The Sahara group on Tuesday expressed its inability to pay Rs 36,000 crore to its investors within 18 months as ordered by the Supreme Court last month, saying there was “no business house in the world or country” that could pay the amount within the time frame fixed by the court.
Sahara’s lawyer Kapil Sibal, however, clarified that the “obligation to pay” wasn’t disputed. Sibal told a special bench headed by Justice TS Thakur that his client would file an application seeking a review of last month’s order setting tough terms for the group to secure the release of its jailed chief, Subrata Roy, in Tihar jail since March last year.
Roy was jailed after he failed to appear before the Supreme Court in contempt proceedings initiated by market regulator, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), after the company did not abide by its 2013 verdict ordering a refund of money collected under two financial schemes declared illegal by the top court.
Later, the court said Roy and two jailed directors would be released after the company deposited Rs 10,000 crore – half in cash and the remaining as bank guarantees – as surety amount. Sahara failed to comply with the conditions, which is why Roy remains in jail.
Last month, the court said the company must pay the entire Rs 36,000 crore, including interest, it owes to investors within 18 months in nine instalments. If Sahara failed to deposit three instalments, Roy and others would have to go back to jail. In another condition, Roy, on release from jail, would not be allowed to travel abroad and must mark his presence at the Tilak Marg police station in Delhi once every fortnight.
Senior counsel Arvind Dattar, appearing for the SEBI, opposed Sibal’s plea, saying the group had during earlier arguments said it had enough resources to return the investors’ money.
Sibal told the court that the income tax department through a statutory order had accepted the group’s stand that a substantial amount had been refunded to investors.
The court asked a Gorakhpur real estate developer, who offered to pay Rs 110 crore for a 45-acre property that Sahara is selling for Rs 64 crore, to deposit 10% of the amount before the next hearing on July 13.