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Sell Saradha assets: Panel

Calcutta, Jan. 13: The Justice Shyamal Sen Commission today recommended that the assets of four TV channels owned by the Saradha Group be sold to pay back duped depositors.

“Some employees of the four TV channels wrote to the commission saying the channels could be sold to private entrepreneurs…. I also felt that some of the depositors can be compensated with the sales proceeds. So I recommended that the process of selling the channels be started through floating of tenders,” Justice Sen told The Telegraph.

After the Saradha Group went bust in April last year, Tara News, Tara Muzik, Tara Punjabi and Tara South Asia witnessed huge backlogs in clearing dues of employees.

But the state government released Rs 26 lakh from the chief minister’s relief fund to bail out 168 employees of Tara News and Tara Muzik. Although the government had decided to run the two channels till they found an investor, the plan hit a wall when the Union information and broadcasting ministry turned down the proposal.

Saradha chief Sudipta Sen had earlier proposed that the channels be sold to pay back the depositors, but the commission had rejected the plan.

Justice Shyamal Sen today said he had identified for sale some of the buildings, bungalows and flats owned by the Saradha’s deposit-mobilising wing.

“Work for some of the buildings and other properties owned by the company has been lying incomplete. The contractors are not working for want of money. I am planning to ask banks to issue overdraft facility to the contractors for completing the construction work. Once the work is finished, we can sell the properties and refund the money to both the depositors and banks,” Justice Shyamal Sen said.

The Mamata Banerjee government has already compensated some depositors who had invested less than Rs 10,000 with the Saradha Group.

“Till date, the government has disbursed Rs 180 crore. The money has reached more than 2.8 lakh depositors identified by the commission,” an official said in Nabanna.

Justice Shyamal Sen did not clarify today if he had initiated any process to find potential buyers for the channels.

“It seems he can start the process only after the government agrees to his recommendation. The government has to carry out the sale of the channels by floating tenders under the aegis of the commission,” an official said.

No one from the government wanted to comment on the commission’s recommendation.

The commission today also asked 16 Saradha investors to produce documents after they filed applications seeking possession of flats and land in Bishnupur in South 24-Parganas, where the Saradha Group had planned real-estate projects.

The commission also asked Sudipta Sen and his deputy Debjani Mukherjee to appear before it on January 24.