The Supreme Court on Thursday granted liberty to two Bombay High Court judges to adopt procedures to facilitate the auctioning of Sahara’s prized Aamby Valley properties and directed the Official Liquidator not to allow any obstruction in the process.
A three-judge bench, comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices Ranjan Gogoi and A K Sikri, also warned Sahara Group chief Subrata Roy, facing contempt proceedings, that it may send him to jail again, following SEBI’s submission that there was confusion with regard to the title or ownership of some properties in the Aamby Valley.
“Does the property belong to the contemnor,” the bench asked. On being told by SEBI that “some are on lease and some are sold”, it said “then we will send this man to jail and close the chapter”.
The Sahara Group had earlier sought 18 months to repay around Rs 9,000 crore balance of the principal amount of Rs 24,000 crore.
The apex court took note of the submission of senior advocate Arvind Datar, appearing for the market regulator, that the High Court judges intended to have “certain directions from this court to proceed with the auction”.
“Having heard Arvind P Datar…, we think it appropriate to state that the Judges of the High Court are at liberty to adopt the procedure which will facilitate the auction and the mode of auction as suggested by the Official Liquidator (OL) shall be considered by the Company Judge in consultation with Justice A S Oka (another HC judge),” it said.
Taking into account the apprehension of senior advocate Shekhar Naphade, who is assisting it as an amicus curiae, that there could be a possibility of encroachment, it directed the official Receiver of the Bombay High Court to act as custodian of Aamby Valley properties till the conclusion of auction.
“In view of the aforesaid, we appoint the Official Receiver of the Bombay High Court as Receiver in respect of the Amby Valley city. The said arrangement shall remain in force till the auction is over. The duty of the Official Receiver is also to see that the property is properly maintained and no encroachment takes place so that valuation does not reduce and auction takes place in peaceful manner.
“The Receiver is at liberty to take instructions from the Company Judge and Justice A S Oka, who are requested to work in harmony,” the bench said.
It also directed that a sum of Rs 84 lakh be released in favour of the Bombay High Court’s OL, who has been entrusted with the task of conducting the auctioning process, for “publication or advertisement”.
“If more expenses are required, the same can be requisitioned by the Bombay High Court from the SEBI-Sahara account,” it said, adding that requisite steps would be taken by the SEBI and the OL.
During the hearing, the bench warned the OL that there should not be any hindrance to the auctioning process.
“We are warning you today to see that the properties are auctioned. Don’t allow any obstruction,” it said and posted the matter for hearing in the first week of February, 2018.
Earlier, the apex court had taken strong exception to the Sahara Group allegedly obstructing the auctioning process of Aamby Valley and warned that anyone indulging in such an act would be held liable for contempt and “sent to jail”.
The apex court was irked when SEBI claimed that the group had allegedly obstructed the process by writing a letter to the Pune police raising the issue of law and order at the prime property.
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.
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.