The Supreme Court on Monday asked the consortium of banks led by the SBI to respond to beleaguered liquor baron Vijay Mallya’s plea seeking recall of the notice of contempt for allegedly not making full disclosure of all the assets owned by him and his family as directed by the top court earlier.
Giving 10 days time to the State Bank of India (SBI) to file its response, the bench of Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman gave Mallya a week’s time to file his rejoinder as it directed the hearing of the matter on September 27.
Mallya’s lawyer said the liquor baron has contended that the disclosure of the assets was for the settlement of outstanding dues with the banks, and since no settlement was taking place, he was not obliged to make disclosure and consequently there was no contempt.
Contesting the allegation that he had not made full disclosure of his assets, Mallya, now residing in London, said that the disclosures made by him about his assets and liabilities, submitted to the court in a sealed cover on March 31, were “accurate” and were meant for lending banks to have a “fair idea” for a meaningful settlement.
He has described the contempt proceedings as abuse of the process which were resorted to by the lending banks for oblique motives. Urging caution before the issuance of contempt notice, Mallya, in his application, said that contempt proceedings could not be resorted to for recovering outstanding dues.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told the court that Mallya’s plea for the recall of the order could not be entertained as he has failed to make a personal appearance before the court in pursuance to the contempt notice.
However, Justice Nariman asked him to respond to Mallya’s application seeking the recall of the contempt notice so that the pleadings in the matter are completed and it is finally heard on any Tuesday.
The top court had on July 25 issued notice to Mallya on a plea by the consortium seeking contempt proceedings against him for not makings full disclosure of assets held by him, his wife and children both in India and abroad.
Addressing the court, Rohatgi read the Supreme Court rules which says that unless exempted, a person against whom contempt notice has been issued will have to be present in person to answer the court.
Telling the court that Mallya’s plea for the recall of contempt notice could not be entertained, Rohatgi said that neither he has entered appearance nor he has moved an application for exemption from appearance.
“He is bound to appear today. If he’s not appearing … he can’t be heard,” he said.
Referring to the court’s April 7 order, Rohatgi said that Mallya has not complied with the direction asking him to disclose all his assets, both moveable and immovable, including those held by his wife and children.
By the April 7 order, the court had also asked him to indicate the date when he could appear before it in person.
The court had asked Mallya to disclose all his assets — movable and immovable and tangible and intangible — and other shareholdings and beneficial interests in India and abroad by April 21.
Telling the court that Mallya has not made full disclosure, Attorney General said that he did not disclose about $40 million that he had got from British spirits maker Diageo as a part of severance package.
The consortium had moved the top court seeking the settlement of his outstanding dues amounting to more than Rs 9,000 crore.
The State Bank of Baroda, State Bank of Mysore, Axis Bank, Corporation Bank, Federal Bank, Indian Overseas Bank, Jammu and Kashmir Bank, IDBI Bank, Punjab National Bank, Punjab and Sind Bank, UCO Bank and United Bank of India are other members of the consortium.