The Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered custody in jail for Sahara chief Subrata Roy until March 11 after slamming the group’s “dilatory tactics” and trashing its claim of having already refunded investors. Roy, after issuance of a non-bailable arrest warrant by the court, had been kept in a guest house in Lucknow by the Uttar Pradesh police for the last three days.
The ardent appeal by Roy, who had already tendered his “unconditional apology” to the court, for suggesting an alternative so as to stave off judicial custody, failed to move the bench of Justices K S Radhakrishnan and J S Khehar.
“We tried to accommodate you but you said go to hell. We tried again and again so that our orders are complied with but you pushed us in a corner. What do you want us to do? Hold our hands and ask you to pay? If we allow this anymore, every litigant will start behaving in this manner,” the bench said.
Roy, who was attacked with ink by a man as he was being brought for production in court by the Lucknow Police, will be kept in Delhi’s Tihar Jail until Sahara comes up with an “acceptable” proposal to comply with the order on depositing Rs 17,000 crore with SEBI for disbursement to investors.
Besides Roy, two other directors were also ordered to be kept in custody. A woman director was spared because of her gender, and also to enable her to coordinate with others to draft the proposal.
Roy and the two Sahara directors were taken out through a back gate of the court, which is reserved for judges. A team of more than 25 police officials were deployed at the court. “He was taken to Tihar in a police vehicle through the back gate to avoid the media; otherwise no special treatment was given to him,” the police said.
The court has allowed Sahara to seek an early hearing “if a concrete and acceptable proposal can be offered in the mean time”. The group was likely to mention the matter as soon as possible with an alternate proposal.
“Sufficient opportunities have been given to the contemnors to fully comply with those orders and purge the contempt committed by them but rather than availing of the same, they have adopted various dilatory tactics to delay the implementation of the orders,” the bench said, noting that a breach of court orders shook the foundations of the judicial system and undermined the rule of law.
Referring to various documents adduced by Sahara in the last three years, the court noted that the group made “unacceptable statements and affidavits all through”, and also in the contempt proceedings initiated at SEBI’s instance for breach of the court’s August 2012 verdict to refund money to investors.
“Documents and affidavits produced by the contemnors themselves would apparently falsify their refund theory and cast serious doubts about the existence of the so-called investors. All the fact-finding authorities have opined that majority of investors do not exist,” said the court, while also observing that it had “serious doubts” whether investors really existed.
As lawyers for Sahara vehemently opposed Roy’s custody without being held guilty of contempt, the bench made it clear that the order was not for contempt, but was under the extraordinary jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to maintain the rule of law.
The court also rejected the group’s request to give them some more time to enable them sell their properties to deposit money with SEBI. “We are not interested in selling your properties. It is your headache. You should have done it long back but all you give us ‘s ‘Ifs and Buts’. We gave you enough time but you did not allow us to proceed. We are not happy with your proposal. We don’t accept it. We know our orders will not complied by you even after five years like this,” the court said.
In Tihar’s Jail number 3, Roy had a full meal of daal, rice and chapatis. “The moment he was shown his cell, Roy requested the authorities to allow him to have home-cooked food. He was, however, told that he would have to eat what other prisoners ate,” a jail official said.
PRO, Prisons, Sunil Gupta said, “According to the jail manual no prisoner can be extended any special facility except in a few genuine cases. He will be sleeping on the floor like all other prisoners. We provide beds to prisoners who are above 60, but Roy does not fit in this category. He has also been denied home-cooked food.”
Sources said Roy looked around his cell and asked if there was space for him to go for a walk and jog. “He said that he followed a strict health regime, and brisk walking was an essential part of his routine,” said an official.
Roy also underwent a medical examination at DDU Hospital before being taken to his cell. “His blood pressure, sugar levels and everything else was found to be normal,” a source said.