Supreme Court to Sahara: Refund 24k cr or face Consequences

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday gave two Sahara companies 24 hours to decide whether they would comply with the apex court’s three-month-old directive to refund Rs 24,000 crore to nearly 3 crore investors through market regulator Sebi or face the consequences.

“Tell us by tomorrow (Tuesday) whether you are ready to pay up or face the music,” a bench of Chief Justice Altamas Kabir and Justices S S Nijjar and J Chelameswar said, refusing to accept Sahara’s readiness to deposit Rs 5,126 crore in compliance with the August 31 judgment. The “music” which the bench referred to is real, as an application seeking initiation of contempt proceedings is pending before a bench of Justices K S Radhakrishnan and J S Khehar, which had taken a strong view of the Sahara companies trying to step around the August 31 judgment.

When SEBI counsel Arvind Datar informed the court on Monday that the market regulator had filed a contempt petition against the companies, the bench said it was more interested in ensuring return of the money to ordinary investors.

A Supreme Court bench headed by the CJI, hearing the Sahara case, was unimpressed with senior advocate Gopal Subramaniam’s attempts to give reasons for not complying with the earlier ruling on refunding Rs 24,000 crore to nearly 3 crore investors. Subramaniam tried to stress on lapses on part of market regulator Sebi in helping the two Sahara companies to comply with the directions in the August 31 judgment.

The bench indicated that it had seen through the gameplan and decided to do some plain talking. “Your intention is very shaky. Your every step is shaky, we can’t interpret our order according to your need,” it said.

The two Sahara group companies had moved the SC on November 30, the day the three-month deadline ended for refunding Rs 24,000 crore to investors through Sebi.

They came with drafts for Rs 5,126 crore to attempt to prove their bona fides as managers of the investors’ money.

Sahara had contested Sebi’s estimation of the refundable amount as Rs 24,000 crore, while arguing that the regulator was neither accepting the documented investor information nor accepting money being offered as refund to investors.

(TOI, 4 Dec 2012)

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