1,200 crore loan defaulter can go overseas

Mumbai: In a setback for one of the biggest bank defaulters from Madhya Pradesh, the Bombay High Court recently refused to issue a blank cheque to Dr Shrikant Bhasi, allowing him to fly out of India, without taking permission from any court or investigating agency.

The court said if such an order is passed then there are chances that Bhasi, who has to pay back Rs 1,200 crore to the State Bank of India, might not return.

A bench of Justices Satyaranjan Dharmadhikari and Gautam Patel, however, have allowed Bhasi to travel to Singapore and Dubai for a period of one month for striking a business deal.

This travel, the bench said, would have too many riders, so as to ensure he returns to India. Bhasi, had moved the bench taking exception to a Jabalpur court's order, which while releasing him on bail, had imposed a number of conditions.

One such condition was that he cannot leave India without taking permission from courts. The trial court had also ordered seizure of his passport.

Aggrieved by these conditions, Bhasi moved Justice Dharmadhikari's bench seeking to delete the said conditions, so that he could freely travel anywhere.

Having examined his plea, the judges said, "We find that the prayers are too wide to be granted at this stage. Thus we cannot pass orders of a blanket stay of the lookout circular issued against him."

His request for such a blanket order was vehemently opposed by the SBI through senior counsel Ravi Kadam.

Kadam argued that in the garb of seeking such permission to travel abroad, Bhasi has virtually set at naught the lookout circular as also the proceedings before the Debts Recovery Tribunal at Jabalpur.

"If the desired relief is granted and Bhasi does not return, the bank’s dues would be in jeopardy. Presently, there are no details of his assets and properties in India and which could be attached by the bank," Kadam argued.

The bench found some "substance" in Kadam's contentions. "We are in agreement with the bank's case that such permission being sought from this court, without complete details of the journey, would mean that there is no guarantee that Bhasi would return to India,"

Justice Dharmadhikari noted. The bench further frowned at Bhasi seeking return of his passport. However, the court said it would allow him to travel for a limited period.

"It is only because the travel has to commence and the plea was moved at the last minute that we granted him permission to travel abroad. That is to fulfil his commitments and in view of his statement in affidavit that he will fly out of India on September 22 and return by October 21, 2019," the bench said.

The bench has ordered Bhasi to submit a detailed itinerary of his travel and stay. He has been further asked to submit the details of contact numbers and addresses of the places, where he would be staying in Dubai and Singapore.