MUMBAI: The Bombay high court on Friday directed the police commissioner of Mumbai to “immediately take steps to trace the whereabouts and arrest” two builders — Rajen Dhruv and Hiren Dhruv of Orbit Ventures Developer — after they failed to surrender before the court.
The court directed them to be taken into custody to serve six months civil imprisonment.
In March, a HC bench of Justices S J Kathawalla and Milind Jadhav held the builders guilty under Contempt of Court Act for repeated and wilful violation of their undertaking to court,wilful disobedience of its order, playing fast and loose with the court, making false statements, “systematically and fraudulently diluting the security” of Axis Finance Ltd.
On Friday, the HC bench of Justices K R Shriram and A S Doctor directed the police chief to treat its order as a non-bailable warrant and on arrest to present them before it.
The HC posted the matter next to July 25 for the police to give a status report. The police also must inform all airport authorities and immigration authorities in India to place a lookout notice against the duo and detain them wherever they are found, said the court.
Axis Finance had filed a contempt petition against Orbit Ventures Developers and their two directors, Rajen Dhruv and Hiren Dhruv who reside in Bandra (west) and Khar (West).
Venkatesh Dhond, senior counsel with advocates Rashmin Khandekar and Nishit Dhruva for Axis, had argued how the builders had constantly sought time but never abided by their assurances of paying money due in installments in February and March.
The bench also directed immediate freezing of their bank accounts including their debit and credit cards. Their counsel Firoz Bharucha on Friday said he was “embarrassed in as much as Respondent No.2 and 3 (Dhruvs) have both absconded”. He as well as the duo’s advocate Kiran Jain informed the HC that they have “no instructions” of the builders’ whereabouts.
On Thursday the duo, present in court, had undertaken to surrender by 10.30 am on Friday and the HC which had directed that they be “taken into custody forthwith” had on their lawyer’s plea for such indulgence posted it “first on board” on Friday.
When the duo did not show up, the HC directed the police to swing into action. Earlier on March 23, the HC had suspended their sentence when they sought and were granted time to pay Rs 83 crore in six installments from March 31 to September 30, 2022, failing which the sentence would kick in automatically.
A flat purchaser, Meenakshi Sharma, had in March immediately after the contempt order moved the HC in the matter. Her counsel, Premlal Krishnan, informed the HC that in 2012 she had paid the entire cost (Rs 5 crore) for the project in Vile Parle and the flat is now attached for the dues the builder owes Axis Finance while she is yet to receive its possession. She sought vacating of the attachment which was ordered by the HC earlier.
On July 21, for Axis Finance, Dhond informed the HC that out of Rs 51 crore payable by June 30, only Rs 15 crore was paid. On June 17, their lawyer informed the HC that they would be handing cheques of Rs 20.5 crore to Axis Finance on June 23 as they said Indiabulls Commercial Credit Ltd was funding them.
The HC noted, “On 24th June 2022, respondent nos. 2 and 3 (the Dhruvs) started singing a different tune’’ and sought more time.
On July 1, the HC granted them more time.
On July 15, Indiabulls informed HC that they are not going to fund Rajen Dhruv.
The HC then posted matter to July 21 when it said, “There is no sign of money and we are satisfied looking at the past conduct of these respondents, that (the Dhruv duo) have been only abusing the indulgence granted by the court with no intention of honouring the undertakings given to the court.’’ The HC directed the sentence to come in to effect immediately.