SC WANTS AAMBY VAL­LEY TO BE HANDED OVER TO RE­CEIVER

Says any­body ob­struct­ing the auc­tion would be jailed

Business Standard - - FRONT PAGE - N SUNDARESHA SUBRA­MA­NIAN

The Supreme Court or­dered the Ma­ha­rash­tra po­lice to hand over the pos­ses­sion of lux­ury town­ship Aamby Val­ley to the of­fi­cial liq­uida­tor of the Bom­bay High Court within 48 hours.

A Bench of the chief jus­tice, Di­pak Misra, and judges Ran­jan Go­goi and A K Sikri di­rected the liq­uida­tor to con­duct an auc­tion process afresh un­der the guid­ance of the com­pa­nies Bench judge in Mum­bai and a judge of the Bom­bay High Court.

The Bench warned that any fur­ther at­tempts to im­ped­i­ment the auc­tion could land the con­tem­nors in jail.

This came af­ter the Se­cu­ri­ties and Ex­change Board of In­dia (Sebi) pe­ti­tioned that the Sa­hara group, whose prop­erty it has been, had ob­structed the court-or­dered auc­tion process by writ­ing to the po­lice in Pune to take over the premises on ac­count of a lock­out.

The ~37,000-crore prop­erty was put to auc­tion last month by the apex court af­ter the Sa­hara group failed to pay the sums due to Sebi in a sev­enyear-old case. Two group firms, Sa­hara Hous­ing In­vest and Sa­hara In­dia Real Es­tate, had raised ~24,029 crore by is­su­ing bonds to 29.6 mil­lion in­vestors. In 2012, the SC up­held a Sebi or­der that this was il­le­gal and di­rected re­fund, with in­ter­est. Though the group has de­posited around two-third of the prin­ci­pal sum, the to­tal of dues with in­ter­est has crossed ~40,000 crore ac­cord­ing to Sebi es­ti­mates. Group chief Subrata Roy, who spent around two years in jail for fail­ing to pay, is cur­rently out on pa­role.

In a let­ter ad­dressed to the po­lice su­per­in­ten­dent of Pune (Ru­ral), with a copy to the state govern­ment’s ad­di­tional chief sec­re­tary, the group had claimed the SC or­der had brought its busi­ness to a stand­still, as no real es­tate trans­ac­tion was hap­pen­ing and that it was forced to is­sue a lock­out no­tice. It said the re­sort was go­ing through its “worst ever” phase.

Claim­ing it feared a law and or­der sit­u­a­tion due to the im­pend­ing lock­out, it re­quested the po­lice to take over the prop­erty spread over thou­sands of acres, off Lon­avla along the PuneMum­bai high­way.

Sebi coun­sel Arvind Datar said the let­ter was writ­ten on Septem­ber 28, six days be­fore the auc­tion process was com­plete, and called it an “or­ches­trated at­tempt”. Since the po­lice took over the prop­erty, the auc­tion got de­railed, the reg­u­la­tor said. “News re­ports had said there were two in­ter­ested buy­ers. But, be­cause of the Sa­hara let­ter and the po­lice takeover, they have backed out,” Datar told the court.

Mukul Ro­hatgi, ap­pear­ing for Sa­hara, said the reg­u­la­tor’s claims were in­cor­rect and pleaded that the court al­low an op­por­tu­nity to ex­plain his po­si­tion.

Ques­tion­ing why the let­ter to the po­lice was writ­ten, the chief jus­tice said, “Our or­der is vi­o­lated. We don’t in­tend to hear you to­day.”

Pune po­lice had taken con­trol of prop­erty on Sa­hara re­quest; Sebi con­tended and the judges agree that this breached their or­der to auc­tion it

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