The Supreme Court today took strong exception to the Sahara Group allegedly obstructing the auctioning process of Aamby Valley and warned that anybody creating impediments would be liable for contempt and may be "sent to jail".
The apex court was irked when SEBI claimed that the group had allegedly obstructed the aunctioning process by writing a letter to the Pune police raising the issue of law and order at the prime property.
Taking note of SEBI's allegation in this regard, a bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra said the group could not have entered into a communication with Pune's Superintendent of the Police (Rural) on the issue since the auction has been ordered by the top court.
Senior advocate Arvind Datar, appearing for Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), claimed before the bench that the September 28 communication, addressed by the group to the Pune police regarding law and order situation at Aamby valley, has stalled the ongoing auction process.
"It is submitted by Mr Datar that as a consequence of the communication, the police has taken custody of the property. If it is so, we direct the Director General of Police, Maharashtra, to see to it that the property is handed over to the official liquidator (of the Bombay High Court) within 48 hours," the bench, also comprising Justices Ranjan Gogoi and A K Sikri, said.
"If any impediment is created by anyone, he shall be liable for contempt of this court and may be sent to jail," it said. The punishment for contempt is up to six months of simple imprisonment.
Later however, the apex court clarified that it was not initiating any contempt action at this stage.
SEBI alleged that the police has taken custody of the property due to which no bidder was willing to take part in the auction process.
"You go ahead with the auction," the bench said.
SEBI also said the letter was also sent to the additional chief secretary and no bidder was coming forward to bid for the property as the police, while taking note of the letter, has taken its custody.
Meanwhile, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing the group, objected to these submissions, saying "completely wrong statements are made to prejudice the court".
"No bidder has come...I (group) am not standing in the way. I have not halted anything and have not given property to the police," he said.
"The official liquidator shall proceed with the auction under the direct supervision of the company judge. That apart, the official liquidator shall also take guidance from Justice A S Oka, a sitting judge of the Bombay High Court," the bench said.
"The company judge and Justice A S Oka shall make joint endeavour so that the auction process which is to commence from a particular stage, shall continue and be over," it said and posted the matter for hearing on November 23.
The court asked the concerned police to render requisite assistance in holding of auction as and when directed by the company judge in consultation with Justice Oka.
As per the letter placed by Datar before the court, the group had said there was a strong possibility of deteriorating law and order situation in Aamby Valley city and had requested police to take urgent and most suitable measures by deploying adequate force there.
The top court was hearing the SEBI's plea seeking contempt action against the Sahara group for allegedly obstructing the auctioning process of Aamby Valley.
In its plea, the SEBI has alleged "wilful and deliberate attempt" on Sahara's part "by adopting a subterfuge to cause interference with the administration of justice, especially in a court directed and monitored auction sale of the Aamby Valley property under various orders of the apex court."
On August 10, the apex court had rejected Sahara chief Subrata Roy's plea to put on hold the auction process.
It had said that the auction process would proceed as per schedule and if Rs 1,500 crore is paid by Roy in the SEBI- Sahara refund account by September 7, then it may pass an appropriate order.
The Sahara Group had earlier sought 18 months time to repay around Rs 9,000 crore balance of the principal amount of Rs 24,000 crore.
Roy, who has spent almost two years in jail, has been on parole since May 6 last year. The parole was granted the first time to enable him attend the funeral of his mother. It has been extended since then.
Besides Roy, two other directors -- Ravi Shankar Dubey and Ashok Roy Choudhary -- were arrested for failure of the group's two companies -- Sahara India Real Estate Corporation (SIRECL) and Sahara Housing Investment Corp Ltd (SHICL) -- to comply with the court's August 31, 2012 order to return Rs 24,000 crore to their investors.
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