The Supreme Court on Monday awarded four-month sentence to fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya in a contempt case.
Observing that it must impose adequate punishment upon the contemnor in order to maintain the “majesty of law”, a bench headed by Justice U U Lalit also imposed a fine of Rs 2,000 on Mallya.
Mallya is accused in a bank loan default matter of over Rs 9,000 crore involving his defunct Kingfisher Airlines.
“Considering the facts and circumstances on record and the fact that the contemnor never showed any remorse nor tendered any apology for his conduct, we impose sentence of four months and fine in the sum of Rs 2,000,” the bench said while pronouncing the order.
The apex court had in 2020 dismissed Mallya's plea seeking review of the May 2017 verdict which had held him guilty of contempt for transferring $40 million (one million = ten lakh) to his children in violation of court orders.
While pronouncing the order on Monday, the bench said the contemnor and beneficiaries of the transactions, referred to in its May 2017 verdict, shall be bound to deposit the amount received by them along with eight per cent interest per annum with the recovery officer concerned within four weeks.
“In case the amounts are not so deposited, the recovery officer concerned shall be entitled to take appropriate proceedings for recovery of said amount and the Government of India and all agencies concerned shall extend assistance and complete cooperation,” it said.
The bench said the fine of Rs 2,000 imposed on Mallya be deposited in the registry of the apex court within four weeks and upon such deposit, the amount shall be handed over to the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee.
“In case, the amount of fine is not deposited within the time stipulated, the contemnor shall undergo further sentence of two months,” it said.
“In the circumstances, in order to maintain the majesty of law, we must impose adequate punishment upon the contemnor and also pass necessary direction so that the advantage secured by the contemnor or anyone claiming under him are set at nought and the amount in question is available in execution of the decree passed in the concerned recovery proceedings,” the bench said.
Mallya has been living in the United Kingdom since March 2016. He is on bail on an extradition warrant executed by the Scotland Yard on April 18, 2017.
During the hearing earlier, Mallya's counsel had on March 10 told the apex court that he was handicapped in the absence of any instruction from his client, who is in the United Kingdom, and would not be able to argue on the quantum of sentence to be awarded in the contempt case.
Observing that it had waited "sufficiently long", the apex court on February 10 had fixed the contempt case against Mallya for hearing and had given him the last opportunity to appear before it either personally or through his lawyer.
The top court had said it has given multiple opportunities to Mallya to appear either personally or through a lawyer and had even given specific directions in its order dated November 30, 2021.
Earlier, a consortium of lending banks led by the State Bank of India had moved the apex court alleging that Mallya was not following the court orders on repayment of loan which was then over Rs 9,000 crore.
It was alleged that he was not disclosing the assets and moreover, transferring them to his children in violation of the restraint orders.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, had earlier said that the court has inherent jurisdiction in contempt cases and that it has given enough opportunity to Mallya, which he has not taken.
On November 30 last year, the top court had said it cannot wait any longer and the sentencing aspect in the contempt matter against Mallya would be dealt with finally.
Mallya was held guilty of contempt in 2017, and the matter was thereafter to be listed to hear him on the proposed punishment to be awarded to him.
The apex court had earlier noted that as per an office memorandum, under the signature of the deputy secretary (extradition) of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), the proceedings for extradition have attained finality and Mallya has "exhausted all avenues for appeal" in the UK.