The Best Features of Fema & Fera in India

features of fema

Understanding the Features of FEMA and FERA in India

India has undergone significant regulatory changes over the years in managing foreign exchange and cross-border transactions. The Foreign Exchange Regulation Act (FERA) of 1973 and the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) of 1999 are two pivotal laws that have shaped the economic landscape of the country. Here, we delve into the features of both FERA and FEMA, highlighting the evolution of foreign exchange regulations in India.

FERA (Foreign Exchange Regulation Act) 1973

FERA was introduced in 1973 in the backdrop of acute foreign exchange scarcity. The act aimed to regulate and control the movement of foreign exchange in order to conserve India’s foreign exchange reserves. It was highly regulatory and gave enormous powers to the Enforcement Directorate to investigate and penalize any foreign exchange malpractices. Key features included:

1. Strict Regulation: FERA imposed stringent controls on certain kinds of payments, the dealings in foreign exchange and securities, and transactions that indirectly affected foreign exchange and the import and export of currency.

2. High Penalties: Violations of FERA were criminal offenses, often leading to imprisonment. The act imposed severe restrictions that led to a complex regulatory framework businesses often found difficult to navigate.

3. Limited Scope for Foreign Participation: FERA restricted foreign companies and individuals from participating freely in the Indian market. Foreign investment was tightly controlled, requiring extensive approvals and leading to a protectionist business environment.


FEMA (Foreign Exchange Management Act) 1999

As the Indian economy liberalized in the 1990s, the need for a less restrictive foreign exchange regulatory framework became evident. FEMA came into force in 1999, replacing FERA, and marked a significant shift in the approach from regulation to management and facilitation of foreign exchange. The key features of FEMA include:

1. Management of Foreign Exchange: Unlike the stringent controls under FERA, FEMA is designed to facilitate external trade and payments and promote the orderly development and maintenance of the foreign exchange market in India.

2. Civil Offenses: FEMA moved the offenses from criminal to civil offenses. Penalties are levied for violations, but imprisonment is generally reserved for severe offenses and repeated violations after due process.

3. Simplified Foreign Investments: FEMA has simplified rules and regulations around foreign investments. It allows for a much freer flow of foreign capital into India, with fewer restrictions and more straightforward procedures, contributing significantly to increased foreign investments.

4. Clear Definitions: FEMA provides clear definitions of concepts like ‘currency,’ ‘foreign securities,’ ‘current account transactions,’ and more, making it easier for businesses and individuals to comply with the provisions.

5. Liberalized Remittance Scheme (LRS): FEMA introduced the LRS, allowing individuals in India to remit a certain amount of money during a financial year to another country for investment and expenditure, subject to guidelines.

6. Role of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI): Under FEMA, the RBI has a significant role in framing the operational guidelines for foreign exchange transactions. This regulatory role ensures that all foreign exchange-related activities are conducted transparently and efficiently, under the supervision of the RBI.

What Are The Main Features of FEMA?

Main Features of Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999

It gives powers to the Central Government to regulate the flow of payments to and from a person situated outside the country. All financial transactions concerning foreign securities or exchange cannot be carried out without the approval of FEMA.


Basis of Difference



was Established when

Forex reserves were low

Forex’s position was satisfactory but FERA needed some amendments

Forex transactions



Number of sections



Year of enactment



The evolution from FERA to FEMA represents a paradigm shift in the way India manages foreign exchange. While FERA was about control and stringent regulation, FEMA focuses on management, development, and facilitation of foreign exchange in the country. This shift has not only simplified the legal framework but has also made India more attractive to foreign investors and has integrated the Indian economy with the global market. Understanding these features helps businesses and individuals navigate the complexities of foreign exchange transactions in India more effectively.

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