The Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed the Sahara Group to pay back Rs. 24,000 crore with 15% interest to investors of its two firms.
Sahara group gets SC rap for not refunding money
A bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir directed the Sahara Group to immediately hand over a demand draft of Rs. 5,120 crore to market regulator SEBI and said the balance amount shall be deposited with the market regulator in two instalments.
The bench also comprising justices S S Nijjar and J Chelameswar made it clear that the first instalment of Rs. 10,000 crore has to be paid by first week of January 2013 and the remaining by first week of February 2013.
The bench, which said it was considering Sahara's application to protect the interest of the investors, also expressed displeasure with Sahara's statement for extension of time for payment, saying it could not be accepted at face value.
The order passed by the bench was objected to by SEBI and an association of the investors who said that the directions were being given without hearing their submissions.
With today's order, a bench headed by CJI modified the verdict given by another bench on August 31 setting the deadline of November end for Sahara group to refund the money.
SEBI strongly opposed the order dictated by Justice Kabir and said that it was not right to modify the earlier verdict given by a different bench and submitted that Sahara's plea must be heard by a bench of justices K S Radhakrishnan and J S Khehar which had passed the verdict against the Group's two companies.
Senior advocate Arvind Dattar, appearing for SEBI, further submitted that the Chief Justice must record his statement in the court's order pertaining to his submission that the case must be heard by a bench of justices Radhakrishnan and Khehar.
Chief Justice Kabir got angry after SEBI's submission and said, "We will record what we feel to record. We cannot record what you say."
An association of investors, who had put in their money in Sahara Group, objected to the order, saying that it was pronounced without hearing their arguments.
Senior advocate Vikas Singh, in his remark against the order, said in the open court that the bench had stated that it will pass order to protect interest of the investors but the order is being passed without giving them a hearing.
"You are saying that the order is being passed to protect the investors and you are passing the order in the guise of protecting the investors, but what is there for them if investors are not heard. It is not fair," an upset Singh said, immediately after the order was dictated by CJI.
He said that his petition should not be disposed of along with Sahara's petition, but CJI shot back in a very angry tone "No, sorry".
The court passed the order on an appeal filed by the Sahara group companies against a November 29 order of the Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT), which had refused to entertain their plea by asking them to approach the Supreme Court, which had directed them to refund the money within three months by November 30.
The apex court, by its August 31 direction, had also asked Sahara to supply within ten days the documents pertaining to the investors.
However, today's order came even as SEBI's contempt petition and Sahara's review petition against the August 31 verdict are pending before the bench of justices Radhakrishanan and Khehar.
During the hearing, SEBI also objected to Sahara's submission that its two companies, Sahara India Real Estate Corporation Ltd (SIRECL) and Sahara Housing Investment Corporation Ltd (SHICL), were liable to refund Rs. 17,400 crore.
At the outset, the bench also questioned Sahara's counsel, senior advocate Gopal Subramaniam on changing the figure of the amount.
"Why are you changing the figure?" the bench said and added that it will not go into anything else but only on the issue of refund of the amount.
"You please do not go into any other thing. The question is not how much you have to pay. You have not supplied the documents to SEBI. You are at fault. You are wrong," the bench observed.
The bench clarified there is no question of changing the amount that figured in the August 31 verdict.