Industrialist and Rajya Sabha member Vijay Mallya, who left India even as public sector banks moved the Supreme Court to recover dues of up to Rs. 9,000 crore from him, will now have his conduct scrutinised by the Ethics Committee of the Rajya Sabha.
Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad, Janata Dal (United) president Sharad Yadav and Congress member Pramod Tiwari were among those who moved notice to have the matter referred to the committee.
Vice-President Hamid Ansari referred it to the panel. “We have taken cognisance. Now we will proceed as per our rules,” committee chairperson Karan Singh said as the group met on Monday itself.
Meanwhile, the Enforcement Directorate, probing money laundering charges against Mr. Mallya, is worried that attaching his assets may be a problem as the CBI’s primary charge of breach of trust (Section 409) does not come under its ambit.
Section 409 of IPCdoes not come under the offences listed in the schedule of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, which empowers the Directorate to attach proceeds of crime.
The 10-member ethics committee has a majority of Opposition MPs, including Satish Chandra Misra (BSP), Avinash Rai Khanna (BJP), Sharad Yadav (JD-U), Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M), Mukul Roy (Trinamool Congress), Neeraj Shekhar (Samajwadi Party), A. Navaneethakrishnan (AIADMK) and Devender Goud T (TDP). There is one vacancy.
Meanwhile, the CBI has registered its case under Section 409 (criminal breach of trust) read with Section 120 B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code and other provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act against unknown IDBI officials pertaining to abuse of office to extend favours allegedly to Vijay Mallya’s Kingfisher Airlines.
Section 409, a stringent provision that prescribes a maximum of life sentence, does not come under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, which empowers the Directorate to attach proceeds of crime.
“The provisions will be finalised when the CBI files a charge sheet in its own case,” said an official, adding that corruption allegations would only apply to bank officials. However, legal experts feel that the Directorate could attach the assets given that the independent offence of Section 120 B and relevant provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act fall within its jurisdiction.
“These provisions were included in the PMLA schedule in June 2009. Even though the said offence was committed before that, the provisions would apply as money laundering is a continuing offence,” said an expert.
Also, in case of overseas assets, the offences invoked by Indian agencies need to be recognised as crimes in the foreign jurisdictions concerned to elicit action on requests for attachment of properties. The ED has also sought details of the investigations conducted against the airline by the Income-Tax Department and the Serious Frauds Investigation Office. Incidentally, though the CBI registered the case against Mr. Mallya and others in the same matter in July 2015, it has so far not conducted searches at his official residence in New Delhi.