The Supreme Court on Thursday granted the last opportunity of two weeks to fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya to personally or through counsel present his stand in the contempt case against him and if he fails to do so the court will take the matter to a logical conclusion.
A bench headed by Justice UU Lalit adjourned the matter for February 24 while adjourning the contempt case.
The top court accepted the contentions of amicus curiae and senior advocate Jaideep Gupta, who was assisting the court in the matter, that on the issue of sentence Mr Mallya should be given the last opportunity to make his stand in the case.
“In his (Gupta) submission matter may be adjourned for short time with an expression that this would be final opportunity and in case he chooses to not remain personally present or advance submissions through counsel, court may proceed further with the matter. Going by submissions… we adjourn for 2 weeks. Respondent contemnor is at liberty to act in directions of November 30, 2021 order failing which matter shall be taken to logical conclusion and proceeded further,” the bench stated in its order.
During the hearing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta clarified that it is not the Government of India’s stand that something confidential is going on in the case in the United Kingdom but the Centre has been informed by the UK that there is something going on which can’t be shared.
Last year, the top court while saying that it has waited “long enough” and cannot “wait longer now” for Mr Mallya to get extradited from the United Kingdom to India, decided to go ahead with the hearing on quantum of punishment in the contempt case against him.
The top court had held Mr Mallya guilty of contempt of court for transferring USD 40 million to his children in violation of the court’s order and sought his presence before it on various occasions.
Solicitor General Mehta appearing for the Ministry of External Affairs had furnished to the bench a statement of the Ministry.
After perusing the document of Deputy Secretary (Extradition) Ministry of External Affairs, the bench had said the proceedings for extradition of Mr Mallya to India from the United Kingdom has attained finality but certain “confidential proceedings” are pending in the UK, details of which are not known.
The Centre also said that Mr Mallya has already exhausted all his avenues of appeal in the UK.
The court had said it is up to Mr Mallya to appear in person before it or advance arguments through his counsel. It had also appointed senior advocate Jaideep Gupta as an amicus curiae to assist it in the matter.
Earlier, the bench had rejected a request made by advocate EC Agarwala seeking his discharge as Mr Mallya’s counsel in the case.
On the previous occasion, the Centre had informed the top court that legal complexities in the United Kingdom are preventing the extradition of fugitive Mallya, but the Government of India is making all efforts and doing its best to extradite him. It had said that some legal proceedings are still pending in the United Kingdom which is delaying the extradition and the under UK law, extradition can’t take place till legal issues are resolved.
The Centre had further said that extradition of Mr Mallya was ordered by the highest court of the United Kingdom but it has not been put into effect. The government had said it is not aware of the “secret’ ongoing proceedings in the UK which are delaying Mr Mallya’s extradition.
The court had earlier sought a status report from the Centre on the extradition of Mr Mallya. It had directed for Mr Mallya’s presence before it after dismissing his review petition against his contempt conviction.
Before that, the Supreme Court had dismissed a plea filed by Mr Mallya seeking a review of its May 2017 order holding him guilty of contempt.
Mr Mallya is accused of a bank loan default case of over ₹ 9,000 crore involving his defunct Kingfisher Airlines and is presently in the United Kingdom.
The Supreme Court had issued its May 9, 2017, order on a plea by a consortium of banks led by the State Bank of India (SBI), claiming he had allegedly transferred USD 40 million received from British firm Diageo to his children in “flagrant violation” of various judicial orders.
Earlier, the court had asked Mr Mallya about the “truthfulness” of his disclosure of assets and the transfer of money to his children.
At that time, the top court was dealing with pleas of lending banks seeking contempt action and a direction to Mr Mallya to deposit USD 40 million received from offshore firm Diageo to the banks respectively.
The banks had then accused Mr Mallya of concealing 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.
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