The Securities & Exchange Board of India today filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking the arrest of Sahara Group founder Subrata Roy, and that he should be prevented from travelling abroad.
After SEBI lawyer Pratap Venugopal requested the court to take up the petition at an early date. The Supreme Court said it will hear it in the first week of April.
The petition requests the court to allow SEBI to "take measures for the arrest and detention in civil prison of promoter of Sahara, Subrata Roy Sahara, and the two male directors, Ashok Roy Choudhary and Ravi Shankar Dubey, after giving reasonable opportunity of hearing."
The market regulator has also pleaded that Roy and two directors in his companies be asked to deposit their passports with the court.
The regulator and unlisted Sahara have been locked in a long-running dispute relating to a Supreme Court order asking the Sahara group to refund more than Rs24,000 crore of investors' money raised by two group firms through the issue of bonds. SEBI had been asked to facilitate the refund.
The group was ordered in August last year to repay sums raised by what the Supreme Court called "dubious" means from nearly 30 million small investors, offering a generous 15 per cent interest a year.
Two Sahara firms - Sahara Housing Investment Corp and Sahara India Real Estate Corp - raised a total of Rs2,578 crore in bonds as of April 2011, according to Sahara's court affidavits cited by SEBI.
In December last year, the court ordered Sahara to lodge an initial deposit of Rs5,120 crore with SEBI, pay another Rs10,000 crore in the first week of January and the remainder in the first week of February.
The Sahara companies, however, have said that only Rs2,620 crore remains to be refunded as they have repaid the remainder, an assertion the regulator disputes.
In February, SEBI ordered a freeze of the assets and bank accounts of the two Sahara group companies. It also ordered a freeze on all bank accounts and properties in the name of Subrata Roy and the three other directors of the two firms.
Sahara said the directives were based on "old facts" and had not taken into account redemptions it has made since January 2012, adding that its total liability was unlikely to exceed the Rs5,120 crore it had deposited with the regulator. It added that the orders for attaching assets of individuals are "incorrect".
The group also ran a major advertisement campaign in newspapers claiming that "Sahara has nothing to pay (and) rather Sahara shall soon be eligible to take a big refund from SEBI," and that it was submitting to SEBI the provisional balance sheets of two companies as on 31 December 2012 to bring more clarity in the matter.
SEBI has cautioned investors and the general public against transacting any business with Sahara companies or persons associated with these companies.