Vijay Mallya sentenced to four months in prison in contempt case

New Delhi: Observing that proceedings against Vijay Mallya have hit a dead wall , the Supreme Court on Thursday proceeded to reserve verdict on the quantum of sentence against the fugitive businessman, accused in bank loan default case of over Rs 9,000 crore involving his defunct Kingfisher Airlines, in a contempt case where he has been found guilty.

A bench of Justices U U Lalit, S Ravindra Bhat and P S Narasimha reserved the judgement after hearing senior advocate and amicus curiae Jaideep Gupta on various aspects related to the contempt law and even decided to permit the counsel, who was earlier representing Mallya, to file written submissions, if any, in the case by Tuesday.

Mallya’s counsel said he was handicapped in the absence of any instruction from his client, who is in the UK, and would not be able to argue on the quantum of sentence to be awarded in the contempt case.

We have been told that there are some proceedings going on in the United Kingdom. It is like a dead wall, something is pending we do not know. What is the number (of cases) we do not know. The point is how long can we go on like this so far as our jurisdictional power is concerned, the bench said.

The observation came when Gupta urged the bench to proceed ex-parte with the hearing related to quantum of sentence in the case.

We are in a situation where issuance of arrest warrant will not serve any purpose as it is known that the contemnor is in the UK and except the extradition proceedings nothing is pending there, the amicus said.

The person is not in custody in the UK and the only proceedings which can be said to be pending is the one related to his extradition, said the bench and proceeded to reserve the order saying Mallya is aware of the case status here in the apex court.

The amicus curiae invited our attention to various aspects of the record including original judgment…and provisions of the Contempt of Court Act… Order reserved. Gupta may file his written submissions by day after… we still grant one more opportunity to advance his submissions in writing by next Tuesday, the bench said.

Observing that it had waited sufficiently long , the bench on February 10 had fixed the contempt case against Mallya for hearing and had given him the last opportunity to appear before it either personally or through his lawyer.

The bench had said it has given multiple opportunities to Mallya to appear either personally or through a lawyer and had even given specific directions in its last order dated November 30, 2021.

Gupta said the court has found Mallya guilty of contempt of court, and punishment has to be imposed.

Earlier, a consortium of lending banks led by State Bank of India had moved the apex court alleging that Mallya was not following the court orders on repayment of loan which was then over Rs 9,000 crore.

It was alleged that he was not disclosing the assets and moreover, transferring them to his children in violation of the restraint orders.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, had said the court has inherent jurisdiction in contempt cases and that it has given enough opportunity to Mallya, which he has not taken.

On November 30 last year, the top court had said it cannot wait any longer and the sentencing aspect in the contempt matter against Mallya would be dealt with finally.

Mallya 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.

The top court had in 2020 dismissed Mallya’s plea seeking review of the 2017 verdict which held him guilty of contempt for transferring USD 40 million to his children in violation of court orders.

The apex court had noted that as per an office memorandum, under the signature of the deputy secretary (extradition) of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), the proceedings for extradition have attained finality and Mallya has exhausted all avenues for appeal in the UK.

Mallya has been in the UK since March 2016. He is on bail on an extradition warrant executed three years ago by the Scotland Yard on April 18, 2017.

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