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Decision deferred on shifting Sahara chief to Lucknow

The Supreme Court will take a decision on the imprisonment of Sahara group chief Subrata Roy within a few days, the judges indicated on Thursday after hearing his lawyers’ plea that he be shifted to a guest house in Lucknow.

This plea was rejected by an earlier bench but made again before a new bench hearing the case over Sahara group companies paying back investors their money, in which Roy has been detained.

The new bench of judges T S Thakur and A K Sikri, constituted after an earlier judge excused himself from hearing the case, was firm on the continuation of judicial custody ordered three months ago. But it sympathetically heard Roy’s counsel on shifting him to a place where he could raise the Rs 10,000-crore bail set for his release.

After a special sitting for three hours, the bench reserved its order on the place of detention and the sale of nine Sahara group properties in India to meet the demand of the court for his release. The prestigious Aamby Valley was not among them.

The Sahara group also proposed to sell three properties in the US and UK but since their valuation was not available, the court asked for it.

Sahara lawyer Rajeev Dhavan disclosed Bank of China had a charge on the properties, mostly hotels, as the group had taken loans from it.

The court allowed a week’s time to get the correct valuation of the assets that “indicate the true market value of the properties.”

It also asked the Sahara group to get the response of Bank of China regarding the proposed sales. The Securities and Exchange Board of India will be allowed to give its response to the Sahara affidavit on the bank’s response.

Dhavan reiterated the Sahara group’s stand that as long as Roy was in Tihar jail and allowed to make only three phone calls of three minutes each, it would be impossible to meet the conditions for bail. International transactions take months and no one will talk to someone in jail. In this case, the Bank of China and the Sultan of Brunei are involved. The condition imposed by the court would confine Roy to years in jail, Dhavan said.

Much of the three hours of arguments were spent on the properties available for sale and their valuation.

Sebi lawyer Pratap Venugopal wanted the terms of the sales to be presented to the court in a transparent manner and that sales should not be to related parties, bank guarantees should be unconditional and irrevocable and payments should be made directly to the banks designated by Sebi.

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