Embattled Sahara Chief Subrata Roy on Thursday appeared before the Supreme Court which extended his parole till June 19 with a warning that failure to pay Rs 1500 crore, as promised, may again land him in jail.
The apex court took note of the affidavit and a personal undertaking of Roy, who stood right behind his lawyer Kapil Sibal, that he will pay Rs 1,500 crore on or before June 15 and Rs 552.22 crore exactly a month thereafter and said, "if the cheque is not encashed, the contemnor will straightaway go to jail". A bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra also asked Roy "do you intend to pay the money?" The Sahara Chief stood up and said "I am trying my best". On his short reply, the bench, also comprising Justices Ranjan Gogoi and A K Sikri, once again said, "we are warning you, if the cheques are not cleared and amount is not coming frequently, we will be compelled to send you to Tihar Jail straightaway from here".
During the proceedings, Chennai-based Prakash Swamy, the holder of power of attorney of MG Capital Holdings LLC, New York, USA which had intended to purchase Sahara's Hotel Plaza New York, was in for a shock of his life as the top court sent him to Tihar Jail for a month on the charge of contempt. Initially, Swamy, in his affidavit, had said the firm wanted to purchase the hotel. He was then asked by the court to deposit Rs 750 crore with the SEBI-Sahara Refund Account to show its bonafide in purchasing the hotel, valued at USD 550 million.
On April 17, Swamy's lawyer conceded that Rs 750 crore was not deposited as there was "difficulty to go with the transaction" of purchasing the hotel. This led the court to direct the seizure of the passport of 64-year-old Swamy, a journalist by profession who was a correspondent at the United Nations, besides asking him to deposit Rs 10 crore as cost and appear personally today. The apex court, which directed the Sahara Chief to personally appear again on June 19, asked the Bombay High Court's Official Liquidator (OL) Vinod Sharma to prepare the terms and conditions for auctioning of the Sahara group's Aamby Valley properties and bring them before it for approval.
The OL, at the outset, submitted the valuation report of the Aamby Valley properties and said it was valued at about Rs 37,392 crore. The bench asked Sharma to prepare the terms of the proposed action besides the reserve price and indicated that the auctioning would begin if Roy failed to pay Rs 1,500 crore on or before June 15. When Sibal, representing the Sahara Chief, said he may be allowed to electronically transfer Rs 1,500 crore in the SEBI Sahara Refund Account before June, the plea was allowed. The court then directed market regulator SEBI to return the cheque in question back to Roy if the amount was paid in the account through electronic means like RTGS. The bench noted in its order that Rs 11,169 crore towards principal was due on the Sahara Chief and around Rs 12,000 crore has already been paid. Earlier, the court was irked over non-submission of money and had decided to sell off Rs 34,000 crore worth of properties of the Sahara Group at the Aamby Valley.
The court had sought Roy's presence for today indicating that it could consider sending him back to jail. It had said that 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." It had agreed to amicus curiae Shekhar Naphade's suggestion that the OL be directed to conduct the sale and had asked Roy and SEBI to provide necessary details of Aamby Valley properties to the OL. The apex court had on April 6 warned the 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.
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 failure of the 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 crore to their investors. Director Vandana Bhargava was not taken into custody.