Tightening the noose around the Sahara Group for not refunding Rs 20,000 crore of investor money, the Supreme Court on Thursday barred its chief, Subrata Roy, from leaving the country and restrained the Group from selling any of its properties.

The apex court said that its order for handing over the title deeds of Rs 20,000 crore unencumbered properties to SEBI was not followed by the group in “letter and spirit” and prevented Roy along with other directors of the group — Vandana Bhargava, Ravi Shankar Dubey and Ashok Roy Choudhary — from leaving the country.

A Bench of Justices K. S. Radhakrishnan and J. S. Khehar directed that none of the Group companies would part with any of its properties without the court’s permission. On the Supreme Court’s order of October 28, Sahara had given SEBI documents of two plots of land — a 106-acre land parcel in Versova, a Mumbai suburb, which according to the Group is worth around Rs 19,000 crore, and a 200-acre plot in Vasai, which it estimates at about Rs 1,000 crore. SEBI has challenged the valuation of the properties.

While senior advocate C. A. Sundaram, appearing for Roy, tried to convince the Bench that Sahara has complied with its order, SEBI rebutted saying the Group had overvalued its properties and not handed over all original title deeds of assets worth Rs 20,000 crore.

SEBI’s counsel Arvind Dattar told the court that the Versova land had been valued at Rs 19,000 crore though its official value is Rs 118.42 crore. He said that land cannot be used for any development as it falls in the green zone.

The Bench agreed with the contention that such a valuation was not acceptable and asked Sahara to find other properties that could be considered as surety for Rs 20,000 crore. It also passed an order restraining Roy from leaving the country and posted the case for hearing on December 11.

(This article was published on November 21, 2013)
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