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Contempt case: Cannot wait for Vijay Mallya ‘forever’, says Supreme Court

File photo of Vijay Mallya.   | Photo Credit: Reuters

The Supreme Court on Tuesday said it cannot wait for fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya “forever” and listed the sentence hearing in a contempt case against him on January 18.

“We have sufficiently waited for him to come. That is enough... We cannot wait forever,” Justice U.U. Lalit addressed the Centre.

It has been over four years since the Supreme Court found Mr. Mallya, who fled to the U.K., guilty of contempt for wilful disobedience of its order to come clean about his assets and not disclosing $40 million (₹600 crore) he had received from British liquor major Diageo Plc following his resignation as Chairman of United Spirits Limited in February 2016.

All these years, the court has been waiting for his personal appearance to hear and decide his punishment.

The Ministry of External Affairs, in a note shared with the court by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta on Tuesday, informed that Mr. Mallya’s extradition has “attained finality”. He has exhausted all his appeals.

‘Confidential’ proceedings

However, “confidential” proceedings of an undisclosed nature were stalling the extradition.

The court noted that the Government had referred to the same “confidential proceedings” over a year ago to explain its inability to bring Mr. Mallya back to India. On October 5 last year, the court had even asked Mr. Mallya’s side to come clean about the nature of the “confidential” proceedings going on after the rejection of his appeal against extradition in the U.K. Supreme Court.

“Well, the process [of sentencing] has to get over someday,” Justice Lalit, flanked by Justices S. Ravindra Bhat and Bela M. Trivedi, observed on Tuesday.

The court said Mr. Mallya, if he is back in India, was free to make his submissions in the sentence hearing on January 18. If he is not available for “any reason”, his counsel could do that on his behalf.

The court appointed senior advocate Jaideep Gupta as amicus curiae in the case.

“The matter shall be dealt with finally on January 18,” Justice Lalit observed.

In the pre-lunch session, the court had indicated that the absence of Mr. Mallya would not prevent it from hearing on sentence as he has been legally represented in the case.

The court had found Mr. Mallya guilty of contempt on May 9, 2017.

On August 30 2020, it dismissed his review petition against the 2017 verdict of contempt. The court had found no merit in his three-year-old review plea against his conviction.

‘One among thousands of transactions’

In his original arguments before the apex court in 2017, Mr. Mallya had informed the court that the $40 million was one among “thousands of transactions” he did and cannot be counted as an asset. He said he had no control over that money now as he had already disbursed it among his three adult children, who are U.S. citizens.

Countering allegations made by a banking consortium led by the SBI which had filed the contempt of court petition against him, Mr. Mallya had said he had already given a complete list of assets as of March 31, 2016. The court had ordered Mr. Mallya to provide the banks with a list of his assets so that they could recover ₹9,200 crore due to them.

The banks had sought contempt action arguing that the disbursal of the $40 million among his three children was in direct violation of a standing Karnataka High Court order that none of his assets should be “alienated, disposed of or be subjected to the creation of third party rights”.


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Printable version | Jan 17, 2022 12:33:21 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/supreme-court-hears-sentencing-of-vijay-mallya-in-contempt-case-on-november-30-2021/article37764668.ece

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