Rejecting Vijay Mallya’s argument that the assets owned by him and his immediate family in foreign countries were a matter of “privacy”, the Supreme Court Tuesday directed the founder-owner of Kingfisher Airlines to disclose to the SBI-led consortium of banks details of all overseas assets.
“We don’t find any tangible objection in disclosing the assets (of Mallya, his estranged wife and children) to the banks,” said a bench of Justices Kurian Joseph and Rohinton F Nariman while pointing out that the disclosure would help banks in negotiations.
The bench directed the court registry to furnish to the consortium of banks details of the assets — both domestic and foreign — declared by the elusive liquor baron in a sealed cover envelope to the apex court.
“The whole purpose of asking for disclosure was to give a fair idea to banks for entering into a meaningful and viable settlement,” observed the bench while commenting that Mallya has not complied with its previous order in its letter and spirit.
It further asked the Debt Recovery Tribunal in Bengaluru to expeditiously decide within two months a batch of petitions by the banks and financial institutions for recovery of their loans from Mallya and his companies.
The direction was issued after Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi complained of a “total non-compliance” by Mallya with the court’s April 7 order. He contended 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.
“He is a fugitive from justice in India,” said Rohatgi, adding Mallya was playing “hide and seek” and cooking a “cock and bull story” about settling the dues and reasons for non-disclosure of his assets. The AG claimed Mallya was deliberately concealing facts from the court since 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 Mallya was a defaulter but not a wilful defaulter and that it was a case of business failure.
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’s counsel also said that a concerted effort was being made to ensure he is thrown behind the bars as soon as he lands in India.
When the bench said presence of Mallya was required for a settlement and asked when was he prepared to come to India, Vaidyanathan replied: “I have no instruction on this.”
He added that Mallya, who is also an NRI, did not own any benami properties in the name of his family members.