Four days before Vijay Mallya left the country, Kingfisher Airlines’ largest lender State Bank of India reportedly did not act on the legal advice it got to approach the Supreme Court seeking an order restraining Mallya’s overseas travel.
Senior Supreme Court lawyer Dushyant Dave says he offered this advice after top SBI management, having an inkling that Mallya may flee India, insisted on meeting Dave on Sunday, February 28, 2016.
Speaking to The Indian Express today, Dave said that in his meeting that Sunday, he “advised SBI to approach the Supreme Court on February 29, 2016, for getting an order restraining Mallya from leaving the country…SBI chairperson and people at the top within the government knew about this meeting and the advice given by me. However, there was no action taken on it.”
Mallya left the country four days later.
When asked to comment on Dave’s assertion, then SBI chairperson Arundhati Bhattacharya told The Indian Express: “Mr Dave may say what he has to say. I am no longer with SBI and you may contact the present SBI management for responses.”
Dave said that SBI’s legal advisors came for the meeting along with four top officials of SBI. “It was agreed that they would meet Monday morning to get an order from the Supreme Court restraining Mallya from leaving the country. It was a very specific advice and even as we agreed to meet next morning at 10 am (the court opens at 10:30 am), the SBI officials did not come,” said Dave.
Responding to queries sent by The Indian Express on Thursday, the State Bank of India spokesperson said: “State Bank of India denies that there has been any laxity on its part or its officials in dealing with loan default cases including Kingfisher Airlines. Bank has been taking proactive and strong measures to recover the defaulted amounts.”
While the banks missed out on stopping Mallya from leaving the country, the SBI-led consortium of 17 banks finally filed a petition in the Supreme Court on March 5.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi mentioned the consortium’s petition before a bench led by Chief Justice T S Thakur on March 8. Rohatgi said Mallya owed more than Rs 9,000 crore to these 17 banks and had also been declared a “wilful defaulter.”
Responding to a query sent by The Indian Express over Mallya’s meeting with Jaitley and details of offer of settlement, Clare Montgomery, Mallya’s lawyer in the extradition case in London, said: “I am not permitted under my professional rules to make any comment about this case, either on or off the record. I am sorry to say that I cannot therefore respond to your query.”