Naresh Goyal
Goyal's advocate argued that not allowing his client to travel abroad is a violation of his fundamental rights. Reuters

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday asked Naresh Goyal to deposit Rs 18,000 crore, which his cash-strapped airline Jet Airways owes to lenders, if he wishes to leave India.

The court, expressing apprehension that the founder and former chairman of the airline may not return like others facing allegations of frauds said, "I won't name but some people are sitting outside the country, and India is not able to bring them back."

Refusing interim relief to Goyal, the high court's single-judge bench of Justice S.K. Kait sought centre's response on Goyal's plea challenging a lookout circular (LOC) issued against him. The court will hear the case again on August 23. Centre had informed the court about the investigation by the Serious Fraud Investigation Office against Goyal, regarding fraud of Rs 18,000 crore.

Notices to the ministry of home affairs, ministry of corporate affairs and ministry of law and justice were also issued, seeking their response on the date of the next hearing.

In Goyal's petition challenging the LoC, he said that no case was registered against him on May 25, when he and his wife Anita were deboarded from a flight to Dubai.

Senior advocate Maninder Singh, appearing for Goyal, argued that there was no material to show that there was any attempt by Goyal to evade investigation. As Goyal is a non-resident Indian (NRI), he is required to travel abroad for a certain period.  

Singh also said that not allowing his client to travel abroad is a violation of his fundamental rights. However, the court opposed the argument and said that the rights of a person to travel abroad are limited.

Goyal quit as the chairman of Jet Airways in March after the airlines defaulted on payments to banks and aircraft lessors. The troubles for the airline had started with problems in debt servicing and were followed by the grounding of aircraft, flight cancellations, delayed salaries and pilot strike over pay.

It was expected that UAE's Etihad Airways, a major shareholder in Jet, would come to the airline's rescue. However, Etihad wanted Goyal to step down as chairman and slash the holdings from 51 per cent.

It was being speculated in May that promoters of the defunct airline, including Goyal, may face criminal charges if an ongoing examination of its books reveals financial fraud. The Registrar of Companies (RoC) inspecting the airline company's books could recommend government action if primary evidence of fund diversion were found.