Apex court gives Sebi free hand in Sahara case

Written by fe Bureau | New Delhi/Mumbai | Updated: Oct 20 2012, 06:51am hrs
In a move that would provide fresh ammunition to the capital markets regulator, the Supreme Court on Friday said that the watchdog could act against the Sahara Group if the diversified business entity fails to comply with its August 31 order.

The SC observations came following an application filed by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) alleging non-compliance on Saharas part in the matter related to the refund of nearly R40,000 crore along with 15% interest to nearly 22 million small investors.

The regulator has alleged that Sahara failed to furnish all the necessary documents by September 10, as directed by the apex court. Retired Supreme Court judge BN Agrawal, who has been appointed by the court to oversee the compliance of its order, also submitted his report in a sealed cover. It is believed that the report has cited many instances of non-compliance by Sahara.

The SC, however, pulled up the regulator also for moving an application even though the earlier order clearly stated that Sebi can take action against Sahara for any kind of non-compliance. The bench comprising justices KS Radhakrishnan and JS Khehar said that Sebi can draw inferences from their earlier judgment and has all the powers to act against Sahara. On August 31, the SC directed Sahara group companies Sahara India Real Estate Corporation and Sahara Housing Investment Corporation to refund over R24,400 crore along with 15% interest to all depositors within three months (November 30).

The court had said that Sebi can even attach the properties and freeze the bank accounts of the companies if they fail to refund the amount.

Meanwhile, the bench declined an oral plea of Sahara that the refund process would be completed by November 30, saying that it needs to submit a formal application with written submissions.

Sahara, which has interests ranging from media and sports to financial services and housing, had raised the money between 2008 and 2011 through OFCDs (optionally fully convertible debenture), an instrument that allows investors to convert it into shares as an option.

In September, Sebi filed an application in the apex court alleging that the Sahara Group has not furnished all documents in their custody to the regulator by September 10 a deadline set by the SC.