SC sends notice to Mallya as Centre says he’s left India

RSTV Bureau
File photo of Vijay Mallya. (PTI)

File photo of Vijay Mallya. (PTI)

Supreme Court has issued a notice to liquor baron Vijay Mallya who is facing legal proceedings for allegedly defaulting on loans worth over Rs 9,000 crores. The apex court has sought a response from Mallya within two weeks. The consortium of 17 banks including SBI has now sought directions for freezing Mallya’s passport and demand his presence before the apex court.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Centre told the court that Mallya had left the country a week ago on March 2. The Centre hinted that he could possibly be in the UK.

“I spoke to the CBI little while ago and it told me that on March 2 he (Mallya) left the country,” Attorney General (AG) Mukul Rohatgi told the bench comprising of Justices Kurian Joseph and RF Nariman.

“Today I submit he (Mallya) should appear before you (SC). We want disclosure. We want to recover money, which is public money,” sais the AG in court.

The bench dictated the order by issuing notice to Mallya saying, “if he is already out of the country, we will permit you to serve the notice through Indian High Commission at London and also through his official email ID of Rajya Sabha, of which he is a member.”

During the brief hearing, the AG told the court that Mallya deliberately avoided settling his due of Rs 9,000 crore to the banks.

When the bench wanted to know what the petitioner was seeking, Rohatgi clarified that the banks were seeking an order that Mallya should appear in person before this court.

The banks also seek a direction for freezing his passport, Rohatgi said.

The AG also informed the court that Mallya had plenty of movable and immovable assets abroad which were worth far more than the loans he had secured in India.

On hearing this, the court wanted to know how the banks granted him loan under such circumstances.

The AG explained that the loans were granted to Mallya keeping in mind that Kingfisher Airlines had a fleet of aircraft as well as brand value.

The consortium of banks in their appeal, have assailed the March 4 order of the Karnataka High Court refusing an “ex- parte ad interim” order against Mallya, England-based Diageo Plc and United Spirits Limited.

The banks said that the High Court should have passed an interim order, securing their financial interests, without hearing the industrialist and others including debtor firm Kingfisher Airlines Limited.

Apart from a plea in the Karnataka High Court, the banks had filed four pleas in the Debt Recovery Tribunal (DRT) at Bengaluru seeking reliefs like freezing of Mallya’s passport and arrest warrant against him. They had also sought a direction that Mallya should disclose his assets on oath.

The banks had moved the DRT in the backdrop of Mallya’s recent resignation from the chairmanship of United Spirits.

Diageo Plc, the current owner of the liquor company has agreed to pay USD 75 million (approx. Rs 515 crore) to Mallya as severance package but a recent DRT order prevented Mallya from accessing the fund.

(With inputs from PTI)