Aviation scam: Supreme Court issues notice to Aditya Talwar, stays proceedings in High Court

The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to Aditya Talwar, son of Deepak Talwar, who is named in the multi-crore civil aviation scam in which Air India allegedly suffered huge losses, & stayed proceedings in the Delhi High Court, which allowed him to be represented through a lawyer.

A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi agreed with Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Enforcement Directorate (ED), that the matter is urgent. The court listed the case for arguments & final disposal on July 23.

Mr. Mehta said Aditya was a crucial link in unravelling the scam. The High Court’s order on May 31 exempting him from personal appearance before the Special Judge & allowing a lawyer to represent him instead would further retard the progress in the investigation under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

The ED petition said, “The May 31 order permits the Respondent [Aditya] to further evade the process of law & not submit to the Indian jurisdiction when his present whereabouts are not known, which scenario will have a significant impact on various other cases, in today’s position of various economic offenders having evaded the process of law.”

The ED said the trial court had initially issued non-bailable warrant against Aditya, believed to have acquired Antiguan citizenship but whose exact whereabouts remained unknown. The warrants were cancelled only after a lawyer finally started representing him in the case. Subsequently, the PMLA court passed an order directing him to appear in person to respond to an application filed by the ED to declare him a Fugitive Economic Offender.

Mr. Mehta said any leniency shown now would delay the case’s progress. This would be a violation of the apex court’s own order of January 5, 2017 to probe the case at the earliest.

Probe in the case had revealed that the bilateral meetings held between India & UAE/Qatar resulted in wrongful loss to Air India & substantial gain to the airlines of UAE/Qatar.

Undue traffic rights were accorded despite contrary views from the Indian carrier & the DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation). These included increase in seat entitlements to both the contracting States; increase in points of call for foreign carriers causing adverse loss to the Indian carrier; The Indian carrier could not utilize its seat entitlement to the optimum capacity; & foreign carriers were exercising the benefit of sixth freedom traffic.

The ED said kickbacks were received into the accounts of M/s Asiafield & M/s Gilt Asset Management (companies of the Respondent). Aditya Talwar was 24 years old then.

“The known kickbacks as ascertained till now from the foreign airlines amounting to approximately Rs. 272 crore, pertaining to government contracts…” the ED petition said.

It alleged that the kickbacks were laundered with the active aid of Aditya, who acquired a foreign citizenship in October 2017 to evade the process of law after investigation into the scam began.

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