SC’s Ayodhya hearing gives a breather to Sahara chief

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NEW DELHI: Prolonged hearing in the Ayodhya land dispute case has given unexpected relief to Sahara Group chairman Subrata Roy as it delayed by nearly eight months his personal appearance before the Supreme Court in a contempt case for defaulting in depositing 25,781 crore, as per a 2012 order.
On January 31, a bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices A K Sikri and Sanjay Kishan Kaul had directed personal presence of Roy on February 28 and said, “We make it clear that the contemnors have been summoned to the court to enable the court to pass appropriate orders so that the law can take its own course and reach desired conclusion.”
The SC had on August 31, 2012 directed the Sahara Group to deposit the entire amount with market regulator SEBI after cancelling the one-time fully convertible debentures, floated by Sahara Real Estate and Sahara Housing, through which they had collected money from three crore investors over the years.
On March 4, 2014, the SC had sent Roy and two other directors of the Sahara Group companies to jail for committing contempt of court by violating its orders directing deposit of the amount with SEBI. Roy had remained in jail till May 2016, when he was granted bail after promising to deposit the amount as per SC-fixed fresh deadlines.
On January 31, the court was informed by SEBI counsel Pratap Venugopal that the Group has defaulted in depositing 5,781 crore of 25,781 crore. Sahara counsel Vikas Singh’s request for verification of the amount already paid was brushed aside by the bench, which said such verification would follow after the entire amount was deposited..
But, the scheduled listing of the case on February 28 was cancelled giving reprieve to Roy from possible adverse orders. On March 6, Justice Sikri retired, which required the CJI to reconstitute the bench.
Before the bench could be reconstituted, petitions seeking review of the SC’s December 14 clean chit to the NDA government in the Rafale fighter jet deal kept the CJI-led bench busy from March till May 10, when it reserved the verdict. Since reopening of the court after summer break, the CJI-led bench had been busy hearing on a day-to-day basis cross appeals by Hindu and Muslim parties for ownership of 2.77 acre Ram Janmabhumi-Babri Masjid disputed land at Ayodhya.
With Ayodhya land dispute case hearing scheduled to be concluded on October 17, the CJI could now have breathing space to look into listing of the contempt petitions against Roy and two other Sahara Group companies. The SC would remain closed from October 28 to November 2 for Deepawali. If the case does not get listed before CJI Gogoi’s scheduled retirement on November 17, his successor Justice S A Bobde would have to re-constitute the bench with two new judges.

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