Two Sahara group firms have moved the Supreme Court seeking initiation of contempt proceedings against SEBI alleging that the market regulator's demand of Rs 62,602 crore from them was not "only contemptuous but a mischievous attempt" to overreach the directions of the apex court. SEBI had moved the apex court seeking direction to the firms to pay the amount in compliance with the court's earlier orders, failing which the group's chief Subrata Roy be taken into custody.
Sahara India Real Estate Corporation Ltd. (SIRECL) and Sahara Housing Investment Corporation Ltd. (SHICL), in their contempt plea have alleged "gross, blatant and willful disobedience of the directions" of the top court by SEBI.
It said that the demand of SEBI asking the firms to deposit Rs 62,602 Crores was in violation of the specific directions of the apex court in its order of February 06, 2017 that at present only the principal amount is to be concerned and the issue of interest will be adverted to later.
It said that SEBI's action of demanding money and filing of contempt against Sahara firms was "not only contemptuous but a mischievous attempt to overreach the directions of this court" and it was an attempt to "mislead the apex Court and to cause public outrage against Sahara".
The Sahara firms, in their fresh plea, has made SEBI and its chairman Ajay Tyagi and two others as parties and accused them of violating various orders of the apex court.
"It is in the circumstances, the petitioners seek indulgence of this court to initiate contempt proceedings against the respondents (SEBI) for gross, blatant and willful disobedience of the directions of this court vide judgement and order dated 31.08.2012; and order dated 05.12.2012, and for obstructing the administration of justice; and to direct SEBI to discharge its obligations and implement the directions of this court, in the interest of complete justice.
"Also, the application preferred by SEBI seeking deposit of Rs 62,602 crores despite specific directions of this court vide order dated 06.02.2017 that at present only the principal amount is to be concerned with and issue of interest will be adverted to later; is not only contemptuous but a mischievous attempt to overreach the directions of this court. As such, the respondents are in contempt of the order dated 31.08.2012, 05.12.2012 and the order dated 06.02.2017 passed by this court," the Sahara firms said in the plea.
The plea said that the apex court, in its order dated of February 6, 2017, had directed that it is concerned with the principal amount and the issue of interest shall be adverted to later but SEBI in utter disregard of the directions has been including interest amount.
The plea said that it seemed SEBI has developed certain vested interests to evade the verification exercise on flimsy pretexts.
"As on date, an amount of Rs 22,500 Crores is lying in the SEBI-Sahara Refund Account against the principal amount of Rs 24029.73 crores; meaning Sahara is supposed to deposit only Rs 1,529 crores towards principal amount," it said.
For more than eight years have passed and yet SEBI has not conducted the exercise of verification of 3.03 crores investors and refund, which is important for the interest of the investors and resolution on SEBI-Sahara dispute, the companies said.
SEBI had said that the firms were in "gross violation" of various orders passed by the court regarding the deposit of entire amount collected along with the interest.
On January 24, the top court had exempted Roy and two other directors from personal appearance till "further orders" in a case related to their alleged failure in depositing over Rs 25,700 crore in the Sebi-Sahara account for returning investors' money. The top court, on January 31 last year, had directed Roy and two other directors, Ravi Shankar Dubey and Ashok Roy Choudhary, to personally appear before it "to enable the court to pass appropriate orders so that the law can take its own course and reach the desired conclusion".
It had said that the efforts of the Sahara group to pay back did not "inspire the confidence of the court" as its order for deposit of over Rs 25,700 crore has not been complied with so far.
Roy was sent to the Tihar Jail by the apex court on March 4, 2014 and came out on parole after spending over two years in prison on May 6, 2016 to perform the last rites of his mother Chhabi Roy. He has been out of prison since then.
Earlier, the apex court had noted that the Sahara group has already deposited around Rs 20,000 crore in the Sebi-Sahara account, which includes Rs 15,000 crore principal amount and Rs 4,800 crore interest.
In July 2018, the auctioning process of Sahara group's prized Aamby Valley properties was put off by the top court after it was informed that the auction notice did not elicit any response from prospective buyers.
Roy and two other directors were arrested for failure of the group's two companies -- SIRECL and SHICL -- to comply with the court's August 31, 2012 order to return Rs 25,000 crore to their investors.