Arrested Sahara chief Subrata Roy today left no stone unturned to convince the Supreme Court that he will abide by all its orders and directions to refund Rs 20,000 crore to investors many of whom are "rickshaw pullers and cobblers". "Today I am here with folded hands and begging that give me some time and consider us (our proposal)," Roy, who himself stood up from the second row of the court room, pleaded before a bench comprising justices KS Radhakrishnan and JS Khehar.
During the two-hour hearing, the Sahara chief made 8-10 efforts himself to convince the bench that he was not running away and would "honour each and every order of this court". "If I don't do, then punish us," he said and also tried to justify why he was making payments through cash to many of the depositors. "Depositors are rickshaw pullers and even cobblers who are depositing Rs 8,000. SEBI says what is the source of payment? Poor persons who are getting money in cash, they will not pay Rs 2 on postage for reply. With folded hands, I am saying SEBI's attitude was not correct. Your concern is about the fictitious accounts but did SEBI respect your order? Did they verify the documents? SEBI stopped. Ask them to comply with your order, everything will be solved," he submitted while taking refuge in a World Bank report which said 60 per cent of adults don't have bank accounts in the country.
Roy referred to a similar type of situation he had faced in 2008 when RBI came out with the order on Non Banking Financial Corporation (NBFC) and said the Supreme Court had given them time to pay Rs 18,000 crore. "Before seven years, we made our payments. Investors were paid in cash and most of them were making deposits of Rs 3,000 to 4,000 and they were returned in cash and that is the class we are catering. There was not a single fictitious account. This is the same set of investors," he said about the present crisis.
Further, Roy said there have not been a single occasion in last 37 years when any investor had come out with any complaint. "I know you are concerned with the issue of fictitious investors. We wanted to honour each and every order of this court for 15-16 months but SEBI did not go for verification of the list of investors. I don't blame them they can't do it overnight," he said and offered to give bank guarantee which will be as good as cash.
"If we don't pay, take it from the bank guarantee," he said and the bench asked him what amount of bank guarantee he was ready to furnish. "Bank guarantee of Rs 22,500 crore and tomorrow onwards we would start selling our property," Roy said.
A battery of counsel, including senior advocates Ram Jethmalani, C A Sundaram, Rajiv Dhavan and Ravi Shankar Prasad, made identical submissions that the Sahara Group companies as one unit will start selling the properties from tomorrow to make the refund of Rs 20,000 crore to its investors.
Roy himself submitted certain procedure has to be followed and he should be granted some time. "We can't change the procedure, we have to hold the board meeting," the Sahara chief said and added "you have to give us natural justice and be sympathetic to us. We will honour all your orders. We are ready together with SEBI to sell property from tomorrow."
When the bench asked why he had not for so long come out with the proposal of bank guarantee, Roy said "because of cash flow problem". The bench categorically told him that he cannot make payments in cash and have to proceed in accordance with the law and the refund has to be made in demand draft or cheque.
When the bench disagreed with all the arguments and passed an oral order that Roy along with two of the directors be taken into custody and kept in Delhi, he made a last-ditch effort and asked the judges "what proposal was acceptable to you"?
However, the bench did not heed to his submission and retired to the chamber saying a detailed order would be passed.