The Supreme Court told the government on friday that it would not proceed against businessman Vijay Mallya, who has been held guilty of contempt, in absentia and instead asked the central government to take all steps to produce him in court.
Mallya has been held in contempt of court over not faithfully and fairly disclosing his assets to the top court.
A bench of Justices A K Goel and U U Lalit considered the submissions of attorney general of India K K Venugopal that proceedings to extradite Mallya were going on in London and the Centre was taking steps to secure his presence before the apex court. ''Extradition proceedings are on,'' Venugopal said in his maiden appearance in the case.
The case is scheduled for final hearing in the UK in December, he said, submitting a status report on this to the court.
"You have to produce him. We cannot punish him in absentia,'' Justice Goel said. ''Take whatever steps you can to produce him.''
The banks were represented in the case by lawyer Robin Ratnakar David.
When Venugopal referred to the status report filed by the government, the bench observed, ''We cannot analyse it in his (Mallya's) absence. You have to produce him before us. As and when you produce him before us, we will go ahead and will see what is to be done.
''The contemnor has failed to appear. The government of India has taken steps to secure his presence. The extradition proceedings are going on. Let all steps be taken. Matter be put up before us on his (Mallya) production before this court,'' the bench noted in its order.
The apex court had on 9 May held Mallya, who is in the United Kingdom, guilty of contempt on a plea by the consortium of lender banks led by the State Bank of India for his failure to furnish details of all his Indian and offshore assets. It had directed Mallya to appear before it on 10 July to argue on the quantum of punishment but he failed to do so.
The offence of contempt of court entails a maximum imprisonment of up to six months or a fine of up to Rs2,000 or both.
India has asked Britain to ensure early extradition of Mallya, an accused in a bank loan default case of over Rs9,000 crore involving his defunct Kingfisher Airlines. The top court's order had come on a plea by the consortium of lender banks, which had said that Mallya had transferred $40 million received from British firm Diageo for a stake in United Spirits Ltd to his children in ''flagrant violation'' of various judicial orders.
The bench had reserved its order on two pleas of the lending banks seeking contempt action and a direction to Mallya to deposit $40 million received from offshore firm Diageo respectively. The banks have alleged that Mallya had concealed facts and diverted the money to his son Siddharth Mallya and daughters Leanna Mallya and Tanya Mallya in ''flagrant violation'' of the orders passed by the Karnataka High Court.
The bench had also pulled up Mallya for not giving details of the $40 million which he had received from Diageo in February last year, saying it was of the ''prima facie view'' that proper disclosure as per its earlier order was not made.
The banks had on 29 August last year told the apex court that Mallya had deliberately not made full disclosure of his assets including the $40 million he received on 25 February from Diageo.