The Supreme Court Monday gave a go ahead to the Enforcement Directorate to continue with its criminal proceedings against UB Group chairman Vijay Mallya.
A bench headed by justice JS Kehar dismissed Mallya’s petition challenging ED’s proceedings in an alleged money-laundering case against him, and imposed an exemplary cost of Rs 10 lakh for abusing the law. The fine has to be deposited with the Supreme Court Legal Service Authority.
The ED has alleged that Mallya violated the law when he signed a contract with London-based firm Benetton Formula Ltd in December 1995 for promoting his Kingfisher liquor brand abroad. He allegedly paid the money without prior approval of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
“We do not see any merit in the appeal. We are also of the opinion that the entire approach adopted by the appellant (Mallya) is a sheer abuse of the process of law. Any other view of the matter would only go to once again establishing the notorious truth stated by Anatole France that —‘the law in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets and to steal bread,” the bench said, upholding the 2007 Delhi High Court verdict that turned down Mallya’s plea seeking quashing of the criminal proceedings in a trial court.
Mallya had allegedly paid $200,000 to the British company for displaying his Kingfisher beer logo in the Formula One World Championships to be held in London and some European countries in 1996, 1997 and 1998. The money was allegedly paid in violation of the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act (FERA).
Mallya had contended before the apex court that the adjudicating officer of the ED had in its January 10, 2002 order exonerated both Mallya and his company of any breach of FERA provisions. Besides, he was abroad at the time of serving of summons, which was evident from his passport.