Jet Airways: If you (Naresh Goyal) are ready to give 18,000 crore bank guarantee, you can go (abroad)
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Jet Airways: If you (Naresh Goyal) are ready to give 18,000 crore bank guarantee, you can go (abroad)

Aditi Singh

The Delhi High Court today issued notice to the Central Goverment in a plea by former Jet Airways Chairman Naresh Goyal seeking to quash the Look Out Circular (LOC) against him.

A Single Judge Bench of Justice Suresh Kumar Kait, however, refused to grant any interim relief to Goyal.

“If you are ready to give 18,000 crore bank guarantee, you can go (abroad)”, the Court remarked.

The LOC was issued against Naresh Goyal at the insistence of the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) under the Ministry of Corporate Affairs.

As per a submission made by Additional Solicitor General Maninder Acharya before the Court, the investigation by the SFIO pertains to a fraud of Rs 18,000 crore.

Pursuant to the LOC, Goyal and his wife Anita were deplaned from a Dubai-bound flight on May 25. It is Goyal’s case that the LOC was issued without any basis and in violation of Articles 21 and 14 of the Constitution.

The petition, filed through advocate Sakesh Goyal, has also challenged the Office Memoranda dated October 27, 2010 and December 5, 2017, issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs. These form the basis of issuance of the LOCs.

Senior Advocate Maninder Singh, appearing for Naresh Goyal, argued that these Office Memoranda could not form the basis to restrain a person from traveling abroad.

“Issuance of LOC which curtails the fundamental right to go abroad can only be done with legislature made law…Executive action cannot be the basis..”,  he contended.

It was further claimed that Goyal is a law abiding citizen and that he was traveling to Dubai to meet certain investors with a view to resuming the operation of Jet Airways.

Singh also stated that as on May 25 and on the day the petition was filed, there was no case registered against Goyal. It was further alleged that the summons to Goyal was issued by the SFIO only after he moved the High Court. 

“There was no case against me till I filed this writ petition…on 6th (July) I served an advance copy (of the petition) and they issue an order under Section 212 of Companies Act stipulating an enquiry against me…If there is something serious on May 25, it can’t (wait for) six weeks after I come to Court.”

Thereafter, Singh pressed for interim relief. The Court was informed that to sustain their NRI status, it was imperative that Goyal and his wife be allowed to travel abroad.

The Court, however, refused to pass any order granting interim relief to Goyal.  It referred to instances of businessmen fleeing the country after being involved in financial irregularities and said,

“You have not established the purpose (to go abroad).”

It clarified that an order would be passed only after seeking the Central Government’s stand.

Jet Airways owes over Rs 8,000 crore to lenders, including the consortium of banks led by State Bank of India. The airline also has a large debt by way of accumulated losses to the tune of Rs 13,000 crore, vendor dues of over Rs 10,000 crore, and salary dues of over Rs 3,000 crore. Insolvency proceedings are presently pending before National Company Law Tribunal, Mumbai Bench.

Following the downfall of Jet Airways, Goyal had resigned from the Board of the company in March.

The matter will be heard next on August 23.

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