Pinnacle Court tells the union government to lift up criminal proceedings against fugitive businessmen if they agree to refund the amount

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The Top Court has advised the union 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 today gave this suggestion to the union 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.

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 accused have fled India and are living abroad. Along with them, there are other businessmen — Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi, etc — 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.

Apex court delivered that the government should consider granting him relief on three fronts if he comes back 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 a criminal case.

Bench said that “You’re 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”.

Additional solicitor general SV Raju, appearing for CBI, said he will not arrest 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 tried in trial court.