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Supreme Court Orders Auction of Sahara Group’s Aamby Valley Properties

Sahara Group chairman Subrata Roy. Credit: PTI

Sahara Group chairman Subrata Roy. Credit: PTI

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Bombay high court’s official liquidator to sell the Rs 34,000 crore worth of Aamby Valley properties owned by the Sahara Group and directed its chief Subrata Roy to appear before it next week, saying they would consider sending him back to jail.

“As no amount has been deposited by the contemnor (Roy), we are inclined to go ahead with auction for the Aamby Valley City near Lonavala, Maharashtra,” a bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra said.

Making its mind clear, the bench, which also comprised Justices Ranjan Gogoi and A.K. Sikri, said the interim orders granting reliefs, including parole to Roy, “shall remain in force till April 27, as on that day, this court may rethink of varying the interim order of bail and think of sending the contemnor (Roy and others) to custody.”

“Enough is enough. You cannot say something today and resile tomorrow,” the bench said, taking strong note of the non-submission of over Rs 5,000 crore by the Sahara group.

The bench also cautioned Roy, saying non-compliance of its order would invite the wrath of the law and ultimately will be at his own peril.

The bench asked the official liquidator to auction the Aamby Valley properties, estimated to be worth Rs 34,000 crore, and directly report to it.

The bench also directed Roy and his group, as well as SEBI, to provide all necessary details relating to the properties to the official liquidator within 48 hours.

Meanwhile, the top court restrained one Prakash Swamy, who had filed an affidavit with regard to the sale of Sahara hotels in the US, from leaving India and asked him to deposit Rs 10 crore as fine with the market regulator SEBI. Swamy will also have to appear in person in the apex court.

The Supreme Court had on April 6 warned the Sahara Group that if it failed to deposit Rs 5092.6 crore in SEBI-Sahara refund account by April 17 in pursuance of its order, it will be “compelled” to auction its property at the Aamby Valley in Pune. The top court had told the group that no extension of time would be granted for depositing the amount.

The court had also observed that it had clearly told the group that a “substantial amount” must come in the refund account. “Whatever you do, we had told you that a substantial amount must come. Otherwise we will be compelled to put up Aamby Valley for auction,” the bench had said, noting, “What matters is the money coming into the kitty.”

The apex court had on February 28 said, “In case the substantial amount is deposited, this court may think of extending the time, otherwise appropriate direction shall be issued”.

The court had last month ordered an international real estate firm, which had shown willingness to buy Sahara’s stake in the New York-based Plaza Hotel for $550 million, to deposit Rs 750 crore in the SEBI-Sahara refund account, instead of the apex court registry, to show its bonafide.

The court had also asked the Sahara group to provide, within two weeks, a list of “unencumbered properties” which can be put up for public auction to realise the remaining over Rs 14,000 crore of the principal amount of around Rs 24,000 crore that has to be deposited in the SEBI-Sahara account for refunding investors.

The court had on November 28 last year asked Roy to deposit Rs 600 crore more by February 6 in the refund account to remain out of jail and warned that failure to do so would result in his return to prison. It 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 two companies in the group – Sahara India Real Estate Corporation and Sahara Housing Investment Corp Ltd – to comply with the court’s August 31, 2012 order to return Rs 24,000 crore to their investors.

However, director Vandana Bhargava was not taken into custody.