Unitech case: SC directs Chennai-based land aggregator to deposit Rs 90 crore by March 31

The Supreme Court on Friday directed Chennai-based land aggregator Omshakthy Agencies (Madras) Pvt Ltd, that had entered into an agreement with embattled real estate company Unitech Ltd for sale of land parcels, to deposit Rs 90 crore by March 31, 2018. The next date of hearing has been fixed for March 5, 2018.

Unitech Ltd had on January 29 informed the apex court that it had finalised a land deal worth Rs 400 crore with a buyer that will help it finish incomplete projects and refund homebuyers. The bench comprising justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud had directed in January that an official from the buyer be present in court and give its financial credential on February 16 with a demand draft for Rs 400 crore in the registrar’s name to show that it was inclined to purchase Unitech’s land.

“At the last hearing, the apex court had asked the land purchaser of Unitech lands in Chennai to come up before the court on February 16 and deposit the amount. The buyer Omshakthy Agencies (Madras) Pvt Ltd on Friday told the court that it was ready to deposit only Rs 90 crore by March 31. The court directed them to deposit the amount,” Pawanshree Agarwal, amicus curiae in the case, said.

The apex court also allowed Unitech to respond within a week to the January 12 application filed by homebuyers of Unitech Amber, Burgundy projects to auction Unitech’s UGCC land parcel located in Noida’s sectors 96, 97 and 98. Homebuyers had submitted a report through their lawyer which said that in case the Noida project land is auctioned, there will be a surplus of Rs 1000 crore which will be available for refund and for completion of projects.

Appearing on behalf of homebuyers, senior advocate M L Lahoty, had argued that 347 acres were allotted by Noida Authority to Unitech for the project in 2006 in sectors 96, 97 and 98 and that only 69 acres were required for homebuyers of three projects – Amber, Burgundy and Willow. The remaining land can be given to a builder.

“We have submitted a report by CBRE that states that about Rs 3000 crore are due to Noida Authority, Rs 200 crore are due to LIC and buyers of these three projects have to be satisfied with either construction of projects or refund. After all this, there will still be surplus of Rs 1000 crore. This amount can be utilised to complete these projects that are at a high stage of construction and some money can be utilized for the Vistas project as well. The court has directed Unitech to file a response within a week,” Lahoty said.

Separate civil appeals were listed for February 23. “As per a civil appeal, Rs 18 crore need to be distributed on a pro rata basis,” explained Varun Chopra, another lawyer present at the hearing.

The hearing lasted for 30 minutes.

The embattled real estate company also pressed for a 15-day custody parole to director Sanjay Chandra “to arrange money” but the court directed that the firm should first deposit Rs 750 crore, lawyers present at the hearing said.

The real estate company was required to deposit Rs 750 crore by December to secure bail for Chandra, who is in jail in a case of alleged forgery lodged by buyers of a Unitech housing project in Gurugram. It has deposited Rs 18 crore till date.

At the hearing on Friday, the company’s lawyer also claimed that they have given possession to some 600 buyers in December who have sought for a refund on the portal set up by the amicus for buyers to exercise their option for either a house or refund. “The court directed the company to provide names of the homebuyers who have been given possession to the amicus. The amicus has been asked to verify if those buyers have sought a refund on the portal and if they have, those entries should be shifted from refund to possession,” Agarwal said.

Chandra is seeking interim bail from the apex court after the Delhi High Court on August 11 had rejected the plea in a criminal case lodged in 2015 by 158 home buyers of Unitech projects’ — ‘Wild Flower Country’ and ‘Anthea Project’ — in Gurgaon.

Earlier, the court stayed the December 8 order of the National Company Law Tribunal allowing the Centre to take over the management of embattled realty firm Unitech Ltd. The National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT), on December 8, had suspended all the eight directors of the realty firm over allegations of mismanagement and siphoning of funds and had authorised the Centre to appoint its 10 nominees on the board. In its petition filed under section 241 of the Companies Act, 2013, the government had requested the tribunal to remove the eight directors and said that the company has over Rs 6,000 crore debt and over 16,000 undelivered units from a total of nearly 70 projects.

The NCLT, in its order, had also said the government must give name of its nominees by December 20 and restrained Unitech’s eight suspended directors from selling their personal and company properties.

On December 12 Supreme Court expressed serious apprehension about the manner in which the Centre moved the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) to take control of embattled real estate firm Unitech Ltd’s board without seeking its permission

Attorney General KK Venugopal conceded that “this should not have happened. The government should not have approached NCLT when Supreme Court was seized of the matter relating to Unitech’s failure to refund homebuyers,” said a lawyer present at the hearing on Wednesday.

The stay of NCLT’s order on December 9 had meant that Unitech’s promoter Sanjay Chandra, who is currently in jail, could resume negotiations from prison for sale of assets to generate Rs 750 crore that he had been asked to deposit in court by December end.moneycontrol