Observing that persons whose departure may be detrimental to the “economic interest of India” should not be permitted to fly out “in larger public interest”, the Bombay High Court recently refused to grant interim relief to a 65-year-old citizen of Republic of Dominica and a former chairman of a metal trading company that owes nearly Rs 2,750 crore to creditors, including a State Bank of India-led consortium.
The court dismissed the interim plea seeking a stay on a Look Out Circular (LOC) issued against Suman Gupta before she was to fly to Dubai from Mumbai airport in February.
The court on July 3 heard an interim plea filed by Gupta – former chairman of Ushdev International Limited (UIL) — through senior counsel Shyam Diwan and advocate Karan Bhosle — seeking a stay on the LOC and permit her to travel abroad at the earliest.
The court noted that while the loan account of UIL was classified as a non-performing asset (NPA) and it had outstanding dues of around Rs 3,300 crore, Gupta is a personal guarantor for credit facilities availed by the firm.
Diwan submitted that Gupta suffered various ailments, including diabetic neuropathy and hypertension and has been undergoing treatment in Dubai. “In order to continue her treatment, the applicant being old and ailing needs to be monitored and even held by someone to carry out day-to-day work. There is no one to look after the applicant in these testing times of Covid-19 pandemic,” he added.
Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh and advocate Sandesh Patil, appearing for the central government, opposed the plea and said that the LOC was as per law.
After hearing submissions, the HC observed that Gupta chose to give up Indian citizenship in 2018 and opted to become a citizen of Republic of Dominica – known to be an “offshore tax haven”. After examining Gupta’s medical records, the bench said that she was not suffering from any serious illness that cannot be treated in Mumbai and if she is permitted to leave the country, the likelihood of securing her presence in the city for investigation seems remote, if a probe is to be carried out.
“Prima facie issuance of LOC now covers cases of such persons whose departure from India may be detrimental to the economic interest of India as also of such persons whose departure ought not to be permitted in the larger public interest,” the court said.
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