New Delhi, March 9 (IANS) - A consortium of banks, led by the State Bank of India, on Thursday told the Supreme Court that liquor baron Vijay Mallya had "taken it for a ride" and urged it to initiate contempt proceedings against him for "willfully" breaching the court's orders. The banks also sought that the apex court direct him to bring back $40 million, which Mallya had allegedly transferred to his children.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the banks, told the bench of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel and Justice and U.U. Lalit that Mallya has been mocking the Indian judicial system by "willful, contumacious conduct" and has taken the Supreme Court "for a ride". "Apart from the public dues, he siphoned $40 million. It was willful, contumacious conduct, trying not only to breach the court orders but to put it out of reach (of Indian courts)," the banks submitted.
Mallya received $40 million from British firm Diageo Plc in February last year and transferred the money to his children in flagrant violation of various judicial orders, including those passed by the Debt Recovery Tribunal and the Karnataka High Court, Rohtagi told the court. Mallya concealed the fact of receiving $40 million and diverting the money to his son Siddharth Mallya and daughters Leanna Mallya and Tanya Mallya, said Rohatgi and senior advocate Shyam Divan, who too appeared for banks.
The banks accused Mallya of contempt of court as he did not disclose this $40 million among the assets the Supreme Court had ordered him to reveal so that the banks could recover the loan amount.
Senior advocate C.S. Vaidyanathan, appearing for Mallya, opposed the plea of banks, saying all his properties are attached under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and he is entitled for an equal and fair treatment. After a daylong hearing, the bench reserved the order on plea by a consortium of 13 banks, which had lent thousands of crores of rupees to Mallya over a period.
Mallya's lawyer also submitted that he has no property of which he has any control as "everything has been attached".
Opposing the initiation of contempt of court proceedings against Mallya, Vaidyanathan also accused the judiciary of targetting him, of treating him worse than a "terrorist" with no access to the rule of law. "Why is this case so unique?" he asked, seeking to know why Mallya was being targetted when banks have seven lakh crore rupees worth of non-performing assets.
Why was Mallya made "the poster boy of loan defaulters?", he asked.
During the hearing, Rohatgi told the court that the government is taking steps to get Mallya back. "We have requested the British government to deport him back." Now believed to be in Britain, Mallya owes Rs 9,200 crore to these banks. While Rs 8,000 crore worth of his properties have been attached under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, he also has income tax dues of about Rs 2,000 crore.