New Delhi: Sahara group chief Subrata Roy and two of the company’s directors, currently lodged in Tihar Jail, on Thursday sought a new bench hear their petitions. The court will take up the matter on April 3.
On Thursday, Ram Jethmalani and Rajiv Dhavan, counsel for the Sahara officials, assailed the court order sending the group officials to Tihar Jail, terming it unconstitutional and something that smacked of bias. They said it was virtually impossible to fulfil the conditions for interim bails to the three officials set by the court on Wednesday. “It is so onerous that it is unconstitutional,” Dhavan said.
Jethmalani, representing Roy, said the order had “so many vital mistakes that the court must acknowledge them”. He added unless it was shown the persons concerned had the capacity to pay, sending them to jail was violation of their fundamental right to life. The court was prejudiced against the Sahara officials and, therefore, the judges who ordered their imprisonment must withdraw from the bench and their writ petition should be decided by another bench, the counsel said.
Dhavan said it was ordered the three imprisoned officials be taken to jail while the proceedings were underway, without any finding of contempt of court, as required by law. When their lawyers objected to the order, the judges gave a “curt” response, with one even saying the proposal for the repaying the investors was “insulting”, he added.
The conduct of the judges was a “terrible, terrible mistake” and the order violated the civil liberties stated in the Constitution, he said.
Both Jethmalani and Dhavan claimed they were speaking on behalf of the entire Bar, as the order had violated the Constitution to an unprecedented extent. They cited several judgments that stated if the court made mistakes, those should be corrected by another bench.
Arvind Datar, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) counsel, questioned the maintainability of the writ petition, as the Supreme Court’s order was final and couldn’t be challenged in another writ petition; the only way out was a review petition, he said. Therefore, he asked the bench comprising judges K S Radhakrishnan and J S Kehar to dismiss the writ petition on the grounds of lack of maintainability.
Even as the court on Wednesday offered interim bail to Roy and the two Sahara directors on the condition the group paid Rs 10,000 crore — Rs 5,000 crore in cash and an equal amount in guarantees from a nationalised bank, the Sahara group, in a release, said this was easier said than done. It said as a bank guarantee of this size, with cash backed by assets, took three months, if the group went for a bank guarantee now, it would mean a 100 per cent cash margin. Therefore, the order implied Rs 10,000 crore of cash was required to secure the release of the three group officials before three months.
The group said Roy, its founder chairman, was in custody since the last 22 days, and an embargo had been imposed on the sale of assets; the group’s bank accounts were already frozen by Sebi, it added. Also, the title deeds of assets valued at about Rs 20,000 crore were with Sebi. It has said if the court allows it to sell assets on a case-by-case basis, it will be a distress sale that won’t fetch more than 20-25 per cent of the asset’s real value. Moreover, funds from the sale of bigger assets will only come in long-term instalments. The precondition of such a large amount to the bail appeared “unusual and wasn’t a surety for securing the presence, but a mode of recovery”, Sahara said.
* Even as the court on Wednesday offered interim bail to Roy and the two Sahara directors on the condition the group paid Rs 10,000 crore — Rs 5,000 crore in cash and an equal amount in guarantees from a nationalised bank, the Sahara group, in a release, said this was easier said than done
* Sahara’s counsel Jethmalani said the court was prejudiced against Sahara’s officials