HC refuses to allow Jet founder Goyal to leave India

Asks him to first deposit ₹18,000 crore the cash-strapped airlines owes to its lenders

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday refused to allow Jet Airways founder Naresh Goyal to leave India observing that he should first deposit ₹18,000 crore the cash-strapped airlines owes to its lenders if he wants to go abroad.

Justice Suresh Kait, however, sought the Centre’s response on Mr. Goyal’s plea challenging a look-out circular issued against him.

“I won’t name but some people are sitting outside and India is not able to bring them back. What you [Mr. Goyal] are asking today it is not possible…” the judge remarked, denying any interim relief to Mr. Goyal, even as his counsel pleaded that he has to go abroad to retain his Non-Resident Indian status.

Mr. Goyal and his wife were offloaded from a flight to Dubai on May 25 based on a LOC issued in his name. Reportedly, the circular was issued by the Home Ministry at the request of the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO), which functions under the administrative control of the Ministry of Corporate Affairs.

Insolvency proceedings

Jet Airways, which was forced to ground its fleet in April due to cash crunch, has since been dragged into insolvency proceedings before the National Company Law Tribunal, Mumbai.

Additional Solicitor General Maninder Acharya told the High Court that “investigation by the SFIO is going on and it is a serious fraud of ₹18,000 crore.”

Meet with investors

Mr. Goyal contended that he had scheduled meetings in the last week of May 2019 with foreign investors, who had shown interest in infusing funds into Jet Airways.

He said he was to attend one such meeting in London, and for which he along with his wife had boarded the flight to Dubai with an onward connection to London.

His counsel argued that on May 25 when the couple was de-boarded there was no material to show any attempt to evade or run away from the investigation.

“In the case of the petitioner [Mr. Goyal], no FIR/ECIR has been registered against him. Even if a complaint is registered, the statute does not prevent a person named in a complaint or a first information report from exercising constitutional liberties including the right to travel,” his petition said.

“There being no pending criminal proceedings against the petitioner at whatever stage, the question of his being required to surrender to any investigating agency or court does not arise,” the plea added.

The High Court has posted the case for August 23.

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