Mallya expectedly fails to appear before SC; case adjourned

Businessman Vijay Mallya, now absconding in the UK and avoiding criminal proceedings against him over bank loans of nearly Rs9,000 crore taken by his defunct Kingfisher Airlines, not surprisingly failed to appear before the Supreme Court on Monday in defiance of the order of the court which was to decide on the quantum of punishment for contempt.

The Supreme Court adjourned the former liquor baron's contempt case to 14 July.

In the last hearing, the apex court had convicted him of contempt of court and summoned him to personally appear on 10 July.

The apex court was hearing a plea by a consortium of banks, which moved the apex court after Mallya received $40 million from British firm Diageo Plc in February 2016 and allegedly transferred the money to his children instead of toward repaying loans.

The absconding businessman was arrested by Scotland Yard last month on fraud allegations, which triggered his extradition process in the British courts.

However, Mallya (61) was released on bail as he assured the court to abide by all conditions associated with extradition proceedings, including surrendering his passport.

Mallya left India on 2 May 2016 on a commercial flight, sinjce there was no legal proceedings against him at that stage.

On 8 February this year, India had given a formal extradition request for Mallya as per the extradition treaty between India and UK through a note verbale, a diplomatic communication. A joint team of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Enforcement Directorate (ED) had also landed London.

Last month, the ministry of external affairs (MEA) said that Mallya's extradition has been ratified by the Secretary of State of the UK government and added that a warrant would soon be released against him.

The UK's Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) will argue the case on behalf of the Indian authorities.

Mallya, whose now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines allegedly owes more than Rs 9,000 crore to various banks, had fled India on 2 March 2016.

A bench of Justices A K Goel and UU Lalit had on May 9 held him guilty of contempt of court for not honestly disclosing all his assets and diverting $40 million to overseas accounts of his family members in violation of the court's order. It had directed Mallya to personally appear before the court.

As neither Mallya nor his lawyer appeared before the court, the bench adjourned the case for 14 July to decide the further course of action to be taken against the former chief of Kingfisher Airlines. The court was told that notice to the businessman was duly served after he was convicted for contempt of court.

The court was hearing contempt proceedings against Mallya filed by a consortium of 17 banks, led by the State Bank of India, which contended that he had not made truthful disclosure of his assets before the court and he had intentionally kept the court in dark on payment of $40 million, which he received in February last year from British liquor major Diageo for stepping down as chairman and of United Spirits Ltd.

SBI has the highest exposure of Rs1,600 crore to Kingfisher Airlines. Other banks that have exposure to KFA include Punjab National Bank and IDBI Bank (Rs800 crore each), Bank of India (Rs650 crore), Bank of Baroda (Rs550 crore), Central Bank of India (Rs410 crore), UCO Bank (Rs320 crore) and Corporation Bank (Rs310 crore).