Find way to secure refund money, SC tells Sahara

Written by fe Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Oct 5 2013, 08:46am hrs
The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Sahara Group to make concrete crystallised offer to secure around R19,000 crore, to be refunded to its 3.3 crore investors.

It asked both Sebi and the Sahara Group to arrive at a mutually acceptable mechanism by October 28, the next date of hearing, to secure the difference amount that its group companies had collected in 2008-09 from the public, allegedly violating investor protection norms.

A Bench comprising Justices KS Radhakrishnan and JS Khehar asked the market regulator and the two group firms Sahara India Real Estate Corp and Sahara India Housing Investment Corp to explore options to refund the money.

The Bench, on the next date of hearing, will consider whether it will ask Sahara to pay 50% by cash and furnish a bank guarantee from a nationalised bank for the balance payment.

Sebi had rejected Sahara's offer to secure the difference amount through immoveable property entrusted with bank trustee, saying it does not have the manpower or machinery to handle the assets, documents or third party and to sell the property and raise the refund money.

Either they have to sell their assets and deposit the money in a bank account or give a bank guarantee for the entire amount. We understand the huge money can't be raised overnight. They (Sahara) can take time to sell assets and pay back, senior counsel Arvind Datar, appearing for Sebi, said.

Referring to media reports that the group has recently purchased immovable property in London worth R256 crore, the bench observed that if the newspaper reports are true, then the group is capable of paying the investors.

The court further said that it's all investors money. You give the money to Sebi, which will find investors. If they can't find, then the money will go to the government.

Senior advocate CA Sundaram, appearing for Roy, suggested that the group can arrange immovable properties of its other firms as security.

The court is hearing Sebi's contempt petitions filed against the Sahara firms for disobeying the apex court's August 31, 2012, judgment, which asked the two firms to refund around Rs 24,000 crore to its investors by November 30 last year. The court had also said that Sebi can attach properties and freeze bank accounts of the companies if they fail to refund the amount.

While giving extension of time, the Chief Justice's Bench on December 5 had asked Sahara to pay Rs 5,120 crore upfront and the balance in two installments -- Rs 10,000 crore in the first week of January and the rest in the first week of February.