SBI had made an application earlier under the new amendment which allows restoration of confiscated assets during trial
In a change of stand, the Enforcement Directorate, which had repeatedly opposed the settlement offers of liquor baron Vijay Mallya to settle dues he owed to numerous banks, has filed a reply in a special court looking into the Kingfisher Airlines loan default case, that the court may decide on the State Bank of India's plea seeking restoration of confiscated properties worth over Rs 6.200 crores.
The public sector bank had made an application before the special Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court earlier last month. The plea was made based on the new amendment under Section 8(8) to the PMLA Act. This amendment allows confiscated assets to be restored to the rightful claimants even during trial. Earlier, assets could be restored only after the trial was completed.
The crucial amendment which was brought through the finance bill came into effect from April, 2018 onwards.
Mallya had made settlement offers before the Karnataka High Court and the apex court to the banks and other creditors on several occasions earlier. Some, through a petition by his United Breweries Holdings Ltd (UBHL), while he had also filed an affidavit stating his willingness to settle the dues. These offers had been rejected by the ED for not being sufficient monetarily and on technical grounds.
The ED had opposed the settlement offer before the Karnataka High Court on the primary ground that the court did not have the jurisdiction to provide relief and that an application needs to be made under the new amendment before a PMLA court as the assets had been attached under the PMLA.
In its present reply to the SBI's application before the PMLA court, the ED stated, 'Restoration of assets in favour of the applicants (SBI) is well within the powers and jurisdiction of this Hon'ble Court...that the complainant (ED) leaves it to the best judgment of his Hon'ble Court to grant the prayer made by the applicant.'
It further stated, 'That it has been the argument of the accused (Mallya) in the case that certain properties (shares and debentures) being amenable to market fluctuations, which are at an all-time high, require to be liquidated without delay in order to realise their best value. Since the applicants, barring applicant no 12 are public banks, the money sought to be recovered is public money and thus restoration of assets in favour of the applicants lies in the public interest. It is most respectfully prayed that this Hon'ble court may graciously be pleased to allow the instant application in the interest of justice and equity..'