Holding that it was playing “hide and seek” and cannot be trusted any more, the Supreme Court on Monday directed the Sahara group to hand over title deeds of properties worth Rs 20,000 crore to SEBI, warning that failure to comply would mean Subrata Roy cannot leave India.

Making it clear that there is no “escape” from depositing the investors’ money with the market regulator, the apex court also asked the group to give valuation reports of the properties to SEBI which will verify the worth of the assets.

The court was hearing three contempt petitions filed by SEBI against Roy, the two firms — Sahara India Real Estate Corp Ltd (SIREC) and Sahara India Housing Investment Corp Ltd (SHIC) — and their directors.

A Bench of Justices K. S. Radhakrishnan and J. S. Khehar, which was about to restrain Roy from leaving the county till documents are handed over, however, said that he will not be allowed to go abroad without its permission if the order is not complied within three weeks.

Roy’s counsel had earlier pleaded that his reputation and business will be hit.

“You have driven everybody round. From day one restraint was ours,” the Bench replied when Roy’s counsel C. A. Sundaram pleaded that his behaviour has never caused any suspicion. “You indulge too much in hide-and-seek. We cannot trust you any more,” the Bench said, adding, “there is no escape for you and the money has to come.”

The Bench, however, assured Sahara that its interests will be protected if investor money is paid. “Rest assured that we will protect you if you give the money,” it said, and posted the case for hearing on November 20 when it would consider passing further orders on what is to be done to the properties whose title deeds will be handed over to SEBI.

At the outset, Sundaram submitted that it is not possible to pay Rs 20,000 crore in cash and that the company would go into liquidation if it was directed to pay cash.

He gave details of properties including Aamby Valley and said that title deeds of various assets would run into thousands of pages as there were 30,000 title deeds.

SEBI, however, expressed reservation over accepting the title deeds and said that Sahara itself should sell the properties and hand over the cash. But the Bench asked SEBI to go through the title deeds and valuation records of the properties to be handed over to it by Sahara.

“Examine the title deeds and find out its worth. You can also examine how safe it is,” the Bench told SEBI’s counsel Arvind Datar, who submitted that proceedings for evaluation of property would give rise to many other issues and amount to going into a “minefield”.

(This article was published on October 28, 2013)
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