Sahara pays Rs 300 crore, SC asks for Rs 300 crore more by September


NEW DELHI: The Sahara group on Wednesday deposited the promised Rs 300 crore with market regulator Sebi but the Supreme Court sought an additional Rs 300 crore by September 16 for continuation of group head Subrata Roy’s bail.

With this payment, the Sahara group’s total deposit with Sebi has crossed Rs 10,000 crore. But it still has to pay Rs 14,000-odd crore according to the SC judgment as principal amount. Repeated flouting of deadlines to pay up had landed Roy and two directors of the group in jail. They were granted interim bail on the condition of depositing Rs 5,000 crore in cash and furnishing a bank guarantee of Rs 5,000 crore.

Appearing for the Sahara group, senior advocate Kapil Sibal said the cash component of the bail condition had been met as promised and the group would soon be able to provide a bank guarantee. The argument was meant to convince the court about the bona fides of the group and to request it to confirm bail for Roy and the two directors.

A bench of Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justices A R Dave and A K Sikri said payment of bail bond amount was not a guarantee for Roy’s freedom as the group was still far away from paying up the Rs 24,000-crore principal liability, which the SC in one of its judgments quantified with interest to be Rs 36,000 crore. “We are getting tired of recovering the outstanding dues from you. At this rate (Rs 200-300 crore at a time every three months), you will take 10 years to pay up the principal amount. You have said on affidavit that you have landed property worth Rs 1.87 lakh crore. Why are you not selling them and depositing the entire amount?” the bench asked. Sibal said the value mentioned was reflective of the price the lands would command after development. However, he promised that the Sahara group would pay up the entire principal amount in the next 18 months. “It will not take more than one-and-a-half years. The group will pay up Rs 24,700 crore in the next one-and-a-half years,” he said.

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The bench asked Sebi about the e-auction of Sahara properties. Senior advocate Arvind Datar said of 58 properties, eight were sold and fetched Rs 195 crore, which had been put in the SC-created Sahara-Sebi account.

Sibal complained that the e-auction was faulty as Sahara group had more lucrative offers but Sebi sold it for a pittance. Sebi said the lucrative offers were intimated to it after the bids were finalized and it would not be proper to reopen the bidding process.

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Probably more money is going to (and has gone) to sponsor sports than the bail amount.M S

The SC said, “Once the hammer has fallen, it has become final.” It asked Sahara group to intimate in the next 10 days the offers it had for the remaining 50 properties to be sold through e-auction. If the offer was more lucrative than the base price, then Sebi would drop it from e-auction.

Sebi’s counsel said sale of Aamby Valley property alone would satisfy all dues. This drew sharp opposition from Sibal, who said, “Why are you so obsessed with selling my golden goose?” The bench ended on a lighter note, saying, “Please deposit at least eggs of the golden goose.”