Even as it let Subrata Roy remain out on bail till June 15 on the condition of Sahara group depositing Rs 1,500 crore by this deadline, the Supreme Court Thursday sent a former journalist to jail for one month over false claims made by him on behalf of a US company to buy Sahara’s luxury hotel in New York.
A bench led by Justice Dipak Misra accepted Sahara’s request to submit two cheques with the Sebi for paying Rs 1,500 crore by June 15 and another Rs 552 crore by July 15. It, however, told Roy who had been called to remain personally present in the court: “We are warning you that if the cheque is not realised and money does not come, we will send you to Tihar jail straightaway on June 19.”
The bench, also comprising Justices Ranjan Gogoi and A K Sikri, also gave a go ahead to the Official Liquidator for preparation of the auction of Sahara’s prime property, Aamby Valley township in near Maharashtra’s Lonavala. After perusing the report of the Liquidator and the valuer of the properties, the court set the reserved price at Rs 37,392 crore and asked the Official Liquidator to adduce before the court on June 19 draft terms and conditions, and sale notice.
Putting it on record that Sahara needs to deposit a total of Rs 11,169 crore in the Sebi-Sahara investors’ refund account towards the balance of the principal, the court observed: “This is a question of emergent realisation. Money must come. To put it in a different language, sometimes the offer looks like a mirage.”
It then took up the matter relating to an application filed by MG Capital Holdings LLC, New York, through its Power of Attorney Holder Prakash Swamy. Swamy, a former scribe, had also submitted his affidavit with the application in which the MNC showed interest in buying Sahara’s hotel in New York. The court had asked the MNC to deposit Rs 750 crore to show its bonafide but the order was not complied with. Subsequently, the company’s lawyer, instead, informed the court on Monday that his client was not interested any more in the purchase as it found after due diligence that there was difficulty in going ahead with the transaction.
Irked over this, the court had on the last hearing issued a Red Corner Notice against Swamy and sought his presence in the court for filing the affidavit. It had also ordered him to deposit Rs 10 crore as penalty but Swamy, on Thursday, expressed his inability to pay.
Calling it as his “greed and temptation”, the bench held him guilty of contempt of court and convicted him instantly. “You are a small man but tried to become big. Temptation sometimes lands a man into confinement. You now have to suffer the consequences,” it told Swamy, who broke down during the proceeding and pleaded for mercy.
He said he had worked for 35 years as journalist and then worked in the United Nations as well. Swamy claimed that he is now retired from the profession. He said somebody from the US firm asked him submit an affidavit for buying New York-based hotel and he did so. “This is the biggest mistake of my life,” he said. But the bench retorted: “We are not prepared to hear stories.”
“Regard being had to the explanation offered, we think it appropriate to impose a simple imprisonment for a terms of one month,” ordered the court, and directed for lodging him in Delhi’s Tihar jail.