The Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed last week’s National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) order that allowed the government to take over the management of realty firm Unitech. The court’s decision came after attorney general KK Venugopal conceded that the government should not have approached the tribunal while the case was pending before the apex court. The stay of the NCLT order means that the suspended board of nine members are back at the helm of Unitech. Besides, Unitech’s promoters Sanjay Chandra and Ajay Chandra, who are lodged in Tihar Jail, can now resume negotiations from prison for the sale of assets and properties to raise the Rs 750 crore they have been asked to deposit in the top court by the end of December. The SC had allowed them special facilities to negotiate the sale of the group’s unencumbered assets to raise the money for refunding home buyers and also for completing ongoing housing projects.
A day after the Supreme Court expressed its unhappiness over the manner in which the Centre moved the tribunal without seeking its permission, an apex court bench on Wednesday stalled the NCLT order. “When the matter is already pending in the Supreme Court, the NCLT should not have passed the order. We direct the stay of the order dated December 8,” Chief Justice Dipak Misra said, while posting the matter for further hearing on January 12.
Venugopal apologised and admitted that the Centre should not have approached NCLT when apex court was seized of the matter. Complimenting the attorney general for being very fair to the court, the SC said this stand saved a lot of stress and time for it and home buyers.
Legal experts feel that the government should not have approached NCLT in the first place when the highest court was already hearing the matter. They said that it will in the best interest of the government to withdraw the petition from the NCLT and seek permission from the apex court itself to initiate the takeover process in order to protect the interests of home buyers.
Requesting the apex court to suspend the NCLT order, senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi and Ranjit Kumar, appearing for Unitech, had argued that the NCLT passed the order to suspend the board without hearing the company. And that too when the promoters were behind the bars, they added.
Unitech through counsel Mahesh Agrawal had on Monday approached the Supreme Court challenging the NCLT order of December 8 that suspended all its nine directors over allegations of mismanagement and diversion of funds and also allowed the ministry of corporate affairs to appoint its 10 nominee directors to run the company in the interim. The embattled real estate firm pleaded that the tribunal went contrary to the SC’s earlier directions in a criminal case.
The Chandras are behind bars in an alleged forgery case filed by flat buyers of Unitech’s Gurgaon-based Anthea Floors Wildflower Country housing project in Sector 70.