The Supreme Court on Thursday reserved the order on sentence of fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya, found guilty of contempt in 2017 for disobeying the Court's order for not disclosing full particulars of assets in case between the SBI and Kingfisher Airlines.
A bench headed by Justice UU Lalit, after hearing detailed arguments in the matter, reserved the order.
Amicus curiae, senior advocate Jaideep Gupta, submitted before the bench, also comprising justices S Ravindra Bhat and PS Narasimha, that in the present situation, the issuance of a warrant of arrest won't serve purpose as Mr Mallya is in the UK.
The bench also considered the ministry of home affairs (MHA) stand that the UK Home Office has intimated, there is a further legal issue which needs to be resolved before Mr Mallya's extradition takes place and this issue is outside and apart from the extradition process having effect under the UK law.
The bench said: "They said there are proceedings in the UK. It's like a dead wall, something is pending we don't know, what's the number we don't know. How long can we go on so far as our jurisdictional power is concerned."
Justice Lalit said Mr Mallya is not in anyone's custody and he is a free citizen in the UK. "The only reason perhaps, is there's a proceeding which is pending, which will decide if a person is to be extradited," he added.
On 10th February, the top court gave final opportunity to Mr Mallya, seeking his appearance, before it pronounced sentence in contempt case filed by banks, in which he was found guilty.
The top court said it has found Mr Mallya guilty of contempt and punishment has to be imposed. It added that going by normal logic, the contemnor has to be heard, but he has not appeared before the court so far.
Justice Bhat observed that Mr Mallya has abstained from the hearing so far, and in the next hearing, the same thing will happen, then the court would have to pronounce sentence in absentia. Justice Lalit added that Mallya was given multiple opportunities.
Justice Bhat also said this cannot become a gateway for courts of first instance to adopt this method, and it has to be specifically mentioned that circumstances in the present case were extraordinary.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta clarified that it was not the Indian government's stand that some confidential proceedings against him are pending in the UK, rather it was the stand of the UK government which was delaying his extradition.
The bench clarified that if Mr Mallya is not present in the hearing, then the matter will be taken to its logical conclusion.
According to a judgment delivered on 14 July 2017, Mr Mallya was found guilty of contempt for not paying Rs9,000 crore worth of dues to the banks despite repeated directions. Additionally, he was also accused of not disclosing his assets and also secretly trying to dispose the assets to defeat the purpose of recovery proceedings.
On 6 October 2020, the MHA told the Supreme Court that the UK Home Office has intimated, there is a further legal issue which needs to be resolved before Mr Mallya's extradition takes place and this issue is outside and apart from the extradition process having effect under the UK law. The affidavit had said that Mr Mallya's surrender to India should, in principle, have been completed within 28 days otherwise.
On 2 November 2020, the top court had asked the Centre to file a status report on extradition of the fugitive businessman within six weeks.
On 30th November, last year, the Supreme Court said it will begin hearing on sentencing of him in contempt of court, in which he was held guilty in July 2017.
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