The Delhi High Court on Tuesday refused to allow Jet Airways’ founding Chairman Naresh Goyal to travel abroad for now. A single-judge Bench of Justice Suresh Kumar Kait observed that if Goyal was ready to give a bank guarantee worth Rs 18,000 crore, he would be free to go abroad. The observation by the court came on submission of the Ministry of Corporate Affairs’ (MCA’s) lawyers, who told the court that the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) was probing a case of misappropriation of nearly Rs 18,000 crore by Jet Airways and Goyal.
The high court, while hearing the petition moved by Goyal on the look out circular (LOC) issued against him and his wife by the MCA, said the interim relief sought could not be given. The case will now be heard on August 23.
On the insistence of SFIO, the MCA had in May issued a LOC against Goyal and his wife. Following the notice, the duo was deplaned from an Emirates Airways flight bound for London on May 25. On July 3, Goyal challenged the notice and said that that the circular was bad in law and violative of Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution, which enshrine personal liberty and equality for everyone.
In his plea, Goyal said the day he and his wife were deplaned from the flight, he had scheduled meetings with foreign investors, who had shown interest in infusing funds into Jet Airways. Goyal has also contended that despite several requests, he was not served a copy of the LOC and no first information report was filed against him.
On Tuesday, Goyal’s counsel also told the high court that in order to maintain his non-resident Indian status he must stay away from India for a period of at least 183 days a year. “In the current financial year 2019- 2020, the petitioner has only stayed away from India for seven days. The petitioner only has 9 months remaining to fulfill the minimum requirement of staying away from India for 183 days,” Goyal said in his petition. The court, however, refused to entertain the plea and said that any final order in the case could be passed only after hearing the central government’s stand.
Goyal’s Jet Airways is currently undergoing insolvency proceedings as the Mumbai Bench of the National Company Law Tribunal admitted an insolvency petition filed by the State Bank of India (SBI) on behalf of 26 lenders on June 20. The airline owes over Rs 8,500 crore to a consortium of 26 banks, led by SBI, and over Rs 13,000 crore to the vendors and nearly 23,000-odd employees.
The airline formally stopped flying on April 17 and banks voted for bankruptcy on June 17.