New Delhi: Vijay Mallya's escape was a hot topic of discussion early in the morning on Thursday in the Rajya Sabha. Ishrat Jahan, missing affidavits and statements linking her to LeT were brought forth by Nishikanth Dubey.
Here's a recap, the Opposition staged a walk out, soon after the Ishrat Jahan issue was brought up in the Lok Sabha. While the Congress accused the BJP-led government of "criminal consipracy" in allowing businessman Vijay Mallya, facing probe in several loan default cases, to fly out of the country, in Rajya Sabha. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley sought to corner the main opposition party by saying the loans were sanctioned to Mallya during UPA rule.
Jaitley vs Azad
"My charge against this government is that when so many agencies were interrogating him (Mallya), why was he not arrested, why was his passport not confiscated," Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said in Rajya Sabha.
Raising the matter during Zero Hour, Azad said everyone knew Mallya "could flee any day" and the investigating agencies should have seized his passport and taken steps to restrict his movement.
Maintaining that Mallya lived a "luxurious life" and had bases in several countries, the Congress leader said Mallya is not a "needle" and moves around with an entourage and expressed surprise at how he managed to leave the country despite a CBI "look out notice".
"Without the participation and without the active support of this government, he could not have left the country. That is my allegation," Azad said, adding that "one had escaped, the second Lalit Modi (Mallya) should not be allowed to escape".
Countering the charges, Jaitley said that the banks have been asked to recover "every penny that is due", adding that the first banking facility was given to Mallya and his companies in September 2004 which were renewed in February 2008.
The Leader of the House further said the accounts were declared non-performing assets (NPA) on April 30, 2009 and these debts were restructured and more facilites extened in December 2010.
"In what circumstances were the loans given is an issue of investigation and the CBI is investigating," he said.
"How these accounts were running, what facilities were given, the dates tell their own story," Jaitley said, adding "when the loans were given, how they were given... introspection will be required."
Jaitley said the liabilities including interest aggregates to Rs 9,091.4 crore as on November 30, 2015.
He also said there was no order to stop Mallya from leaving the country.
"That day, there was no order of any agency to stop him (from leaving the country)," Jaitley said, adding Mallya had left the country before the banks moved the Supreme Court for seizure of his passport.
Mallya had left the country on 2 March.
On Azad's contention that the present government had failed to bring back Lalit Modi, Jaitley said it was during the UPA rule that the former IPL chief had left the country.
Earlier, Naresh Agrawal (SP) said the matter of Mallya, a Rajya Sabha MP, should be referred to Ethics Committee.
Deputy Chairman P J Kurien said, "I agree with you. This is a matter to be taken up by the Ethics Committee".
Rahul vs Jaitley
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi joined the attack on the government saying the entire country is questioning why this government was "helping" people like Mallya by allowing him to escape and not fulfilling its promises made to people for bringing back black money and "giving Rs 15 lakh into every person's bank account".
He also lashed out at the Modi government for bringing the "fair and lovely" tax amnesty scheme, saying it only helped thieves, black marketeers and drug mafia to convert their black money into white.
Rahul also attacked the Prime Minister over his style of functioning; saying Modi in his long speeches has not answered his queries made to him.
"When a poor man steals, he is beaten up and thrown into jail. Someone who does not have food to eat and steals a roti is beaten up and put behind bars and a big businessmen who steals Rs 9,000 crore from country, you allow him to escape in First Class from the country," said Rahul Gandhi. He then went on to question the government, as to how they could let Mallya escape — "This is the simple question and we neither got a reply to this from Modiji nor from Jaitley ji," he told reporters outside the Parliament.
In response to these comments, Jaitley raked up the Bofors case reminding Rahul Gandhi of Ottavio Quattrocchi's escape.
"But Rahul ji should remember that there is a basic difference in Mallya leaving (the country) and Quattrocchi going out (of India). And let me explain him the difference.
"When the officials of Switzerland informed that Quattrocchi was also among the beneficiaries of Bofors and though the person who was heading the CBI investigation earlier K Madhavan wrote a letter that his passport should be impounded, the then government had not stopped him and within two days he left India. That was a criminal case," the Finance Minister said addressing the Cabinet briefing.
Stressing that there is a difference between the two incidents, Jaitley also said that by the time Mallya left, the banks had not initiated the legal process.
"It would have been better had the banks done it earlier," he, however, acknowledged.
Jaitley emphasised that the loans were given during UPA rule; mockingly, he said that the Congress vice president perhaps "could not understand" his answer and advised Rahul Gandhi to "study Constitution once."
Debunking Gandhi's criticism on why Mallya was not stopped from leaving the country, the Minister said, "There is a legal process to stop anybody. Either your passport has been impounded or there is any court order."
When asked about Congress questioning how Mallya remains a member in Rajya Sabha even after the issuance of a look out notice against him, he said, "There is a constitutional process to suspend the membership. If he (Rahul) studies Constitution once... it can happen only according to that. Membership is not terminated through press conferences."
Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said it was shocking that the UB group chairman, owing some Rs 10,000 crore dues to SBI led consortium of banks, fled to London on March two. He claimed that inspite of warning by the SBI law officer, no action was taken against the businessmen.
Congress, NCP and Left parties staged a walkout alleging that the government's response was not satisfactory and does not answer the points raised by them.
Government does not allow us to speak. PM does not like to discuss these issues: Rahul Gandhi on Vijay Mallya issue pic.twitter.com/zEfIbXZQ1G
— ANI (@ANI_news) March 10, 2016
On the Ishrat Jahan Case
Home Minister Rajnath Singh said key documents related to the Ishrat Jahan case have gone missing and accused the previous Congress-led government of a flip-flop over the controversial 2004 shootout that killed the alleged Lashkar-e-Taiba woman operative.
"Two letters from the then home secretary to the attorney general in 2009 have gone missing. The then attorney general had vetted two affidavits regarding the case. Those are also not available," Rajnath Singh told the Lok Sabha on Thursday, replying to a brief debate on the controversial 15 June, 2004, shootout.
He said that the government has launched an "internal inquiry" to find the missing documents "which will bring all the facts out" in the open.
Without naming Congress's P Chidambaram, Rajnath Singh alleged that affidavits regarding the case were corrected on the intervention of the then home minister and reaffirmed that an investigation has found that the Thane girl was a terrorist — a claim also seconded by American-Pakistani terrorist David Coleman Headley in his deposition.
"I am pained to say that there was a flip-flop on Ishrat Jahan case during the previous UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government," Rajnath Singh said, amid pandemonium caused by some Opposition members.
"She was described as an LeT terrorist in the first affidavit filed in the Gujarat High Court but unfortunately the facts were given another dimension in an additional affidavit which was filed a month later. It seems an attempt was made to weaken the case."
The minister also accused the previous government of hatching a conspiracy to malign the then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and his government.
"The affidavit was changed to malign the Gujarat government, the then chief minister. A conspiracy was hatched to drag him into the case."
with input from agencies