Pay up Rs552 cr or face Amby Valley auction, SC tells Sahara

The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected Sahara chief Subrata Roy's plea to grant him more time to pay the dues to Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) and warned that if a Rs552-crore cheque to SEBI was not honoured by 15 July, the group's flagship Aamby Valley project could be auctioned.

A bench comprising Justices Dipak Misra, Ranjan Gogoi and A K Sikri posted the case for further hearing on 20 July. Sahara chairman Subrata Roy was present in court at the hearing in which former attorney general Mukul Rohatgi appeared for Sahara Housing Corporation.

Roy's counsel handed over a Rs552-crore cheque to the Sebi counsel in the court but it was dated 15 July. If the cheque is dishonoured, the Amby Valley project near Pune could be auctioned, the bench warned.

The bench expressed its impatience with the group for taking far too long to deposit court-mandated Rs24,000 crore in the Sebi-Sahara account, which can then be paid back to investors in two of its allegedly fraudulent schemes.

''We are interested in execution. The money shall be realised and deposited. We are not in the frame to permit any indulgences,'' Justice Misra, who will be the next Chief Justice of India, told Sahara lead counsel Kapil Sibal.

''Rs 500 crore, Rs 400 crore? How long will this go on? It cannot continue forever. At this rate, you will take a lifetime to repay,'' the bench observed.

Senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Sahara, sought time till 15 August for realisation of the cheque but the bench, presided over by Justice Misra, said, ''We are absolutely disinclined to extend the time. How many times are we to assemble to hear this case?''

Sibal told the court that the group has deposited Rs13,316 crore in the SEBI-Sahara account and the balance was around Rs9,000 crore. He reiterated that the company was not able to get a fair price for Amby Valley because of the court orders and market conditions. He submitted that London's Grosvenor House Hotel had been sold to pay the dues.

The official liquidator appointed by the court told the judges that the road map for the auction of the Amby Valley was ready. The property has been divided into three lots - the city itself, the surrounding villages and the land around it - and could be auctioned in one go.

The income tax counsel also made a claim of Rs1,500 crore against the Sahara companies but the court stated that it was not considering tax dues in this proceeding.

Sahara claims that all the investors are genuine, while Sebi claims they are all bogus.