Apex court dismisses Sahara plea for more time to deposit money

Amid a high-voltage drama that unfolded during a brief hearing, the Supreme Court on Monday threw out an "unfortunate" plea by Sahara Group to grant it more time to deposit with the Sebi the money it had "illegally" raised from investors through optionally fully convertible debentures and the necessary documents in this regard.

A three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir took strong exception to the fact that Sahara and its two companies — Sahara India Real Estate Corporation (now known as Sahara Commodity Services Corporation Ltd) and Sahara Housing Investment Corporation — had failed to meet the revised deadline set by this Bench.

A two-judge Bench led by Justice KS Radhakrishnan had in August verdict granted Sahara time till November 2012 to refund more than Rs 24,000 crore to investors. It had also asked the group to hand over all pertinent documents to the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) within 15 days. Sebi subsequently moved a contempt plea against Sahara for allegedly not complying with these directives.

However, on Sahara's separate plea, CJI-led Bench had on December 5 gave them time until February 2013 to pay the amount. This order asked Sahara to pay Rs 5,120 crore upfront and the balance in two instalments - Rs 10,000 crore in the first week of January, and the rest in the first week of February.

On Monday, when senior advocate Ram Jethmalani brought up the application on extension of time before CJI-led Bench, the court questioned if Sahara had complied with the deadlines set by December order.

As Jethmalani showed reluctance, the Bench shot back: "Is it not true that the same prayer for extension of time was made before the other Bench? We modified the previous order only in the interest of investors. If you have not complied with our order now, you have no business to come to us. We are not at all inclined to entertain this application."

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