income Tax, Customs, Central Excise, Service Tax, Money Laundering, FEMA cases to ensure that such cases are disposed of within a year of filing charges.
"Similar directions may be issued to trial courts to conclude the proceedings of all foreign asset-related prosecutions within a year of their launch. This would have its own deterrent effect," the SIT is understood to have suggested.
The SIT is believed to have observed in its note that fast-tracking such cases will give results to economic policy and various acts will not be in vain.
"Such courts should also be directed to follow the procedure provided under Section 309 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and hear the matter on a day-to-day basis in the presence of an investigating officer with a specific direction not to grant adjournment on some ground or another," the SIT is learnt to have recommended.
There are more than 8,000 economic offence cases pending for prosecution by the CBI. While 268 cases are pending for more than 20 years, around 576 cases have been pending for more than 15 years. There are 1,471 cases of the CBI, which are pending for more than 10 years and 2,361 economic offence cases pending for between five and 10 years. Even the cases investigated by the state's law enforcement agencies are hit by delays and are awaiting prosecution.
It is learnt that the SIT on Black Money has flagged a huge backlog of cases pending for prosecution in various courts which were steered by the SFIO, which probes corporate frauds. Of a total of 940 pending SFIO cases, 661 have been pending for more than 10 years, whereas 68 cases have been pending for over six years. Around 121 cases have been pending for between three and six years. The SFIO cases pending for more than 10 years include 523 cases in Mumbai, followed by 122 cases in Delhi.
"Because of the delay in disposal of cases, the deterrent effect of the concerned law is lost and after a long period when the matter is heard, in many cases, there is acquittal of the accused on various grounds including non-availability of witnesses or evidence. To avoid such situations and for effective and efficient disposal of cases within reasonable time of filing of the cases, it is absolutely necessary to have additional judges and also to appoint competent advocates for conducting cases of economic offences," the SIT is learnt to have observed.
Then there is also the huge number of pending cases related to tax evaders and more than 22,000 prosecution complaints filed by the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) are pending in various regions including Mumbai, Kanpur, Ahmedabad, Pune, Chennai, Delhi and Patna. Of the total pending cases, 2,039 prosecution cases related to tax evasion have been pending for more than five years whereas 1,231 cases have been pending for between two and five years. Three hundred and fifty of these cases are from Kanpur, 325 from Ahmedabad, 284 from Mumbai, 167 from Patna, 118 from Pune, 161 from Chandigarh, 215 from Lucknow, 42 from Chennai and 47 from Delhi have been pending for over five years.
Even in cases related to custom duty evasion, the number of pending cases are on the rise and more than 2,100 cases probed by customs authority in Ahmedabad, Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and the Patna zone have been pending for over 10 years. A total of 4,054 prosecution cases have been filed by customs authorities. Of these, 301 cases have been pending for more than five years and 360 cases for more than three years.
Enforcement Directorate (ED) cases related to money laundering and FEMA violations have also been dragging on for years. Of a total 1,079 prosecution cases filed by the ED in various zones across the country, 584 have been pending for more than five years. There are around 210 ED cases that have been hanging fire for the past two years. The SIT on Black Money is understood to have observed that since the thrust on taking punitive action against tax evaders will continue in the current year as well as in the years to come, the number of prosecution complaints filed before the courts is expected to go up even further.
"The feasibility of establishing special courts for expeditious disposal of prosecution cases under Section 280A of the Income Tax Act is being examined, especially in charges with large pendency as in Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Pune," the SIT is believed to have stated, while recommending that the issue must be taken up on a priority.
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Updated Date: Sep 16, 2019 08:40:32 IST