SC raps Sahara Group for dragging feet on refunds

The Supreme Court on Monday pulled up the Sahara Group for not refunding Rs 27,000 crore to its investors within the specified time-frame. A bench headed by chief justice Altamas Kabir also asked Sahara senior counsel Gopal Subramaniam to inform by Tuesday whether the group would be able to repay its investors within a week.

Justice Kabir flayed the firms for not complying with earlier orders, remarking that the firms' plea does not merit a hearing. "Your intention is very shaky and every step taken by you is shaky. We can't interpret our order according to your needs," the bench said while rebutting Subramaniam for trying to justify the group's failure to refund the entire amount. "You are justifying your conduct, which is not justifiable," justice Kabir said.

The SC had on August 31 directed the Sahara Group entities — Sahara India Real Estate Corporation (now known as Sahara Commodity Services Corporation) and Sahara Housing Investment Corporation — to refund around R27,000 crore collected from investors through optionally fully convertible debentures (OFCDs).

Opposing Sahara's plea, market regulator Sebi submitted that it has already filed a contempt petition against them and strong action should be taken against the firms for non-compliance with the apex court's August 31 directions to furnish documents within 10 days to Sebi to verify investors who had invested in its OFCDs.

The bench, however, said it was more concerned about ordinary people who invested in Sahara companies. "If you want me to send them to jail, we would send them, but we are more concerned about the investment made by the common man," justice Kabir observed.

Sahara had moved the SC against the refusal of the Securities and Appellate Tribunal to accept a deposit or pay order of Rs 5,120 crore, arguing it had fulfilled the court order directing a full refund of Rs 17,400 crore to all its investors by November 30, the deadline set by the apex court.

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