Subrata Roy argued his case himself for more than half an hour despite being flanked by six of the country’s top lawyers, but still ended up in Tihar jail on Tuesday.
Clad in his trademark waistcoat and a tie with the Sahara logo, the 65-year-old “managing worker”of the Sahara India Pariwar made impassioned appeals to the court on five occasions in the course of the 100-minute hearing. He urged the court to “have faith” in him and “hang” him if he did not keep his promises.
Roy’s monologue included a “slip of tongue” which earned him a reprimand from Justices K S Radhakrishnan and J S Khehar. He told the court that it would “love” the Sahara group if it heard the “beautiful” story of their paying from their pockets to refund investors. The court’s response: “We will love you only if you make the entire payment… if you maintain the rule of law.”
Roy’s day at the court began with a man throwing black ink at his face while shouting, “he has cheated and robbed us”. Roy used a handkerchief to wipe the stain off his face, combed his hair, and walked into the packed courtroom, accompanied by his son Seemanto, and chewing something.
Police grabbed the ink-thrower — who was later identified as Manoj Sharma, a Gwalior man who had thrown a shoe at Congress MP Suresh Kalmadi in 2011 — and took him away, but not before a few Sahara employees had landed several hard blows on him.
In the court, Roy waved to his lawyers — senior advocates Ram Jethmalani, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Rajeev Dhawan, C A Sundaram, S Ganesh and R Dwivedi, besides their briefing counsel — and was seen discussing strategy.
As the proceedings began, Roy said with folded hands, “My apologies for not remaining present on the last date. Believe me that I had genuine reasons. I tender my unconditional apology. Please accept it.”
The court accepted the apology but rejected Sahara’s plea for more time to refund investors’ money. Roy pleaded for a “sympathetic” view of the financial constraints in paying the entire sum up front, and tried to persuade the court to see the “business point of view”.
“We will pay you the entire money by selling the properties,” he said.
The Bench shot back: “Stop telling you will pay us. You cannot pay anything to us. You are not paying anything to us. We have nothing to do with this case. This matter has got nothing to do with us. It is between you and the investors.”
Roy apologised for the “slip of tongue”, but the court insisted: “No, it is not a slip of tongue. The press also says the same thing on your behalf. This is the problem with you.”
On another occasion during the hearing, Roy attempted to explain cash payments by the group.
“Ours is a business proposition and our investor is somebody as small as a rickshaw puller. He invests in cash and wants the money back in cash. Punish me if we don’t abide by the court orders. We have 37 years of business and not a single blot is on us for defrauding anyone. It’s a question of livelihood for 12 lakh employees,” he said.
Roy said Sahara employees had contributed money from their salaries to help the company refund. “It is a beautiful story. You will love us if you hear this story,” he said.