Sahara chief Subrata Roy arrested in Lucknow; SC denies immediate hearing

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Lucknow/New Delhi, Feb 28: Sahara Chief Subrata Roy was arrested in Lucknow today after he evaded for two days a non-bailable warrant issued by the Supreme Court for his failure to appear before it in a case of non-refund of Rs 20,000 crore to investors.

Capping a day of dramatic developments, 65-year old Roy surrendered before police this morning after calling them to Sahara Shaher.

“Roy has been arrested and will be produced in court later today,” SP Trans-Gomti Habibul Hasan said.

Senior advocate Ram Jethmalani told a Supreme Court bench headed by Justice K S Radhakrishnan that Roy is in police custody in Lucknow and pleaded for recall of NBW issued on February 26. He submitted that the special bench, which is hearing the case, should take up the application today itself. But, his plea was turned down as the judge said it is not possible for the special bench to assemble today.

The day started with Subrata Roy issuing a signed two-page statement, claiming he was not absconding and was ready to “unconditionally follow” Supreme Court’s direction. Minutes after his arrest in Lucknow, son Seemanto addressed a hurriedly called press conference in Delhi and said his father was cooperating with the authorities and he had wilfully submitted before the police.

There were initially conflicting reports with speculation that Roy could himself be present at the press meet in Delhi. A team of Delhi police at the hotel venue added to the suspense. Another report said that he may still be in Lucknow. Seemanto also said that arrest would not impact the business of the group, which claims to have a networth of over Rs 68,000 crore with lakhs of employees.

Roy tried to explain his non-appearance before the apex court on the ground that he had gone out of Sahara Shaher to consult a panel of doctors and also to meet a lawyer. The police had gone to his home yesterday to arrest him but failed to find him there.

Roy also appealed to the Supreme Court to allow him to be with his 92-year-old “ailing mother under house arrest till March 3, 2014″, while adding that he was ready to reach Delhi even today, if court wants him to do so. Issuing a non-bailable warrant against Roy, the Supreme Court on February 26 had asked the police to arrest him and present before the court on March 4.

Moving the apex court yesterday, Roy had admitted that he had “erred” by his non-appearance under a bonafide belief that the court will permit him exemption from personal appearance for one day.

“A lot of people advised me to get admitted in some hospital and I can remain there as it is the general practice to avoid courts on medical grounds. However, I hate to do such drama,” he said in today’s statement. Roy also accused “some negative minded emotionally confined media people” for his “agony and humiliation” and said some of these journalists were “sometime back thrown out of Sahara”.

“They are bullying and indulging in character assassination of a son who is trying to perform his emotional duty towards his ailing mother. God forbid, if any untoward thing happens with my mother, in my absence, I shall never forget in my life those people” he said.

The court had on February 20 come down heavily on the Sahara group for not refunding Rs 20,000 crore of investors money despite its order and had summoned Roy, Ravi Shankar Dubey, Ashok Roy Choudhary and Vandana Bhargava, directors of its firms Sahara India Real Estate Corp Ltd (SIREC) and Sahara India Housing Investment Corp Ltd (SHIC) to be personally present before it.

Reacting to the developments, share prices of two listed group firms — Sahara One Media and Sahara Housingfina Corp — also fell in the stock market. Subrata Roy’s son Seemanto, who along with his brother Sushanto holds key positions in the group, however maintained that the arrest of his father would not impact the business empire.

“Since he is the father of over 12 lakh people, I have so many brothers and sisters… It won’t impact anything,” he said.

Seemanto also said that his father was “not at all” evading arrest and had gone out to consult doctors and lawyers when police team had gone to his home yesterday to execute non-bailable warrant. ”This This has been interpreted by media and everyone that he has evaded arrest. That is not the fact,” he said when asked whether Sahara chief was trying to evade arrest. He said that Subrata Roy was hoping for a short relief from the Supreme Court, but he decided to wilfully submit before the police this morning after the “agony” he suffered from reports about him being absconding.

Seemanto said that Sahara chief had come to Delhi on February 24 to appear before the Supreme Court on February 26. ”He is very attached to his mother and had to go back to Lucknow due to her illness. He had only sought exemption only for a day from personal appearance before the Supreme Court. But he was not granted a short relief,” Seemanto said.

“The condition of mother continues to remain fragile and he was hoping for a relief from Supreme Court,” he said while trying to explain the delay in his submission before police.