India Panel Backs Mallya's Expulsion From House on `Misconduct'

  • `Serious picture of unethical behaviour': Panel report
  • Parliament rejected Mallya's resignation on procedural grounds

An ethics panel of the upper house of India’s parliament recommended the expulsion of ex-billionaire Vijay Mallya from the legislative body, citing misconduct, a day after his resignation was rejected on procedural grounds.

The businessman, whom the government calls a fugitive over unpaid debt owed by his grounded Kingfisher Airlines Ltd., violated the code of conduct laid out for members of the chamber called Rajya Sabha, Karan Singh, chairman of the Committee on Ethics, said in a report presented to lawmakers on Wednesday.

“The Committee was of the firm view that taking into consideration the gravity of the misconduct a sanction not less than termination of membership from the House is warranted under the circumstances,” according to the report. “The Committee hopes that by taking such stern action a message would reach to the general public that Parliament is committed to take such steps as are necessary against erring Members to uphold the dignity and prestige of this great institution.”

Lynch Mob

The tycoon who once controlled a liquor and beer empire in the South Asian country is fighting a case in the nation’s top court after a group of lenders demanded full settlement of the collapsed carrier’s debt. 

In his resignation letter dated May 2, Mallya said he is skeptical of getting a fair trial in India amid the “media frenzy” and “lynch mob mentality” and questioned the legal authority of the panel to consider his expulsion. His passport was revoked last month after he left India to be closer to his children in England.

The Enforcement Directorate, a specialized financial investigation agency focused on foreign exchange and anti-money laundering laws, obtained a non-bailable warrant against Mallya last month from a Mumbai court, where it alleged Kingfisher funds were transferred overseas to acquire property. 

The panel report also said many former workers of Kingfisher Airlines haven’t received their dues for months, causing “acute distress to many families including children.”

“Taken together, all this adds up to a very serious picture of unethical behaviour and breach of the Code of Conduct” on the part of Mallya, the report said.

Not Original

The finance ministry told the committee that the carrier owed 94.3 billion rupees ($1.4 billion). Sumanto Bhattacharya, a spokesman for Mallya and his UB Group, didn’t immediately comment. 

Vice President Mohammad Hamid Ansari, who is also the chairman of the Rajya Sabha, rejected Mallya’s resignation on Tuesday as the letter “does not conform to prescribed procedures & does not bear signature in original,” according to a tweet posted by Gurdeep Singh Sappal, Ansari’s officer on special duty.

The ethics committee issued a “show cause” notice on April 25, giving Mallya a week to explain why he should continue as a member.

Mallya, 60, was elected to the Rajya Sabha in 2002 and again in 2010, both as an independent, with his current term set to end on June 30. 

The tycoon, ranked the 45th-richest Indian by Forbes in 2012 with a net worth of $1 billion, has maintained that Kingfisher was an “unfortunate commercial failure” because of macroeconomic factors and government policies.

“I believe this action on my part is in keeping with the highest standards of ethics that any member of Parliament should and ought to emulate,” he wrote in his May 2 resignation letter to the chief of the ethics panel.

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