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SC raps Sahara for not refunding investors' money

Last updated on: December 03, 2012 21:05 IST

The Supreme Court on Monday rapped the Sahara group for not refunding Rs 27,000 crore (Rs 270 billion) to investors, saying its every step was "very shaky" and questioned its "unjustifiable" conduct against the interest of the common investors.

"You are not entitled to any hearing," a bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir tersely told the Sahara Group for not implementing its order for refunding the money.

The court followed it up with some strong observations. "Your intention is very shaky. Your every step is shaky. You can't interpret our order according to your need," the bench said.

Justice Kabir, who is known for his gentle demeanour, lost his cool many times during the brief hearing and had some hard words for the group for approaching other forum (SAT) even after the apex court had passed the order.

"You did not implement our order and went to other forum. It is unfortunate," the bench said.

It, however, agreed to hear the matter saying that concern for the common investors is more important and asked Sahara India Real Estate Corporation Ltd (SIRECL) and Sahara Housing Investment Corporation Ltd (SHICL) to tell by tomorrow whether they would be able to refund the entire amount to the investors within a week.

The market regulator SEBI insisted that strong action be taken against the Group's companies and said that it has also filed a contempt petition against them.

The bench, however, said it is more concerned about the common man, who has invested his money in the companies.

"If you want us to send them to jail, we would send them, but we are more concerned about the investments made by the common man," the bench observed.

Senior advocate Gopal Subramaniam, appearing for SIRECL, tried to justify its failure to refund the entire amount, but the bench strongly rebutted him saying, "You are justifying your conduct, which is not justifiable."

Subramaniam during his submission said that the company complied with apex court's order for furnishing all documents to the regulator.

But the bench asked him to give details about the money which was to be refunded to investors and granted one day time to respond.

Justice Kabir also pulled up senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi who stood up during the hearing to argue for SHICL.

"This is not the way. Even when your side is losing, you do not have the right to jump in," Justice Kabir said asking Rohatgi to sit down.

The court was hearing Sahara group's plea against the order of SAT which had dismissed its petition against market regulator SEBI in a case involving refund of about Rs 27,000 crore with interest to about three crore investors.

In their appeal before the SAT, two Sahara Group firms had sought the Tribunal's intervention in refund of investors' money and had accused the market regulator SEBI of wrongly charging them of non-compliance with a Supreme Court order in that regard.

The Tribunal, however, had said that any further direction in the case could be sought and granted by the Supreme Court alone and dismissed the appeal.

The apex court had asked SIRECL and SHICL to refund an estimated Rs 27,000 crore with an annual interest of 15 per cent.

The court had asked the companies to furnish the documents related to these investors to SEBI within 10 days and refund the money within three months, failing which the regulator was asked to freeze the accounts and attach properties of the two firms.

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