The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the Maharashtra Police to hand over possession of Sahara’s luxurious Aamby Valley project to the official liquidator (OL) of the Bombay High Court within 48 hours.Taking a strong exception to the Sahara group obstructing the auctioning process of the township near Pune, the court warned that any further attempt to create “impediments” in the auction could land the contemnors in jail.
A bench led by chief justice Dipak Misra directed the OL to go ahead with the auction process under the direct supervision of the Bombay HC company judge. It also said the OL shall also take “guidance” from HC judge justice AS Oka and both the judges shall “work in harmony” so that the auctioning process goes on smoothly.
“If any impediment is caused in the auctioning process by anyone, he shall be liable to contempt of this court and sent to jail,” the bench said.
Calling it an “orchestrated attempt” by Sahara, senior counsel Arvind Datar, appearing for Sebi, argued that the letter was written on September 28, six days before the auction process was to be completed. Since the police took over the property, no bidder took part in the auction process, the regulator said. “News reports had said there were two interested buyers. But because of the Sahara letter and the police takeover, they backed out,” he argued.
While senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Sahara, rubbished the regulator’s claims, the CJI refused to hear him, observing that “our order is violated. We don’t intend to hear you today.” “No bidder has come…I (group) am not standing in the way. I have not halted anything and have not given property to the police,” he said.
The SC was hearing the Sebi’s plea asking it to initiate contempt proceedings against Sahara group chief Subrata Roy and six other directors for “obstructing and derailing” the court-monitored auction process of Aamby Valley.
It said that the decision of Sahara to suspend operations and declare a lockout at Aamby Valley project was a “motivated attempt” to disrupt the auction process and “scare away” prospective bidders of the
Sebi said the Aamby Valley and its four subsidiaries, which together own the Aamby Valley project, have claimed financial distress in their September 28 communication to the police and other state authorities and had asked the police to take over the project as it apprehended “strong possibility of deteriorating law and order situation”.
While seeking “protection and security of the asset valued at `1 lakh crore,” Sahara had informed them about suspension of all business activities of Aamby Valley and its subsidiaries/associate companies from October 3 and subsequent lockout to four establishment from October 19, Sebi said in its contempt plea.