SC allows Subrata Roy to negotiate sale of overseas assets; no bail yet

Sahara chief Subrata RoyThe Supreme Court today said it would facilitate the conduct of negotiations by jailed Sahara chief Subrata Roy for sale, transfer or encumberance of the group's overseas assets either at a nearby guest house or through video conferencing, but declined to grant him bail.

The proceeds of such transactions could be utilised for the repayment of its obligations of over Rs37,000 crore to the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).

"Negotiations for selling properties in India can be done during the day and court will facilitate," the apex court said, adding, "We will allow you to hold negotiations outside jail between 10 am and 4 pm under police custody," a bench headed by Justice T S Thakur said,

The bench, however, added it would be "premature" at this stage to make such arrangement as there is no "concrete" proposal right now.

"You can be brought to a guest house under custody. You can have up to six hours and then you can go back. If you need video conferencing for negotiations with overseas parties, we can arrange that also," Judge TS Thakur said.

The court declined to alter other conditions of bail or grant Roy parole as sought by the Sahara group in its applications. "We are not altering the terms under which the court has given you bail," he added.

The court had earlier agreed to grant bail to Roy on the condition that the group deposits Rs5,000 crore in cash along with a bank guarantee for another Rs5,000 crore.

The group has so far deposited Rs3,117 crore in cash with SEBI.

Roy has been lodged in Tihar jail since 4 March to ensure compliance of the earlier court order to refund the money collected by Sahara India Real Estate Corp and Sahara Housing Invest Corp. The two group firms raised over Rs20,000 crore by issuing optionally fully convertible debentures to 29.6 million investors.

The Supreme Court had, in August 2012, directed the firms to refund the sum so raised to investors alongwith interest (See: SC orders Sahara Group firms to refund Rs17,400 crore to investors).

Sahara group, however, has been arguing that it has already repaid substantial portion of the amount raised, court has not found merit in the argument.

The bench, also comprising justices Anil R Dave and A K Sikri asked him to approach the court when there is a proposal and assured him that suitable arrangements would be made by it.

Sahara, whose assets include the landmark Plaza hotel in New York and Grosvenor House in London, offered to sell its three overseas hotels to meet the payment demands.

The court said it had sought more information from Sahara, including approval from Bank of China, with which its assets are pledged.