The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) to initiate the process of selling 87 "unencumbered" properties of Sahara group, whose title deeds are with the market regulator, to generate the bail money for release of its chief Subrata Roy who has been in jail for two years now.
Being worth an estimated Rs.40, 000 Crore, gives hope to tens of thousands of investors who put their money in its various schemes.
The directions from the bench of Chief Justice T.S. Thakur, Justice Anil R. Dave and Justice A.K. Sikri came after it found that Sahara group was yet to mobilise the Rs.10,000 Crore towards the bail amount.
Subrata Roy was arrested in March 2014 after the company failed to comply with a court order to refund money raised from millions of small investors. Roy had since then spent over two years in jail after failing to arrange Rs 5,000 crore in cash and Rs 5,000 crore in bank guarantees for his release.
The Sahara group is said to originally owe around Rs.24, 000 Crore to investors. The apex court by its August 31, 2012, order had directed Sahara to return the money with 15 percent interest. Counsel for the watchdog had estimated the dues to be worth around Rs.36, 000 Crore last Month.
The Apex Court said the entire process of sale of Sahara properties will be overseen by former Supreme Court judge Justice B.N. Agarwala and that the Sahara group will be kept informed on the steps being taken for the disposal of the properies.
No property shall be sold below 90 percent of its prevailing circle rates, the bench said. Also, no deadline has been fixed to complete the process. Sahara has already furnished the title deeds of the 86 properties to facilitate the sale.
The step is being taken to recover money that Sahara's two firms had collected from the public by way of optionally fully convertible debentures. The SEBI has been directed to appoint an agency to decide the mechanism for the sale of properties.
During the hearing, Kapil Sibal, representing Sahara, said: "Nowhere in the world does this type of case happen. There is no jurisdiction in the world that allows a person to be inside jail for two years without any charge."
The judges did not take kindly to the retort and said, "Don't lecture us. Don't give us a speech. Nowhere in the world does a person say that I have assets worth Rs.187, 000 Crore. I can pay anytime. But is not paying even Rs.10, 000 Crore."
Sahara has among its other assets, some aircraft, the Sahara Star hotel in Mumbai, a 42.5 percent stakes in Force India Formula One Team, two properties in Bengaluru, as also the famed Grosvenor House hotel in London, New York Plaza and Dream New York hotel.
The Court has posted the matter for hearing on April 27.