New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday said it is "extremely difficult" to believe Sahara group's contention that it had refunded Rs 22,000 crore to its investors even before an order was passed directing its firm to deposit Rs 24,000 with SEBI. Sahara group, which faced tough time in convincing the apex court that it had refunded the amount to its investors, submitted its two firm Sahara India Real Estate Corp Ltd (SIREC) and Sahara India Housing Investment Corp Ltd (SHIC), along with their Directors and Promoter Subrata Roy, is not liable for contempt.
"It is extremely difficult to believe. We would accept the statement right now if you show that you had filed affidavit regarding this before SEBI, SAT or in Supreme Court when the case was being heard," a bench of justices KS Radhakrishnan and JS Khehar said. The remarks by the bench came after Ram Jethmalani, appearing for one of the Sahara Group firms, submitted that around Rs 22,000 crore had already been redeemed to the investors before the refund order was passed by the apex court on August 31, 2013.
Jethmalani contended there is no wilful disobedience of the court's order in not refunding the amount as it has no means to pay. He said banks have also refused to give us loan for refunding the money. "Lack of means has been created because of the way the SC order has been interpreted by SEBI, he said adding "banks refused to give us loan and a perception has been created we have taken away thousands of crore of investors' money."
The arguments remained inconclusive and the case was adjourned to August 26. The court was hearing three contempt petitions filed by SEBI against Roy, the two firms and their directors. Earlier, the Sahara group had told the apex court that its chief Subrata Roy is not liable for refunding Rs 24,000 crore collected by its two firms from investors, countering the arguments of SEBI which wanted his passport to be impounded till the contempt plea against him and companies is decided.
The apex court had on August 31 last year directed the Sahara group to refund the amount by November end. The deadline was further extended and the companies were directed to deposit Rs 5120 crore immediately and Rs 10,000 crore in first week of January and the remaining amount in first week of February. The group, which had handed over the draft of Rs 5,120 crore on December 5, has failed to pay the rest of the amount, SEBI told the court.
The apex court had on August 31 last year directed the two Sahara group companies to refund the money to their investors within three months with 15 per cent interest per annum. It had also said SEBI can attach the properties and freeze the bank accounts of the companies if they fail to refund the amount.
The two companies, their promoter Roy and directors Vandana Bhargava, Ravi Shankar Dubey and Ashok Roy Choudhary were told to refund the collected money to the regulator.