SC puts Sahara's Aamby Valley on the block for failure to deposit refunds

The Supreme Court has ordered that the Sahara Group's luxurious 8,900-acre Aamby Valley City near Pune be auctioned as the group has failed to deposit Rs5,092.6 crore with market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) to refund investors.

Sahara Group's property in Lonavla, near Pune, is estimated to be valued at Rs34,000 crore, as per the group's own valuation.

The apex court had earlier warned that it would order auctioning of Sahara's Aamby Valley property after it failed to deposit Rs300 crore.

The court also told disgraced Sahara chief Subrata Roy he "would do well" to keep his promises and not go back on anything he agrees to in court.

It was referring to Roy's undertakings to court earlier, regarding repayment of Rs25,000 crore to investors through Sebi.

The court had warned Sahara earlier this month that it would grant no more extensions if it did not deposit the money in the Sebi-Sahara refund account by 17 April (today). "Whatever you do, we had told you that a substantial amount must come, otherwise we will be compelled to put up Aamby Valley for auction," the bench had said, adding, "What matters is the money coming in the kitty."

A bench of the Supreme Court headed by Justice Dipak Misra also directed Roy to appear in court on 27 April, and said, "We can give enough indulgence. If you can't pay, go to jail."

"Indulgence shown by the court have been misused," said the apex court bench, referring to several parole leaves granted Roy to attend to rituals after his mother passed away.

"Resile from earlier undertakings only at your peril," a bench of Justices Dipak Misra, Ranjan Gogoi and AK Sikri warned.
In March, the Supreme Court had said that it would auction off Sahara's prime Aamby Valley property in Pune, if the company failed to deposit Rs5,000 crore of the Rs14,000 crore outstanding by April 17. Sahara values the property at Rs34,000 crore.

The top court said that it would be left with no option but to sell the property if the group failed to deposit the amount. The bench had in February already directed the attachment of the property.

The SC had in August 2012 ordered Sahara to repay over Rs25,000 crore to investors by depositing the amount with market regulator Sebi after it found that two group companies - Sahara Real Estate and Sahara Housing - had illegally collected the sum from about 30 million investors.

Sahara has so far deposited over Rs11,000 crore, of which Rs6,000 crore was paid after the apex court sent Roy and two directors to jail on 4 March 2014.