The process of bringing flamboyant liquor baron Vijay Mallya back to India to face the music has begun. His extradition may take time as he has the right to appeal against any order by the lower courts, but an important principle has been established in the UK — that a case against him exists in India, and the extradition process can begin under the relevant treaties. The tycoon’s grouse about being hounded over loans gone bad after his airline collapsed, and his playing victim, has lost all value.
The issue of outstanding loans plus interest may sound complicated, but the principle clearly is that he should’ve stayed in this country and faced the consequences. By choosing to be a fugitive from justice, Mallya displayed a brand of escapism that was possibly in keeping with his lavish lifestyle. Had he showed any enthusiasm to work with the banks to whom he and his company owed money — as much as Rs 9,000 crores, with the interest climbing every minute – there may have been scope for some settlement.
The fear is that Mallya, who owns prime real estate in several countries, was unprepared to sell any to meet the obligation he personally incurred in guaranteeing loans to his airline. It’s no defence to say the laws are draconian and their implementation is cowboyish merely as a prominent figure has been caught short. The State, however, is also obliged to ensure that laws are applied equitably. Also, the financial recovery process is more important than simply putting someone in prison, even if he has taken shortcuts or transgressed laws.