Imprisoned Sahara group chief Subrata Roy on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that he may not survive another summer in Tihar jail as he cited ill health to make a case for his release.
The 67-year-old businessman’s plea came on a day the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) informed the top court that the sale of his company’s properties will begin next week to meet his liabilities to investors, which stands at Rs 36,000 crore.
The court refused to grant parole to Roy, who is in jail since March 4, 2014, and directed his company to furnish details of its properties in a sealed cover to ascertain if these were enough to pay back the investors.
Senior advocate and Sebi counsel Arvind P Datar told a bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur that SBI Capital Markets and HDFC Realty have been engaged to sell 66 Sahara properties through e-auction. The process will be completed in four months and is likely to generate ` 6,000 crore, he said.
Roy’s release could depend on the outcome of the first round of sale of his properties. “This might be enough for securing Roy’s bail but not to refund the entire money to investors,” the bench said.
We want the rest of the properties to be brought into focus, so you give us a list of properties.”
Roy has to deposit Rs 5,000 crore in cash and a bank guarantee of an equal amount for his bail.
The court was responding to a plea by the Sahara chief ’s counsel, Rajeev Dhawan, who pressed for his release.
“The court should consider granting parole to him or put him under house arrest. I am required for compliance of order of this court and I am not required for any offence,” he said. “My client’s health is deteriorating and he may not be able to survive another summer in jail.”
The bench disagreed, saying substantial compliance will be once the money is refunded to investors.
“It does not give us pleasure to keep somebody in jail. There has to be change in circumstances and there has to be a substantial compliance of our order,” the bench said. The case will be heard again on May 11.
A 2014 Supreme Court verdict said Roy’s company has to refund R36,000 crore, which includes interest, to the investors who deposited money in two financial schemes started by Sahara. The court upheld Sebi’s finding that the schemes broke the law.
Sebi’s move to auction Sahara assets is in accordance with a top court order that asked the regulator to start the process of selling 87 “unencumbered” properties of the financial company.
The company, which became a household name after offering popular savings instruments in the 1990s, is free to provide inputs to Sebi so that its properties fetch a fair price.