New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday (August 31) directed fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya to be present in person before it on October 5 at 2 pm, directing the Union Ministry of Home Affairs to ensure his presence in the courtroom on that day. The top court also dismissed his plea seeking review of the 2017 verdict which held him guilty of contempt for transferring USD 40 million to his children in violations of court orders.
Mallya, an accused in a bank loan default case of over Rs 9,000 crore involving his defunct Kingfisher Airlines, is in the United Kingdom. Vijaya Mallya, who is based in the UK since March 2016, remains on bail on an extradition warrant executed three years ago by Scotland Yard on April 18, 2017.
A bench of Justices U U Lalit and Ashok Bhushan, while dismissing his review petitions against the May 9, 2017 verdict said, “In our considered view, the attempt on part of the respondent No.3 (Mallya) to have rehearing in the matter cannot be permitted nor do the submissions make out any ‘error apparent on record’ to justify interference in review jurisdiction.”
The bench said, “Now that the Review Petitions are dismissed, we direct respondent No.3 to appear before this Court on October 5, 2020, at 2:00 pm and also direct the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, New Delhi to facilitate and ensure the presence of respondent No.3 before this Court on that day”.
In its order, the bench recorded that USD 40 million, part of a USD 75 million payment, was received in the account of Mallya on February 25, 2016, and within few days, on February 26 and February 29, 2016, it was transferred out of that account by Mallya.
“Despite repeated orders passed by this Court, no clear disclosure of his assets was made by respondent No. 3, nor any details of in-flow and out-flow of said amount of USD 40 million were disclosed by him. As a matter of fact, the existence of the concerned Bank account itself was not disclosed,” the top court said.
Mallya had contended that in terms of the directions issued by the top court, he was required to disclose the assets as on March 31, 2016, and as such, no direction issued by the Court was violated.
He had said that the violation, if any, was of the orders passed by the Karnataka High Court and, therefore, the top court ought not to proceed in contempt jurisdiction. The bench said its order of January 11, 2017, had given liberty to Mallya to file a reply to the banks’ response in the case and it appears from the record that a reply was filed by him on January 30, 2017; however, the May 9, 2017 verdict mentioned that no reply was filed.
The bench said that during the hearing of the review plea it had asked Mallya’s counsel whether in its January 30, 2017 reply, was there anything that contradicted or contested the banks’ submission that funds were transferred despite the orders of the Debt Recovery Tribunal and Karnataka High Court.
It had asked whether any explanation was forthcoming in the reply of Mallya to support the stand that he was not guilty of a violation of said orders.
The bench said that his counsel was unable to refer to any such portion from the reply filed on January 30, 2017, but touched upon the questions whether the directions issued by this Court were violated and whether this court ought to have proceeded to exercise contempt jurisdiction.
The bench said the scope of the review was limited and all the submissions made by his counsel have already been dealt with and rejected by the court in its May 9, 2017 verdict.
Earlier in June, the SC had directed its registry to explain as to why Mallya’s review petition had not been listed before the concerned court for the last three years. It had directed the registry to furnish all the details including names of officials who had dealt with the file concerning the review petition in the last three years.
The apex court’s 2017 order had come on a plea by a 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.
Notably, the UK top court’s decision was a big legal setback to the 64-year-old fugitive businessman, who had earlier lost his high court appeal against an extradition order to India on charges of alleged fraud and money laundering related to unrecovered loans to his now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines.
(With Agency Inputs)