10 March 2022 12:05 PM GMT
The Supreme Court on Thursday reserved orders on the sentence of fugitive liquor baron Vijay Mallya in the contempt of court case against him over violation of orders in a case relating to loan default of over Rs 9000 crores of the defunct Kingfisher airlines.A bench comprising Justice UU Lalit, Justice S Ravindra Bhat and Justice Bela M Trivedi heard the matter in the absence of Vijay...
The Supreme Court on Thursday reserved orders on the sentence of fugitive liquor baron Vijay Mallya in the contempt of court case against him over violation of orders in a case relating to loan default of over Rs 9000 crores of the defunct Kingfisher airlines.
A bench comprising Justice UU Lalit, Justice S Ravindra Bhat and Justice Bela M Trivedi heard the matter in the absence of Vijay Mallya, who is now in the United Kingdom. The bench had earlier given repeated opportunities for Mallya to appear; however, as Mallya remained absent, the bench proceeded to hear the matter in absentia, after appointing Senior Advocate Jaideep Gupta as an amicus curiae.
The Court had held him guilty of contempt as early as in 2017; however, a review petition was filed by him against the guilty verdict, which was dismissed in August 2020. After that, the Court resumed the proceedings to hear the sentence.
Today, amicus curiae Jaideep Gupta submitted that and it must be presumed that he as notice of the contempt hearing. Advocate Ankur Saigal appearing on behalf of Mallya submitted that he has no instructions though he has communicated the court's orders to the contemnor.
The amicus pointed out that Mallya was held guilty on two counts: for not disclosing assets& violating expressive orders of restraint passed by the High Court.
The Union of India had earlier informed the Court that though extradition of Mallya from the United Kingdom has been allowed, he could not be brought to India in view of some "secret" proceedings pending against him there, the details of which are not known to the Union Government.
Referring to this situation, the amicus submitted : "We are in a situation where issuance of a warrant of arrest won't serve purpose as we know he's in UK, and someone on his behalf his claiming for whatever reason he cant come to India. Your Lordships say counsel can appear, which is possible. his court isn't insisting on his presence, there's no justification for him to not engage a counsel. The court can proceed ex parte".
The bench pointed out that it has given Mallya repeated opportunities to appear. The bench also pondered on the kind of orders it can pass to "purge the contempt".
"Will it be part of our exercise to retrieve those sums, or we can tell the Banks that you may go after the assets?", the bench asked.
"Your lordships may reverse the transaction. But your power of sequestration isn't limited to that transaction, some other asset of his can also be sequestered. We can try to reverse this particular transaction or go after the other assets, which we'll have to find out", amicus Jaideep Gupta answered.
"There's no doubt that it was his money, he made sure it went to his relatives. So we have to get it back", the bench said. The bench also said that it has to be "practical" in the kind of orders it is passing and added that under contempt jurisdiction it can pass limited nature of orders.
In August 2020, the Supreme Court had directed the Ministry of Home Affairs to facilitate and ensure the presence of fugitive liquor baron Vijay Mallya before the court, for hearing on sentence in the 2017 contempt case against him.
In October 2020, the Centre had informed the Supreme Court that "secret" extradition process was going on to bring fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya to the country but it was not aware about its status.The Centre had also told the top court that it was not a party to the proceedings.
A bench of Justices U U Lalit and Ashok Bhushan had then asked Mallya's lawyer to inform the court what kind of "secret" proceedings are going on to extradite him.
The bench also directed Mallya's lawyers to apprise it by November 2 when can the fugitive businessman appear before the court and when the "secret" proceedings are going to end.
Mallya, an accused in bank loan default case of over Rs 9,000 crore involving his defunct Kingfisher Airlines, is in the United Kingdom.
The apex court's 2017 order had come on a plea by consortium of banks led by the State Bank of India (SBI), which had said that Mallya had allegedly transferred USD 40 million received from British firm Diageo, to his children in "flagrant violation" of various judicial orders.
It was dealing with pleas of lending banks seeking contempt action and a direction to Mallya to deposit USD 40 million received from offshore firm Diageo respectively.
The banks had then alleged that Mallya concealed the facts and diverted the money to his son Siddharth Mallya and daughters Leanna Mallya and Tanya Mallya in "flagrant violation" of the orders passed by the Karnataka High Court.
Mallya had in May last year lost his application seeking leave to appeal his extradition to India in the UK Supreme Court.
Mallya has been based in the UK since March 2016 and remains on bail on an extradition warrant executed three years ago by Scotland Yard on April 18, 2017.
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