The Foreign Exchange Regulation Act of 1973 (FERA) in India was repealed on 1 June, 2000. It was replaced by the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), which was passed in the winter session of Parliament in 1999. Enacted in 1973, in the backdrop of acute shortage of Foreign Exchange in the country, FERA had a controversial 27 year stint during which many bosses of the Indian Corporate world found themselves at the mercy of the Enforcement Directorate (E.D.). Any offense under FERA was a criminal offense liable to imprisonment, whereas FEMA seeks to make offenses relating to foreign exchange civil offenses.
FEMA, which has replaced FERA, had become the need of the hour since FERA had become incompatible with the pro-liberalisation policies of the Government of India. FEMA has brought a new management regime of Foreign Exchange consistent with the emerging frame work of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). It is another matter that enactment of FEMA also brought with it Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 which came into effect recently from 1 July, 2005 and the heat of which is yet to be felt as “Enforcement Directorate” would be invesitigating the cases under PMLA too.