The Supreme Court ordered the Maharashtra police to hand over the possession of luxury township Aamby Valley to the official liquidator of the Bombay High Court within 48 hours.
A Bench of the chief justice, Dipak Misra, and judges Ranjan Gogoi and A K Sikri directed the liquidator to conduct an auction process afresh under the guidance of the companies Bench judge in Mumbai and a judge of the Bombay High Court.
The Bench warned that any further attempts to impediment the auction could land the contemnors in jail.
This came after the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) petitioned that the Sahara group, whose property it has been, had obstructed the court-ordered auction process by writing to the police in Pune to take over the premises on account of a lockout.
The Rs 37,000-crore property was put to auction last month by the apex court after the Sahara group failed to pay the sums due to Sebi in a seven-year-old case. Two group firms, Sahara Housing Invest and Sahara India Real Estate, had raised Rs 24,029 crore by issuing bonds to 29.6 million investors. In 2012, the SC upheld a Sebi order that this was illegal and directed refund, with interest. Though the group has deposited around two-third of the principal sum, the total of dues with interest has crossed Rs 40,000 crore according to Sebi estimates. Group chief Subrata Roy, who spent around two years in jail for failing to pay, is currently out on parole.
In a letter addressed to the police superintendent of Pune (Rural), with a copy to the state government’s additional chief secretary, the group had claimed the SC order had brought its business to a standstill, as no real estate transaction was happening and that it was forced to issue a lockout notice. It said the resort was going through its “worst ever” phase.
Claiming it feared a law and order situation due to the impending lockout, it requested the police to take over the property spread over thousands of acres, off Lonavla along the Pune-Mumbai highway.
Sebi counsel Arvind Datar said the letter was written on September 28, six days before the auction process was complete, and called it an “orchestrated attempt”. Since the police took over the property, the auction got derailed, the regulator said. “News reports had said there were two interested buyers. But, because of the Sahara letter and the police takeover, they have backed out,” Datar told the court.
Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Sahara, said the regulator’s claims were incorrect and pleaded that the court allow an opportunity to explain his position.
Questioning why the letter to the police was written, the chief justice said, “Our order is violated. We don’t intend to hear you today.”