In its first hearing, a new Supreme Court bench Thursday made it clear to Sahara chief Subrata Roy that “enough indulgence” has already been given to him by the apex court and that he would now have to go back to jail in case of any further default in depositing money for refunding investors. The bench of Justices Dipak Misra, Ranjan Gogoi and A K Sikri minced no words as it shot down a plea by the counsel for Roy and the Sahara group to extend time beyond February 6 for him to deposit Rs 600 crore.
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“This court has given so much indulgence to you…this is the worst. If you don’t pay the amount now, you will have to go back to jail,” said the bench as it heard the matter for the first time after retirement of the then Chief Justice of India T S Thakur.
A bench headed by Justice Thakur had been hearing a clutch of cases, including contempt petitions against Sahara and Roy, since May 2014 after Justice J S Khehar recused himself from the matter after sending Roy to prison in March that year.
In May last year, the bench, led by Justice Thakur, had ordered for release of Roy on parole following the death of his mother and the relief was subsequently extended on the condition of his depositing additional money.
This, the new bench said, indicted “too much of indulgence” to Roy and that he must now comply with each and every order if he wants to remain out.
“Parole is granted for a specific purpose and for a limited period. You (Roy) were given parole for performing the last rites of your mother. But you have been out for nine months. The specific purpose is over but this is continuing,” the bench told senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who represented Roy and his group of companies.
Sibal wanted an extension of the deadline to deposit money in the wake of demonetisation and its cascading impact on slowing down the economy. But the new bench declined to modify its order and reminded Sibal that in case of failing the deadline, his client could go to jail; his properties will be attached; receiver will be appointed and then sold through auction.
Sibal did not take the court’s observations too well: “It is the most unfortunate statement which has come. If this is the mood of court then we need not be heard at all,” he contended but bench questioned the lawyer why can it not state the options before the court.
“We are here to hear you Mr Sibal. Has not the Supreme Court given so much indulgence to you than any other single litigant? Now you are saying we are not hearing you. This is not done,” it added.
At this, Sibal said that he was seeking more time to pay the amount because of the impact of demonetisation but the court replied that the order to deposit Rs 600 crore was made by the previous bench on November 28 when the situation was no better but the counsel accepted the order and the clients remained out on parole.
Sibal then pointed out that the group has deposited Rs 13,000 crore with Sebi till date, which has found only 100 investors so far. He said the apex court should appoint a committee to scrutinise the documents submitted regarding the investors.
The bench, however, told Sibal that he was raking up an issue which has already been decided by the court. “We are not inclined to extend the time. Needless to say, what has been mentioned in the earlier order, that if the Sahara India Real Estate Corporation Ltd, does not deposit the amount, the contemnors shall be committed to prison as before, is reiterated,” stated the order. The court will take up the matter next on February 7.
Meanwhile, the bench granted liberty to the Sahara chief to transfer 24 million pounds (around Rs 200 crore) deposited in a bank at London to the Sebi-Sahara account, being maintained by the market regulator for refunding the investors, who had invested in Sahara’s convertible debentures, that were declared illegal by the court in 2012.