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The Supreme Court on Monday ordered the attachment of Sahara group properties in Aamby Valley (near Pune), estimated to be worth Rs 39,000 crore, to secure sums due to the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi).
A Bench of Justice Dipak Misra, Ranjan Gogoi and A K Sikri ordered the group to give a list of properties “without any encumbrance” that could be auctioned to recover the principal sum due to Sebi — Rs 14,000 crore. Sebi says total dues, with interest, exceed Rs 47,000 crore. Of this, the group has remitted Rs 11,477 crore, Sebi counsel Pratap Venugopal informed the court.
The Bench also extended the interim parole of group chief Subrata Roy till February 27, the date of the next hearing, after Rs 600 crore was remitted in a combination of bank drafts and online transfers into the Sebi-Sahara account on Monday.
Last month, the court had refused to extend the time given for this deposit and allowed a transfer of £35 million (about Rs 295 crore), raised out of the group’s foreign assets. The whole amount went into Monday’s deposit.
Spread over 10,600 acres on the Pune-Mumbai highway, off Lonavala, Aamby Valley, a “planned hill city”, boasts a private airport, hospital and luxury resorts. It has received investments from various group entities at different points of time.
In 2010, Sahara India Real Estate Corp and Sahara Housing Invest Corp, the two entities which fell foul of Sebi regulations, had invested Rs 6,700 crore in the shares and debentures of Aamby Valley Ltd, the company which owns the property.
Subsequently, the firms told the Supreme Court they had sold these investments to Sahara Credit Cooperative Society and Sahara Q Shop. Company records showed that a month after being released from custody to attend his mother’s funeral in May, Roy had been appointed an additional director of Aamby Valley.
The move to dispose of Aamby Valley to raise funds had been vehemently resisted by the group in the past. It has said this would hamper its efforts to shore up resources for repayment. On Monday, too, objections were made by group counsel Kapil Sibal but the court decided to go ahead. The court, however, stopped short of appointing a receiver for the property.
All the other interlocutory applications, including one by the Enforcement Directorate to issue provisional attachment orders on the overseas properties for alleged violation of foreign exchange regulations, were posted to the next date.
The bench also made it clear that the condition of “without encumbrance” on the list to be given was absolute and the properties should not have litigation or claims.
Earlier, Sibal sought time for about two hours to present his case on the review petition, citing an income tax (I-T) tribunal order. However, the bench said such time could be given only after the principal dues were paid.
A property at Aamby Valley City, near Pune
Both Sebi counsel and the amicus curiae were not comfortable with the earlier road map suggested by Sibal, which stretched the repayment schedule till July 2019.
Shekhar Naphade, the amicus curiae, said, “This has gone on for too long. Whatever can be fixed as a reasonable time should be decided on.” He drew the court’s notice to claims of various other parties such as the Reserve Bank of India and the I-T department.
At this stage, Sibal said the I-T department has passed an order saying 85 per cent of the investors were genuine and that he should be given time to explain the errors in the earlier orders. Judge Misra said the bench was not sitting on appeal over the earlier judgements and the money had to be paid before any review could be considered.