SC bars Subrata Roy from leaving India, stops Sahara from selling any property

Tightening the noose around Sahara group for not refunding Rs 20,000 crore investors money, the Supreme Court on Thursday barred its chief Subrata Roy from leaving the country and also restrained it from selling any of its properties.

The apex court said that its order for handing over title deeds of Rs 20,000 crore unencumbered properties to SEBI was not followed by the group in "letter and spirit" and prevented Roy along with other directors of the group Vandana Bhargava, Ravi Shankar Dubey and Ashok Roy Choudhary from leaving the country.

A bench of justices K S Radhakrishnan and J S Khehar directed that none of the company in the group would part away any of its properties without its permission.

Sahara Group Chief Subrata Roy Sahara
Sahara Group Chief Subrata Roy Sahara

During the hearing senior advocate C A Sundaram, appearing for Roy, tried his best to convince the bench that it has complied with its order but SEBI demolished his arguments saying that the group overvalued its properties and did not hand over all original title deeds of assets worth Rs 20,000 crore.

SEBI's counsel and senior advocate Arvind Dattar informed the court that the 106-acre land in Versova has been valued at Rs 19,000 crore whose official value is mere Rs 118.42 crore. He also said that the land cannot be used for any development as it comes in green zone.

The bench also agreed with his contention saying such valuation is not acceptable and asked Dattar to find other properties of Sahara which can be considered as surety for Rs 20,000 crore. In the meantime it passed an order restraining Roy from leaving the country and posted the case for hearing on December 11. 

The market regulator also urged the court to pass order for impounding the passport of Roy for his failure to comply with its direction.

Sahara had given SEBI documents of two plots of land. One of the two properties is the plot at Versova, a western suburb in Mumbai, and the other is a 200-acre land in Vasai, which it estimates to be worth about Rs 1,000 crore.

The valuation of the properties was challenged by SEBI.

Holding that it was playing "hide and seek" and cannot be trusted any more, the apex court had on October 28 directed the group to hand over title deeds of its properties worth Rs 20,000 crore to SEBI with a warning that failure to comply its order to the satisfaction of the market regulator within three weeks would mean Sahara chief Subrata Roy cannot leave India.

Making it clear that there is no "escape" from depositing the investors' money with the market regulator, the apex court had also asked the group to also give valuation reports of the properties to SEBI which will verify worth of assets.

The court was hearing three contempt petitions filed by SEBI against Roy, the two firms--Sahara India Real Estate Corp Ltd (SIREC) and Sahara India Housing Investment Corp Ltd (SHIC)--and their directors.

It had on August 31 last year directed the Sahara group to refund Rs.24,000 crore by November end. The deadline was further extended and the companies were directed to deposit Rs 5,120 crore immediately and Rs 10,000 crore in first week of January and the remaining amount in first week of February.

The group, which had handed over the draft of Rs 5,120 crore on December 5, has failed to pay the rest of the amount. The two companies, their promoter Roy and directors Vandana Bhargava, Ravi Shankar Dubey and Ashok Roy Choudhary were told to refund the collected money to the regulator. 

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