In a big relief to Subrata Roy Sahara, the Supreme Court today directed Sahara Group to deposit Rs 5092.6 crore by April 7 in the SEBI-Sahara account to keep its chief out of jail and said the amount will be refunded to the investors.
The court refused to give six months time to the group to sell its properties but allowed it to sell assets, mentioned in the list furnished by it, for refund of money.
However, the bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra, also comprising Justices Ranjan Gogoi and A K Sikri, observed that in case the group deposits a "substantial amount" out of Rs 5092.6 crore by April 7, the court may extend the time to sell other properties.
The bench said the group can sell 13 out of the 15 properties mentioned in one of the lists to deposit the amount and can also sell the properties, which are unencumbered, and mentioned in the other list given by it.
"In view of the aforesaid, we permit the contemnor to sell the properties mentioned in part A (of the list), barring items 14 and 15, and any other properties mentioned in part B which are unencumbered and to deposit Rs 5092.6 crore on or before April 7. The amount shall be deposited in the SEBI-Sahara refund account," judges said.
"In case, a substantial amount is deposited by then, this court may intend to extend the time," they said.
The bench also asked an international real estate firm, which has shown willingness to buy Sahara's stake in New York- based Plaza Hotel for 550 million USD, to deposit Rs 750 crore in the apex court registry before April 10 to show its bonafide.
At the outset, senior advocate Arvind Datar, appearing for the SEBI, told the bench that one of the properties mentioned relates to the stakes or shareholding of the firm in formula one racing team Force India, and it should be excluded from auction.
He said the SEBI had tried to auction some of the properties mentioned in the list but it was unsuccessful and suggested that an e-auction could be done.
Senior lawyer Kapil Sibal, appearing for Sahara, submitted that the court can attach some of their properties as security and the group would give an undertaking that if it does not pay the amount in 22 months, these assets can be sold.
To this, the bench said, "Why cannot e-auction method be followed as is being done in auctioning of spectrum?"
Sibal said that the group has already sold 16 properties and has "brought the money" and it was willing to sell whatever was possible.
"We will sell whatever we can and if we don't comply with it (direction), you can sent me (Roy) to Tihar (jail)," he said, adding, "We will try to sell other properties also which are not mentioned in the lists. My request is that you (court) allow us to sell these ourselves."
When Sibal said e-auction process will take a minimum of six months, the bench asked Datar, "Why six months or one year? What kind of auction you will do? "Why don't you put these properties for e-auction? You make an effort as to which will be the agency and tell us," it told Datar who referred to the lists of properties given by Sahara.
When the court insisted that the SEBI should go for e-auctioning of these properties, Sibal said, "My request is that allow us to sell these as otherwise the properties would be undervalued. We will lose money."
The bench then told Sibal, "Okay. Do it in 30 days." The senior counsel said, "It can't be done in 30 days. I am seeking a reasonable time for selling these properties.
There are open lands and it is very difficult to sell such properties without any development given the economic scenario. Give us at least two months time.
"We have sold 16 properties earlier and have brought Rs 12,000 crore on the table," he said.
The bench then gave time till April 7 to the group to sell the assets and deposit the money in the SEBI-Sahara account.
The court also noted Sibal's submissions that the Ghaziabad Development Authority (GDA) has acquired a piece of land from the group, which would get a compensation of around Rs 1112.70 crore from the authority.
It issued notice to the GDA and asked its competent authority to appear before it on the next date of hearing, along with the relevant records.
However, the SEBI's counsel told the bench that earlier, two agencies -- the SBI Cap and the HDFC -- were appointed by a court's order for conducting e-auctioning of some of the properties but these could not be sold.
(With PTI inputs)