SC turns down Subratra Roy’s plea for house arrest

The Supreme Court Wednesday declined plea by Sahara Group chief Subrata Roy seeking to be placed under house arrest, instead of continuing to be lodged in the Tihar Jail, in order to mobilise Rs.10,000 crore to return investors money – a condition to secure his release from jail.

Turning down the plea by Roy, a bench of Justice K.S.Radhakrishnan and Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar said: “We have not passed an order of arrest. If that be so we would have sent him to civil prison. We only passed the order of judicial custody. He is under our custody.”

The court said this as senior counsel Ram Jethamalani urged the court that Sahara chief be placed under house arrest at least for a week so that he could meet the international parties who are willing to take Sahara assets. He also pointed to ensuing three holidays.

“Holidays are coming. Who will go the jail to talk? It destroys the total credibility… he is not absconding. Please keep him under house arrest. He will report to the court every day.”

The apex court by its March 4 order had sent Subrata Roy and two directors of SIRECL and SHICL Ashok Roy Choudhary and Ravi Shankar Dubey for not complying with its Aug 31, 2012 and subsequent orders to return the investors’ money.

In the course of its arguments, market regulator, Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) told the court that the question that has to determined by the court and that has not been addressed so far in any case is: “What order Supreme Court can pass to secure the obedience of its order?”

Quoting an American judge, senior counsel Arvind Dattar, appearing for SEBI, told the court that “a court that can’t enforce its own order is a court without a judge”.

Addressing the court’s query whether it could act differently from what has already been laid down in a legislative enactment, Dattar said “since Aug 26, 2013, after 17 hearings, stage after stage, this court has found that its orders were not being complied with” and it was faced with a deliberate and wilful disobedience of its order.

Dattar told the court that its power could not be circumscribed by any confines.

The matter was directed to be listed on April 16 as counsel for Roy wanted to address the court on the submission made by the SEBI.

The court March 26 had asked Sahara to deposit with its registry a sum of Rs.10,000 crore as a part payment of the Rs.24,000 crore that it had to return to investors which group’s two companies – Sahara India Real Estate Corporation Ltd and Sahara Housing Investment Corporation Ltd. had collected through optionally fully convertible debentures.

Sahara companies have already paid Rs.5,120 crore to market regulator SEBI in 2012. Of the Rs. 10,000 crores, Rs.5,000 crore has to be paid in cash and balance of Rs.5,000 crore by way of guarantee by a nationalised bank. The money, to be deposited with the apex court registry, will be routed to SEBI for returning to investors.