The Supreme Court on Thursday fixed the reserve price for the proposed auction of Sahara group's luxury township, Aamby Valley, at Rs 37,392 crore and directed the official liquidator to prepare the draft terms and conditions for the sale. The draft terms, to be prepared in consultation with Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi), are to be submitted before the court at the next hearing on June 19.
Though Sahara claimed that the circle rate of properties in Aamby Valley was Rs 49,000 crore and the enterprise valuation was Rs 1 lakh crore, a bench of Justices Dipak Misra, A K Sikri and Ranjan Gogoi went by the submissions made by the official liquidator of the Bombay High Court. The valuation, based on different methodologies prepared by valuer Techmech International, was submitted in a sealed cover to the court. After considering the submissions of the liquidator and consulting with Sebi counsel Arvind Datar and Amicus Curiae Shekhar Naphade, the bench zeroed in on the reserve price, which is said to be based on fair market value of the properties.
Meanwhile, the bench accepted two post-dated cheques offered by Sahara for Rs 2,052 crore while warning group chief Subrata Roy, who was personally present, that he would be sent to Tihar jail, if these were not honoured.
The first cheque of Rs 1,500 crore would be payable on June 15 and the second one for the remaining sum a month later. Earlier, pleading that the group should not be strangulated by selling off its only revenue source, Sahara counsel Kapil Sibal promised that once the second cheque is encashed in July, the group would submit another cheque of Rs 3,000 crore. This third cheque could be encashed by October, Sibal said. He also said 40 per cent of Aamby Valley was owned by a cooperative society, several of whose members might be affected.
When the bench asked Sebi for the principal amount due, Datar informed the court that the total principal amount pending was Rs 25,781 crore and out of this the sum paid so far alongwith interest amount to Rs 14,612 crore and the sum due came to Rs 11,169 crore. The court said it would come to the question of interest later.
It decided to allow both the processes, the auction of Aamby Valley and the cheque repayment, run in parallel.
Following directions given in the last hearing, Roy, dressed in a cream coloured bandgala and black pants, was present in court no. 2 along with younger son Seemanto Roy and several group executives. When judge Misra asked him if he was willing to pay, Roy said, "I am trying my best from the beginning."
Misra said, "We are warning you.
If the cheques are not realised, we will be compelled to send you to Tihar Jail from here." The court extended his parole till the next hearing.
Three years ago, Roy was summoned and was sent to jail by the bench of judges K S Radhakrishnan and J S Khehar, the present chief justice, for non-compliance with the court's directives in the matter of money raised by two group firms Sahara India Real Estate Corp and Sahara Housing Invest Corp. He came out on parole in May last year to attend the funeral of his mother. Since then the court has given several conditional extensions of parole tying it to repayment of a few hundred crores each time.
In his last visit to the court over three years ago, Roy was attacked with ink by a person who claimed to be an investor inside the court premises. But, this time security was tight in the court premises. After the hearing was over group executives and lawyers whisked away to a waiting vehicles through the rear exit of the court. When journalists tried to ask him for reactions, Roy pleaded to be left alone saying, " I am not supposed to say anything."
The court actually sent Prakash Swamy, a former journalist who acted as the power of attorney for MG Capital, to jail for one month for contempt of court. The US-based fund, which had shown interest in buying Sahara group's interests in Plaza Hotel for $550 million, had backed out when the court asked it to deposit Rs 750 crore to establish its bona fides citing a cross-collateral obligation, which required it to buy interests in another property too.
Following this, in its last hearing, the court directed the presence of Swamy and imposed costs of Rs 10 crore on him. Though the fund sent its US attorney, it did not immediately pay up the costs imposed on its representative.
Swamy, who was present in court, expressed his inability to pay the costs and pleaded for forgiveness. He said he had covered UN in the past and he did it for personal friendship and did not fully know the implications. "If you are a journalist, why did you get into a business like this? It is greed and temptation. Temptation sometimes leads to confinement," Misra said adding, "If we forgive you, we will be sending a wrong message."