With the Mamata Banerjee regime readying to crack the whip on the chitfunds by bringing a new bill, a debate has begun whether it will stand up to judicial scrutiny as the government has apparently decided to implement the law with retrospective effect.
The West Bengal Protection of Interest of Depositors in Financial Establishments Bill, 2013 will have retrospective effect, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Partha Chatterjee said.
It will replace the earlier West Bengal Protection of Depositors Interest Bill 2009 introduced by the previous Left Front government, which was sent to the President but did not get his assent.
The bill has been sent back to the state government which will withdraw it.
"Once it becomes an act, the new legislation will be able to effectively deal with scams like Saradha Group. The new bill will be more stringent and empower authorities to confiscate and not merely attach the assets of perpetrators of frauds," he said.
He said that under the previous bill, only establishments could be booked, but the new bill will empower the government to take action against individuals.
Disputing retrospective effect of the new bill, former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee told PTI, "I have not seen the Bill. But there cannot be an offence created retrospectively".
Echoing him, former assembly speaker and senior lawyer Hashim Abdul Halim said, "For a crime committed two years ago, punishment cannot be given by bringing in a new legislation with retrospective effect.
Senior Calcutta High Court lawyer Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya said such a bill could be challenged in court. He said the government could not give retrospective effect to all laws. "While dealing with criminal laws, retrospective effect cannot be given. If somebody feels his rights are infringed, he can move court against such a bill," Bhattacharya said. A special session of the Assembly has been convened on April 29 and 30 to introduce the bill.