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Declaring me fugitive offender is like giving 'economic death penalty': Mallya tells HC

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Embattled liquor tycoon Vijay Mallya told the Bombay High Court on Wednesday that by declaring him a fugitive economic offender and allowing attachment of his assets, a special court had awarded him an "economic death penalty".

Mallya made the statement through his counsel Amit Desai before a bench of justices Ranjit More and Bharati Dangre, during arguments on his plea challenging several provisions of the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act that came into existence in August last year.

"My debts and the interest on such debts are mounting. I have assets to pay off these debts but the government won't allow the use of these assets to clear the debts. I have no control over my properties," the businessman said.

"This is an economic death penalty that has been awarded to me," he said.

Desai urged the court to pass an injunction against the proceedings related to confiscation of his assets across the country.

The bench, however, refused to grant any interim relief on the petition.

A special court here had in January declared Mallya a fugitive economic offender (FEO) under provisions of the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act.

Later, Mallya approached the high court, challenging the provisions of the act that permit, among other things, confiscation of assets and placing them under the control of the Union government.

He also filed another petition challenging the special court order that declared him an FEO which was being heard by another division bench of the high court.

Desai argued that the FEO Act was "draconian" and "unconstitutional" as it allowed the Centre to confiscate everything, irrespective of whether a property was bought from the proceeds of a crime or not.

Mallya's plea was opposed by the Enforcement Directorate's (ED) counsel D P Singh, who argued that the Act was not draconian at all.

"This act is not draconian. In fact, this act prohibits prosecuting agencies from acting on their own. For everything, including attachment of properties, we are supposed to get a court order that is passed only after hearing all sides," Singh said.

"This act is meant for Mallya-like people only. It is not an ordinary legislation. The act has been constituted to bring back defaulters who have defaulted amounts of Rs 100 crore and above," the counsel said.

The court, too, noted that the legislation was a sound one and not draconian.

"We understand this legislation is a little harsh. But that is because it deals with draconian situations," the bench said.

It, however, issued a notice to the attorney general to respond to Mallya's plea challenging the act.

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