SC orders attachment of Sahara’s prime Aamby Valley property

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The Supreme Court, on February 6, 2017, directed attachment of the Sahara Group’s Aamby Valley property in Pune, for realisation of money to be paid to its investors. The apex court also asked the Sahara Group to furnish a list of unencumbered properties, within two weeks, which can be put on public auction, to realise the remaining Rs 14,000 crores of the principal amount of around Rs 24,000 crores that has to be deposited in the SEBI-Sahara account, for refunding money to the investors. A bench headed by justice Dipak Misra, which will hear the matter again on February 20, noted that out of the principal amount, the group has deposited around Rs 11,000 crores.

The bench, also comprising justices Ranjan Gogoi and A K Sikri, was told by SEBI counsel Pratap Venugopal that the interest on the principal amount till October 31, 2016, would lead to a liability of Rs 47,669 crores on the Sahara Group. The company deposited over Rs 600 crores on February 6, in accordance with the January 12, 2017 order, by which extension of time beyond February 6 was refused. The apex court had said that failure to pay the said amount would lead Sahara Group’s chief Subrata Roy, going back to jail. The top court was not in agreement with Sahara’s counsel, senior advocate Kapil Sibal that the amount should be realised in accordance with the roadmap provided by the group, which suggested the deadline of July 2019 will be adhered to.

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“No small token amounts,” the bench observed, adding that the balance amount of over Rs 14,000 crores can be realised by public auction of Sahara’s unencumbered properties, which are free from litigations, mortgage and any charge. “The fundamental question is that the court found that the money collected by you from XYZ, etc., was in violation of the rules,” the bench observed, while not accepting Sibal’s plea that he should be given at least a minimum of two hours to explain that the apex court judgement against Sahara was ‘ex-facie erroneous’.

Sibal said the court should refrain from passing any order, as the review petition against the August 2012 judgement was pending and he would demonstrate the ‘error on the face of the records’. Sibal also submitted that there was a need for breathing time for making the payment and contended that no bank or investor was claiming the money from Sahara Group.

The senior advocate also cited the issue of demonetisation and liquidity crunch, in generating the money.

The bench noted that the SEBI counsel and senior advocate Shekhar Naphade, who is assisting the court as amicus curiae, were of the view that the Aamby Valley property was worth approximately Rs 39,000 crores. The bench said that this was substantial for realising the amount and they favoured its attachment, as such a move would press Roy and other directors to endeavour to deposit the amount in the SEBI-Sahara account.

Prior developments in the case The bench had, at the last hearing, granted liberty to the Sahara Group chief to transfer 35 million pounds, equivalent to Rs 285 crores, deposited in a bank in London to the SEBI-Sahara account, as part of Rs 600 crores payment required to be made. The apex court had, on November 28, 2016, asked Roy to deposit Rs 600 crores more by February 6, 2017 in the SEBI-Sahara refund account, to remain out of jail and warned that failure to do so would result in his return to prison. The apex court had on May 6, 2016, granted a four-week parole to Roy, to attend the funeral of his mother. His parole has been extended by the court ever since. Roy was sent to Tihar Jail on March 4, 2014. Besides Roy, two other directors – Ravi Shankar Dubey and Ashok Roy Choudhary – were arrested for the failure of the Sahara Group’s two companies – Sahara India Real Estate Corporation (SIRECL) and Sahara Housing Investment Corp Ltd (SHICL) to comply with the court’s August 31, 2012 order, to return Rs 24,000 crores to their investors. However, woman director Vandana Bhargava was not taken into custody.By: Housing.com/news