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New SC Bench to hear Sahara cases, group’s Roy in jail at least for summer

The Supreme Court on Thursday announced the Chief Justice of India had formed a new Bench to hear Sahara group cases after the retirement of presiding judge K S Radhakrishnan and the recusal of J S Khehar.

The judges on the Bench have not been named. The names will be known in July when the court opens after vacation.

Khehar had written to the registry he did not want to hear the cases that led to the imprisonment of group chief Subrata Roy and two directors, in Tihar jail in Delhi since March 4.

Last week, at a farewell ceremony for Radhakrishnan, he had disclosed he and family members were under “unimaginable pressure and tension” while hearing the case in which the court had two years ago ordered the two firms that collected Rs 20,000 crore from the public in bonds to return the money as ordered by capital markets regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India.

But the two failed to repay. So, the court summoned Roy, who did not appear. Later he was arrested. He presented himself before the two judges. They sent him to jail and allowed him to be released only if he could present a credible scheme by which he would pay Rs 10,000 crore immediately. No plan for repayment in instalments was found satisfactory.

Roy challenged his detention as violative of several fundamental rights, including the right to life and fair trial. The plea was rejected in a 200-page judgment in which Khehar spoke of manipulation of the judiciary by litigants like Roy and the counsel who made unsavoury remarks against them. Lawyers Ram Jethmalani and Rajeev Dhavan asked the Bench to transfer the case to another one to avoid embarrassment to them. But despite provocative remarks lasting five hearings, the judges upheld the detention. They asked the government to pass a law to prevent such abuse of the judicial process by influential litigants.

The judgment was followed by Radhakrishnan’s disclosure of pressure on him and family. Khehar’s recusal is on its heels. The result is Roy and the two directors will remain in jail at least during the summer, like any other prisoner.

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