The Telegraph
Wednesday , March 30 , 2016

SC asks Sebi to sell Sahara properties

New Delhi, March 29: The Supreme Court today asked market regulator Sebi to initiate the process of selling "unencumbered" properties of Sahara Group worth Rs 40,000 crore, whose title deeds are with the regulator, to generate the bail money for the release of its chief Subrata Roy, in jail for two years.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice T.S. Thakur also asked the regulator not to sell any of the properties of the beleaguered group below 90 per cent of the circle rates.

The bench, also comprising Justices A.R. Dave and A.K. Sikri, said the regulator would have to take its prior approval before going ahead with the sale of any property if it (Sebi) receives bids even below 90 per cent of the circle rate.

"You (Sebi) evolve mechanism and start selling the properties and we are passing the order to this effect," the bench said when the counsel for Sebi alleged that nothing concrete was happening on the ground.

For an interim bail of Roy (67), the court had put conditions such as depositing Rs 5,000 crore in cash and a bank guarantee of equal amount and tough terms, including the payment of the entire Rs 36,000 crore, which includes interest. The money will be paid back to the investors of Sahara. Roy has been in prison since March 4, 2014.

The order, asking Sebi to proceed with the sale of properties, came when senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Roy, submitted that the group was finding it increasingly difficult to sell its properties in the current market environment.

The apex court asked Sahara Group and Sebi to devise a mechanism under the supervision of Justice B.N. Agrawal to sell properties and seek help of "experts or expert agencies" if required in the process.

It also asked both the parties to constitute a committee for this purpose. Justice Agrawal is currently overseeing the process of return of the money to investors of Sahara.

The Sahara group said it has already submitted the title deeds to Sebi and the 86 properties do not include the "foreign properties of Sahara nor Aamby Valley City nor Sahara Star hotel".

The bench said Sebi would appoint an agency to decide the mechanism for the sale of Sahara properties, which is being undertaken to recover investors' money that the Sahara group's two companies - Sahara India Real Estate Corporation Ltd and Sahara Housing Investment Corporation Ltd - had collected through optionally fully convertible debentures.

Initially, the bench favoured Sebi's plea that a receiver be appointed to sell Sahara properties to recover investors' money.

"Let us appoint a receiver. That is the only solution. You are in jail and finding it difficult to sell the properties," the bench said, adding "we would hear you on appointing a receiver. That (appointing a receiver) is the only solution to this problem. Sell them and let whatever money comes".

The bench had asked Sibal that it was willing to hear arguments on appointment of the receiver right away.

The court took a strong note of Sibal's submission that law and fact are on his side and moreover, "nowhere in the world persons are kept in jail like this".

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