December 12, 2017 8:23:44 pm
The Supreme Court on Tuesday said the company law tribunal should have taken its leave before allowing the Centre to take over the management of embattled realty firm Unitech Limited, as it was seized of the matter. A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud asked the Centre why it had not taken the apex court’s permission to move the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) for suspension of Unitech’s directors and their substitution by government nominees.
“The leave of this court, which is seized of the matter, should have been taken by the NCLT,” the bench observed, adding, “we are only asking that we are seized of the matter and the NCLT is passing the order”.
Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, sought time till tomorrow to seek instruction from the concerned authorities on the appeal of Unitech Limited against the order of the NCLT. The court granted time and fixed the pleas, including the fresh appeal filed by Unitech against the NCLT order, for hearing tomorrow.
Senior lawyers Mukul Rohatgi and Ranjit Kumar, appearing for the real estate firm and its promoters, said the apex court had given time to Unitech chief Sanjay Chandra to negotiate from jail to sell assets to generate Rs 750 crore for refunding money to home buyers but, in the mean time, the Centre has approached the NCLT.
Rohatgi alleged that the NCLT did not issue notice to the firm and its directors and passed the interim order, which was virtually a final order, and allowed the Centre to take over the firm. “I have serious apprehension about the manner in which the petition was filed and entertained by the NCLT despite the fact that the Supreme Court was seized of the matter,” he said, adding “no judicial tribunal can pass such an order”.
Earlier, the apex court had agreed to hear today the appeal of Unitech Limited challenging the NCLT order allowing the Centre to take over its management. The NCLT, on December 8, had suspended all the eight directors of the realty firm over allegations of mismanagement and syphoning of funds and had authorised the Centre to appoint its 10 nominees on the board.
The NCLT order had come after the Centre moved the panel with a view to protect the interests of nearly 20,000 home buyers. Unitech alleged that the takeover of the management of the company by the Centre would make it difficult for them to deposit Rs 750 crore as directed by the apex court to safeguard the interests of homebuyers.
Sanjay Chandra, head of the embattled real estate group, was asked on October 30 by the apex court to deposit Rs 750 crore with it by December end for the sake of the homebuyers. The apex court had on October 30 said jailed businessman Chandra will be granted bail only after the real estate group deposited money with its registry by December end. Chandra’s lawyer had told the apex court that he has been required to be produced in various courts, consumer forum and commissions on a regular basis which hampered his endeavour to arrange money and hence, the production warrants issued against him by various judicial bodies be stayed for 15 days. He had also said that the accused be allowed to appear in courts through his lawyers. The plea was declined.
The apex court had also clarified that its earlier order directing all courts below not to take any coercive action against the accused for the time being would also be made applicable on all forums including state and national consumer commissions. The top court had earlier directed the jail authorities to facilitate Chandra’s meeting with his company officials and lawyers so that he could arrange money to refund the home buyers as well as for completing the ongoing housing projects.
It had said if any proceedings were pending against Chandra and the company, those may continue and the final order be passed but no coercive steps be taken to execute those orders. Chandra is seeking interim bail from the apex court after the Delhi High Court on August 11 had rejected the plea in a criminal case lodged in 2015 by 158 home buyers of Unitech projects’ — ‘Wild Flower Country’ and ‘Anthea Project’ –situated in Gurugram.
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