New Delhi: Four years after convicting him on contempt of court charges, the Supreme Court Tuesday said it will decide the quantum of punishment against fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya in January.
A three-judge bench led by Justice U.U. Lalit told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that the court had waited sufficiently long enough and cannot wait now. “This case has to see light of the day and the process must get over,” the court told Mehta, who, on behalf of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), apprised the bench about the status of the extradition proceedings pending against Mallya in the United Kingdom.
On 9 May 2017, the top court had found Mallya guilty of having committed contempt of court after he failed to submit details of his assets to the court. The order came on a plea filed by a consortium of banks to which Mallya owes more than Rs 9,000 crore. The money was lent to Kingfisher Airlines that was grounded in 2012.
The consortium of creditors led by the State Bank of India had argued that Mallya disobeyed court orders by making “vague and unclear disclosure of his assets” by transferring a $40 million payment from British liquor giant Diageo to his children and by ignoring summonses to appear in court.
The bench had then said it would hear arguments on the quantum of punishment in the presence of Mallya and had directed his personal appearance. Mallya faces at least six months in jail.
When the matter was listed on 2 November 2020, the court was again informed about the pending extradition proceedings. However, the details of the proceedings were not clarified. On that day, Mallya’s lawyer E.C. Aggarwala, representing him in the Supreme Court, had sought discharge. But the request was rejected and the court had directed the lawyer to continue to appear.
Thereafter, the court said, the solicitor general was granted time to place a status report on the proceedings before the court. Due to the Covid pandemic, the matter could not get listed.
The extradition hold-up
In its order Tuesday, the bench noted that the case could not get listed because Mallya’s presence could not be secured due to certain proceedings pending in the courts of law in the UK.
When the matter was called out Tuesday, it perused the MEA’s office memorandum prepared by the deputy secretary of the extradition department.
It was indicated in the report that Mallya had exhausted all avenues of appeal in the UK and the extradition proceedings had attained finality. However, certain confidential proceedings were still pending, the details of which were not disclosed to the court.
The bench noted the confidential proceedings mentioned in the report appeared to be the same that led to the matter’s adjournment in November 2020.
Considering all the circumstances on record, the bench said it would not wait any longer and listed the matter for 18 January 2022 to hear arguments on quantum of punishment.
Mallya, the court said, will be at liberty to appear and if, for any reason, he cannot appear, then his lawyer can advance submissions on his behalf. The bench further appointed senior advocate Joydeep Gupta as amicus curiae in the matter.
(Edited by Neha Mahajan)