A Supreme Court ordered auction process began today for the Aamby Valley resort town of embattled Sahara group at a reserve price of Rs 37,392 crore.

The official liquidator of the Bombay High Court published an auction notice today inviting prospective bidders for the integrated hill city township spread over 6,761.6 acres near Lonavala, located between Mumbai and Pune.

A Mauritius-based investor, Royale Partners Investment Fund, last week said it has offered to invest $1.67 billion (over Rs 10,700 crore) in Sahara group’s Aamby Valley project.

Sahara group pegs the market valuation of this project at over Rs 1 lakh crore.

Replying to emailed queries about its proposed deal with Sahara group, RPMG Investment told PTI, “As deposed by Sahara before the Supreme Court of India, Royale Partners Investment Fund Ltd and its Limited Partners have agreed to invest $1.67 billion in the Aamby Valley Project".

Sahara’s advocate Gautam Awasthi had said in a statement that the group had moved an application before the Supreme Court seeking permission for entering into an agreement with Victor Koenig UK Ltd, with the nominee Royale Partners Investment Fund Limited, for inviting an investment of $1.67 billion into its Aamby Valley project.

”....Sahara’s had also prayed for stopping the auction process. After hearing counsels for SEBI, amicus curie and Kapil Sibal, senior advocate for Sahara, the Supreme Court has opened a window for Sahara by permitting them to enter into the negotiations and deposit the amount before this court, and that is Rs 1,500 crore to be deposited before the next date,” he said.

Awasthi had said it was said by the judge that if Rs 1,500 crore is deposited, then auction order will be withdrawn.

The Supreme Court on Thursday said the auction process will go on according to the schedule, but if Rs 1,500 crore is paid, as proposed by the group, into the SEBI-Sahara refund account by September 7, then it may pass an appropriate order.

The group had asked the court to postpone the auction, which was scheduled to start with publication of a notice on August 14, till September 16 to enable Sahara group chief Subrata Roy to arrange the money.

Sahara lawyer told the court that hotels in New York have been sold and soon money would be coming into the Sahara account after which Rs 1,500 crore would be deposited into the SEBI-Sahara refund account by September 7, as had been directed by the court.

Sahara has been engaged in a long-running battle with the capital market regulator SEBI (Securities and Exchange Board of India).

The apex court had on July 25 asked the embattled Sahara chief to deposit Rs 1,500 crore in the SEBI-Sahara account by September 7 and said it might then deliberate upon his plea seeking 18 months more time for making complete repayment.