Lenders to the now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines termed its chairman Vijay Mallya a “fugitive fleeing from justice” even as the Supreme Court on Friday aided their efforts by ordering the handover to banks details of the former liquor baron’s overseas assets despite his request to keep them a secret.
Mallya countered the charges from the consortium of banks by accusing them and the government of trying to lure him back with appeals of a “negotiated settlement” of his debts when in fact they wanted him to be sent “straight to Tihar Jail”. He said he was not going to stake his liberty by returning to India.‘Never a wilful defaulter’
Mallya, whose passport has been revoked by the government and has all but lost his status as a Rajya Sabha member, termed Kingfisher Airlines a “bonafide business failure”. He said he had never misused his bank loans, and though a “defaulter”, he claimed he was never a “wilful defaulter” as the government and banks had made him out to be.
Refusing to accept his arguments, a Bench of Justices Kurian Joseph and Rohinton Nariman ordered the Supreme Court’s Registry to hand over to the banks a sealed envelope submitted by Mallya, purportedly containing details of foreign properties owned by him, his estranged wife and children.Mallya, a fugitive: banks
The banking consortium, led by State Bank of India and represented by Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi expressed their resolve to make Mallya pay, even if it means approaching the United Kingdom, where he is believed to be based after he left India.
“He has become a fugitive fleeing from justice... he is playing hide-and-seek with the court. He is not willing to come back to India... Hence, the details of his overseas assets are necessary for us to go after him,” Rohatgi said.
Rubbishing Mallya’s contention that any disclosure of his foreign properties and that of his estranged wife and children would be a violation of their right to privacy, Rohatgi submitted that “first you give us the assets and we will decide whether any property is benami or not”.
The A-G said Mallya had not bothered to comply with the court order of April 7 tasking him to disclose details of his and his family’s assets; indicate when he would return to India and present himself in the court; and name the advance amount he plans to pay the banks to settle his dues of over ₹9,000 crore.
To Mallya’s contention that he could not travel as his passport had been revoked, Rohatgi said if the businessman really intended to return, he could easily get a one-way travel permit from the nearest Indian embassy.
Defending Mallya, senior advocate CS Vaidyanathan said his client had made two proposals for one-time settlements, both of which were rejected by the banks.
He said he had complied with the court’s April 7 order by handing over details of his foreign assets to the court. The counsel said Mallya and his wife had separated in 2005 and a separation settlement drawn up.Not Mallya’s call: court
The Bench said it was not up to Mallya to qualify the April 7 order to disclose his assets by saying that the details should not be divulged to his banks. Besides, he had not applied for any modification of the order nor had he given any “tenable objections” to disclosing his assets.
Disposing of the banks’ petitions, the court further ordered that the Debt Recovery Tribunal proceedings against Mallya be completed in two months.
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