“We can’t be waiting any longer now” and the sentencing aspect in the contempt matter against fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya, who is an accused in bank loan default case of over Rs 9,000 crore involving his defunct Kingfisher Airlines, would be dealt with finally on January 18 next year, the Supreme Court said on Tuesday.
Noting that Mallya, who is presently in the United Kingdom (UK), was held guilty of contempt in 2017 and the matter was thereafter to be listed to hear him on the proposed punishment to be awarded to him, a bench headed by Justice U U Lalit said the apex court has waited “sufficiently long”.
The top court had last year dismissed Mallya’s plea seeking review of its 2017 verdict which held him guilty of contempt for transferring USD 40 million to his children in violations of the court orders.
The apex court noted that as per an office memorandum, under the signature of Deputy Secretary (extradition) of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), placed before it, the proceedings for extradition have attained finality and Mallya has “exhausted all avenues for appeal” in the UK.
The bench, also comprising Justices S R Bhat and Bela M Trivedi, noted that the November 30 office memorandum also refers to proceedings pending in the UK which are stated to be “confidential and as such no details are getting disclosed”.
“What we wish to do is, we will list this matter for disposal in second week of January because we have waited sufficiently long enough, we can’t be waiting any longer now. It has to see the light of the day at some stage or the other and the process must also get over,” the bench observed during the hearing.
It said it will list the matter in January for disposal and at that juncture, if Mallya want to take part personally, he will be here through the extradition proceedings and in case, he is not, the bench will hear the submissions of his lawyer.
In its order, the top court said Mallya is at liberty to advance the submissions and if for any reason, he is not present before the court, lawyer on his behalf can advance submissions.
The bench noted that Mallya was held guilty of contempt in 2017 but because of certain proceedings, which at the relevant time were going on in courts of law in the UK, his presence could not be secured despite directions issued by the apex court.
The top court requested senior advocate Jaideep Gupta to assist it as an amicus curiae in the matter. “The matter shall be dealt with finally on January 18, 2022,” it said.
Noting that the office memorandum placed before it refers to certain proceedings which are stated to be confidential, the bench said it appeared that these are the same proceedings which were referred to in the November last year order.
When the matter was taken up for hearing at 2 PM, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, told the bench that he has just received a communication from the MEA. The communication was placed before the bench which perused it.
When the matter was taken up for hearing during the pre-lunch session, the apex court said it proposes to go ahead with the contempt matter and list it for hearing on sentencing.
“What we propose to pass an order that we will list the matter for hearing on sentence because the advocate (for Mallya) continues to appear. So, therefore, there is no embargo on hearing the advocate on sentence. We will go ahead with that,” the bench said. Advocate Rajat Nair, appearing for the Centre, then told the bench that he is being led by the Solicitor General, who is arguing before another court.
“He (Mehta) has the instruction. He has already spoken to the concerned authorities in the MEA. If this matter can be taken up tomorrow or day after, he will make submissions,” advocate Nair told the apex court. The bench then said that it would take up the matter for hearing at 2 PM during the day.
On January 18 this year, the Centre told the top court that the government is making all efforts to extradite Mallya from the UK but the process is being delayed due to some legal issues involved in the matter. The MEA has raised the issue of extradition with the UK government and the Centre was making all serious efforts to extradite Mallya, Mehta had said.
Mallya is in the UK since March 2016. He is on bail on an extradition warrant executed three years ago by Scotland Yard on April 18, 2017. On November 2, last year, the top court had asked the Centre to file status report in six weeks on the confidential legal proceedings pending in the UK on extradition of Mallya to India.
The Centre had on October 5 last year told the apex court that Mallya cannot be extradited to India until a separate “secret” legal process in the UK, which is “judicial and confidential in nature is resolved”. The Centre had in October last year said it is not aware of the secret on-going proceedings against Mallya in the UK as the Government of India is not party to the process.
The Centre had earlier given details of the extradition proceedings against Mallya starting from February 9, 2017 till dismissal of his appeal against extradition in UK on May 14 last year and said that he has thus exhausted all avenues of appeal in the UK.
The Centre had said that following the refusal of leave to appeal, Mallya’s surrender to India should, in principle, have been completed within 28 days but “the UK home office intimated that there is a further legal issue which needs to be resolved before Vijay Mallya’s extradition may take place”.