The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed the billionaire liquor baron Vijay Mallya’s prayer for protection from disclosure of his assets and those of his family, in India and abroad, to Kingfisher Airlines’ lenders, saying “no tangible” grounds have been raised to maintain secrecy of information.
“We don’t find any tangible objection in disclosing the assets (of Mallya, his wife and children) to banks,” a bench comprising Justices Kurian Joseph and R F Nariman was quoted by PTI.
The bench directed the apex court registry to furnish to the lenders, a consortium of banks, the details of assets, both domestic and foreign, declared by the former liquor baron of himself and his family members, in sealed cover to the apex court.
The top court, which said Mallya has not complied with its April 7 order in its letter and spirit, observed that “the whole purpose of asking for disclosure was to give a fair idea to banks for entering into a meaningful and viable settlement.”
It asked the Debt Recovery Tribunal in Bengaluru to “expeditiously decide” within two months, the pleas of banks and financial institutions for recovery of their loans.
The direction was issued after Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi submitted that there was “total non-compliance” with the apex court’s April 7 order as Mallya was neither indicating the date of his return to the country to make an appearance before the court nor was he showing his bonafide for reaching a settlement with the lenders by not showing willingness to deposit a substantial part of the amount he owed them.
“He is a fugitive from justice in India,” the Attorney General said, adding the embattled businessman was playing “hide and seek” and cooking “cock and bull story”. Rohatgi said Mallya was “deliberately concealing something from the court” as he had “no intention to come back”.
However, senior advocates C S Vaidyanathan and Parag Tripathi, appearing for Mallya and his companies respectively, submitted that he was a “defaulter but not a wilful defaulter” and “here this is a case of business failure and not that of wilful default”.
Vaidyanathan submitted the accumulated loans of Kingfisher Airlines stood at Rs 16,000 crore in 2013 and all loans were given on the basis of personal assets of Mallya which is in the records of the banks. That being the case the liabilities cannot be attached to his estranged wife living abroad and NRI children who are protected under the law from disclosing their overseas assets, he contended.
Mallya has defaulted on repayment of loans of Rs 9,400 crore to a State Bank of India-led consortium. .