Free Subrata Roy for Rs2,500 cr, Sahara pleads before SC

Subrata RoyThe Sahara group today told the Supreme Court that it could not pay Rs5,000 crore upfront as demanded, but would pay Rs2,500 crore and the rest in instalments for the release of its jailed chief Subrata Roy.

In a submission to the apex court, Sahara said it would pay the remaining Rs2,500 crore within 21 days of Roy's release.

The court was hearing a writ petition filed by Sahara challenging the detention of Roy, who has been in judicial custody since 4 March.

A bench comprising justices K S Radhakrishnan and J S Khehar asked Sahara to file a fresh petition seeking review of Roy's bail.

Earlier, the apex court had asked the group to deposit Rs5,000 crore in cash with the Securities & Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and offer an equal amount in guarantees from a public sector bank for Roy's release on bail.

According to SEBI, the Sahara group owes around Rs24,000 crore to investors who bought bonds sold by Sahara India Real Estate Corp Ltd and Sahara Housing Investment Corp Ltd.

Hearing Roy's plea that the court order sending him to jail is illegal, the bench observed that putting him behind bars is not a punishment, but to enforce its orders.

"Don't interpret the March 4th order as a punishment; it is just enforcing our orders. We will go into the punishment aspect once contempt proceedings are over. It's not a punishment," the court said.

The Supreme Court also observed that "Rs10,000 crores is not a bail bond. By paying Rs10,000 crores out of Rs37000 crores, you will show your bona fides."

Roy, 65, was arrested on 28 February for failing to refund Rs20,000 crore raised by Sahara from small investors through two bond schemes that were declared illegal in 2012.

 With Sahara struggling to raise the money, the court had said last week that Roy would remain in Delhi's Tihar Jail for another week, posting the next hearing for today.

Sahara is best known as the former main sponsor of India's national cricket team, as well as owner of New York's Plaza Hotel and London's Grosvenor House.

It has a net worth of $11 billion or around Rs66,000 crore and more than 36,000 acres of real estate, according to its website.

It also co-owns the Sahara Force India Formula One auto racing team with liquor baron Vijay Mallya, whose airline venture has sunk as deep as Sahara.