New Delhi: A Delhi court will hear on January 4 the issue of whether to declare fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya a proclaimed offender (PO) for allegedly evading summonses in a FERA violation case. The matter could not be heard today by the court due to the absence of Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Deepak Shehrawat, who had initiated the process to declare him a PO after the Enforcement Directorate (ED) informed it that his presence could not be ensured.
ED’s Special Public Prosecutor N K Matta had on the last date of hearing, submitted that it could not ensure the liquor baron’s presence despite summonses being sent to his office and residences and the publication of the notice seeking his appearance in the matter in newspapers. The ED, on January 4, is likely to press for declaring Mallya a PO since the court has already given him the last opportunity to appear in the case.
The court had on November 8 initiated the process to declare the fugitive businessman a PO after it was informed that the open-ended non-bailable warrant (NBW) issued earlier against him had been returned as unexecuted and the agency had no other option but to initiate the process under sections 82 and 83 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).
The court had on April 12 issued the open-ended NBW against the liquor baron. An ‘open-ended NBW’ does not carry a time limit for execution unlike an NBW (non-bailable warrant). On November 4 last year, while issuing the non-bailable warrant against Mallya, the court had observed that he had no inclination to return and had scant regard for the law of the land.
It had said that coercive process has to be initiated against Mallya as he was facing proceedings in several cases and evading appearance in those matters. The court had also held that the liquor baron’s plea on September 9 that he wanted to return to India but was “incapacitated” to travel as his passport had been revoked by Indian authorities, was “malafide” and “abuse of the process of law”.
On July 9, the court had cancelled the exemption from personal appearance granted to Mallya, who is reportedly in London, and directed him to appear before it on September 9. The exemption from personal appearance to Mallya was granted in December 2000 on the ED’s complaint for evading summonses issued by it.
The agency had issued summonses to the businessman in connection with alleged payment of USD 200,000 to a British firm for displaying Kingfisher logo in Formula One World Championships in London and some European countries in 1996, 1997 and 1998. It had claimed that the money was allegedly paid without prior approval from the RBI in violation of the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act (FERA) norms.
In its plea against Mallya, the ED had also sought issuance of non-bailable warrant against the chairman of the defunct Kingfisher Airlines to secure his presence in the ongoing trial of the case, which is at the final stage. According to the ED, Mallya was summoned on four occasions for questioning in connection with a contract signed in December 1995 with London-based firm Benetton Formula Ltd for promotion of the Kingfisher brand abroad. When Mallya failed to appear before the ED in response to the summons, a complaint was filed on March 8, 2000 before a court here and later charges were framed against him under the FERA.