The Supreme Court on Monday granted Sahara chief Subrata Roy a reprieve of 15 working days from Tuesday to negotiate the sale of three hotels abroad to raise Rs 10,000 crore to walk out of Delhi’s Tihar jail. The court emphasised that it would be the last extension of the hi-tech facilities provided to Roy, who has been in jail since March 4.
Roy’s counsel S Ganesh told the Bench headed by judge T S Thakur that the sale of the hotels located abroad has “run into a monumental setback”. The US media sensationalised a report alleging that a southeast Asian sovereign, (not naming the Sultan of Brunei) which follows the Shariat law and stones to death gay persons, had struck a deal for a New York hotel. This led to protests and damage to property and cancellation of all functions in the hotel.
The purchasers have thus developed cold feet and are “lying low”. Four others have shown interest in the purchase of the property, but it would take nine to 10 days’ time. “We are in an unenviable situation,” the counsel said.
Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar told the judges there was nothing to show that things were moving, despite the last extension on August 14. “They are sitting in a closed room with internet, which is a powerful tool. We don’t know what they are doing, (or) whether they are doing something else.”
Ganesh submitted some documents to the judges to show the statements made by him were bona fide.One of them, called “in principle master agreement”, was accepted and kept in a sealed cover. He said there was no hanky-panky as feared by Kumar, but some confidentiality has to be kept in such matters.
He said of nine Indian properties, one in Gujarat has been sold for a good price, but the rest could not be sold because of a fall in real estate prices over the world, especially in this country. The court has also barred Sahara from selling properties below the market price, he said. The counsel submitted that Roy was more anxious than anyone else to come out of the jail.
The judges remarked that “if freedom was so precious, you would not have dragged your feet so long, counting your pennies.”
Counsel for Sebi, Arvind Datar, submitted that it did not want to put a spoke in the wheel in the sale. But nothing concrete has emerged all these months. “At the end of the day, it is not a full stop, but only semi-colon,” Datar remarked. According to Roy, he had assets worth Rs 49,000 crore, and, therefore, he should bring a concrete plan regarding sale of assets, but this has not been done so far, the counsel emphasised.