It is perhaps easy to miss the coincidence of two developments taking place in quick succession this week, but their significance in national politics should not be underestimated. Nor should there be any celebrations over an early resolution to the problems that those developments are seeking to address.
On Monday, the Supreme Court ordered the auction of theproperty of the Sahara supremo, Subrata Roy, to help recover from him dues that market regulator, the Securities and Exchange Board of India, estimates to be over Rs 47,000 crore, including interest. Of this amount, the group has so far paid back Rs 11,477 crore.
A day later, the United Kingdom (UK) authorities started extradition proceedings against Vijay Mallya, who allegedly owes over Rs 9,000 crore to banks in India and has been staying away from India for the last 13 months. After the UK Secretary of State certified that extradition proceedings can begin, the London police arrested Mallya and produced him before a local court, which granted him conditional bail.
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Purely from an economic governance point of view, these steps mark just the beginning of what would certainly be a long process of recovering dues fromand But that the process has begun augurs well for a country where action against malfeasance is rare and when the process does start, it is excruciatingly slow. And worse, when the process ends after many years, the accused often get away with relative ease.
For instance, it would only be on April 27 that the Supreme Court is expected to get a valuation report for Aamby Valley, a luxury township in Maharashtra. Even if the auction process starts on that day, it would take many more weeks before the sale of the asset takes place and the money is recovered.
Similarly, Mallya will get 14 days to appeal against any decision by the local court to refer his extradition case back to the UK Secretary of State (equivalent of the Indian external affairs minister) to take a final view on the Indian government’s plea for extradition. The next hearing of the local court is scheduled for May 17.