Contempt against fugitive Vijay Mallya: Waited sufficiently long, can’t be waiting any longer, says SC

The bench said process to award a sentence to Mallya in contempt of court matter must get over, as the Court has waited sufficiently for long enough

The bench said process to award a sentence to Mallya in contempt of court matter must get over, as the Court has waited sufficiently for long enough
The bench said process to award a sentence to Mallya in contempt of court matter must get over, as the Court has waited sufficiently for long enough

SC to hear Vijay Mallya contempt case on Jan 18

The Supreme Court on Tuesday fixed January 18 as the final hearing date on cases against fugitive business tycoon Vijay Mallya saying “we can’t be waiting any longer now”. Noting that Mallya, who is presently in London, 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 apex court had last year dismissed Vijay Mallya’s plea seeking review of its 2017 verdict which held him guilty of contempt for transferring USD 40 million to his children in violation of the court orders. The SC 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 the 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.

Apex court said it will list the matter in January for disposal and at that juncture, if Mallya wants 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, a 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.

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.

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 has been 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.

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 ongoing proceedings against Mallya in the UK as the Government of India is not a party to the process.

The Centre had earlier given details of the extradition proceedings against Mallya starting from February 9, 2017, till the dismissal of his appeal against extradition in the 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.”

[with PTI inputs]

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