Monday, August 8, 2022

Drop criminal proceedings against fugitive businessmen if they agree to refund amount: Supreme Court to Centre

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The Supreme Court has suggested the Central government to consider the option of dropping criminal proceedings against those fugitive businessmen, who are ready to pay the large amount of money they had swindled from the banks before fleeing the country.

A Bench comprising Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice MM Sundresh in Tuesday gave this piece of advice to the Central government, keeping in view the efforts taken up by the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate in their pursuit to bring back the fugitive businessmen.

It said many years may be spent in legal proceedings and the agencies may or may not be successful in their pursuit. The government may consider granting protection to these fugitives, if they agree to refund the money and they be not arrested on returning back to the country. 

The suggestion came while hearing a plea of Hemant S Hathi, who is wanted along with promoters of Sterling Group for allegedly swindling Rs 14,500 crore through bank loans. 

All the accused have fled India and are living abroad. Along with them, there are other businessmen, such as Nirav Modi and Vijay Mallya, who have fled India to get away from clutches of the law. Indian agencies have been trying to get them back but they haven’t been successful so far.

Hathi expressed his willingness to refund the money but sought protection from being prosecuted and harassed by the agency on coming back. He said the total amount stated to be due from him is little over Rs 1,500-odd crore, out of which Rs 600 crore have been repaid to banks, and assured to refund the outstanding amount of Rs 900 crore. The bench also favoured that the amount be accepted by the government. 

“You are chasing many people around the world but you haven’t been able to get anything. Here he’s offering to refund money. So some criminal proceedings can be stayed and allow them to come back,” it said.

Additional Solicitor General SV Raju, appearing for CBI, said he will not be arrested if he returns and expressed his reservation in putting an end to the criminal proceedings against him and not to pursue the case, which is being tried in the trial court.

The SC said the government should consider granting him relief on three fronts if he comes backs and pay back the money — pending criminal proceedings should be quashed against him; he should be allowed to travel around the country to pursue his business; and no coercive action be taken against him in criminal case.

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