The Supreme Court on Wednesday turned down a request by the Sahara group to release Subrata Roy from jail and keep him in house arrest or office arrest to facilitate collection of money.
A bench of Justices K S Radhakrishnan and J S Khehar refused to entertain the plea to release Roy from jail and posted the matter for hearing on April 16. The court also clarified that Roy and the two other directors, who have been incarcerated in Delhi’s Tihar jail since March 4, were not under arrest “They are only in our custody in Tihar jail,” said the bench.
The group had sought the trio’s release from the jail, saying it was now looking for international buyers as well to sell its properties abroad in order to raise the money towarda refund of investors.
“Which international buyer would want to visit a place like Tihar jail to negotiate a deal with Roy,” Sahara’s counsel Ram Jethmalani had told the court. He added that the condition of Tihar jail is pathetic because of overcrowding of prisoners and a prospective buyer would never want to visit such a place. The court responded that it will examine the request in due course.
On Monday, the group had withdrawn its latest proposal from the Supreme Court to get its chief Subrata Roy released from jail where he was lodged on March 4 in connection with failure to refund investors’ money.
The new proposal by Sahara had agreed to pay Rs 2,500 crore upfront and the same amount within 21 days of release of Roy and two other directors — Ravi Shankar Dubey and Ashok Roy Choudhary.
Sahara had made this proposal while expressing its inability before the apex court to immediately pay Rs 10,000 crore for securing bail for Roy and others. Last week, the Supreme Court had said it had sent him to jail not as a punishment, but to ensure that its order on refunding investors’ money was complied with.
“We have clarified this in para after para in our order of March 4 that this (the arrests) is not a punishment. We are not on the matter of punishment right now. We passed that order only to ensure enforcement of our orders.”
The court said it was incorrect to say that Roy and the other two Sahara directors, Ravi Shankar Dubey and Ashok Roy Choudhary, had been jailed for contempt of court since it was still hearing the bunch of petitions filed by SEBI alleging contempt by the company for not refunding the money on time.
“We will deal with the punishment for contempt of court only when we conclude the hearing. We will also decide the punishment, but only after we see our order has been enforced. So, the suggestion regarding a maximum of six months in jail under contempt charges is irrelevant at this stage,” it observed.
The bench also said that the Rs 10,000 crore was not security money to be deposited as bail bond, but a clause of being satisfied with the bonafide of Roy. “It is incorrect to say that Rs 10,000 crore is a bail bond. We said it was a part payment of the money required to be deposited. The money is towards releasing the part payment. It will show their bonafide,” it said.
SEBI has however said the court was authorised to send them to jail to ensure that its orders are not flouted. Roy and the other two directors have been in judicial custody since March 4.