In a huge setback for embattled Sahara Group chief Subrata Roy, the Supreme Court refused to grant any extra time to deposit funds to stop it from auctioning its star project the Aamby Valley near Lonavala in Maharashtra to recover the debt.
A bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra said that if the Sahara Group fails to deposit Rs 5092.6 crore in SEBI-Sahara refund account by April 17 in pursuance of its order, it will be ‘compelled’ to auction its property valued at Rs 39,000 crore.
The court made it clear that no extension of time will be granted for depositing the amount as it had assured the court that it would pay the money by April 17.
"No extension of time shall be granted. Sahara Group must deposit the money on time otherwise Aamby Valley will be auctioned," the bench told the counsel, who was representing the group.
The observation came when the lawyer mentioned an interim plea seeking extension of time for depositing the money in the SEBI-Sahara refund account.
The apex court also observed that it had clearly told the group that a "substantial amount" must come in the refund account.
"Whatever you do, we had told you that a substantial amount must come, otherwise we will be compelled to put up Aamby Valley for auction," the bench said, noting, "What matters is the money coming in the kitty."
When the counsel told the bench to take up the application for hearing, the court said the apex court registry would list it on the date already fixed for hearing the matter.
On February 28, the apex court had said that "in case, the substantial amount is deposited this court may think of extending the time, otherwise appropriate direction shall be issued".
The court had last month directed an international real estate firm, which had shown willingness to buy Sahara's stake in New York-based Plaza Hotel for USD 550 million, to deposit Rs 750 crore in the SEBI-Sahara refund account instead of the apex court registry to show its bonafide.
The top court had earlier directed attachment of Sahara Group's prime property for realisation of money to be paid to its investors.
It had also asked the group to provide it within two weeks the list of "unencumbered properties" which can be put for public auction to realise the remaining over Rs 14,000 crore of the principal amount of around Rs 24,000 crore that has to be deposited in the SEBI-Sahara account for refunding the investors.
The court had on November 28 last year asked Sahara chief Subrata Roy to deposit Rs 600 crore more by February 6 in the refund account to remain out of jail and warned that failure to do so would result in his return to prison.
It had on May 6, 2016 granted a four-week parole to Roy to attend the funeral of his mother. His parole has been extended by the court ever since. Roy was sent to Tihar jail on March 4, 2014.
Besides Roy, two other directors -- Ravi Shankar Dubey and Ashok Roy Choudhary -- were arrested for failure of the group's two companies -- Sahara India Real Estate Corporation (SIRECL) and Sahara Housing Investment Corp Ltd (SHICL) -- to comply with the court's August 31, 2012 order to return Rs 24,000 crore to their investors.
However, director Vandana Bhargava was not taken into custody.
With PTI Inputs