When Supreme Court turned into a virtual auction room for Sahara’s land asset

The Supreme Court on Monday virtually turned an auction room when two real estate firms hiked their bids for the purchase of Sahara Group's 140-acre land in Gorakhpur with both the parties ready to fork out Rs.150 crore.

A competitive bidding took place before a Bench headed by Justice T S Thakur during the hearing on the issue related to arranging the money for the release of beleaguered group's chief Subrata Roy, who has been in jail for more than a year.

Then Gorakhpur raised it to Rs. 115 crore and the judges sought the rival's response.

Senior Advocate Paras Kuhat, appearing for Samriddhi, took instructions from on of the partners present in the court, and jacked the bid to Rs.125 crore. Then Gorakhpur took it upto Rs. 140 crore, added Rs. 5 crore more and then finally settled at Rs.150 crore. This was matched by Gorakhpur, who was ready to fork out Rs.150 crore.

At this the bench said both the parties have to show their bonafides by depositing 25 per cent of the amount by July 31 in the SEBI-Sahara account and rest of the money has to be arranged in three equal instalments by October 31.

The Gorakhpur Real Estate company had filed an application objecting the sale of property at Rs 64 crore to Samriddhi Developers and had offered Rs 110 crore.

The Bench, also comprising Justices A R Dave and A K Sikri, said failure of any of them to meet the deadline would result in forfeiture of the amount of 25 per cent deposited by them.

The money generated from the sale of Gorakhpur property would be added to the amount already deposited by the Sahara Group in the SEBI-Sahara account and go towards securing Roy's release.

The bench posted the matter for hearing on August 3 and said it will decide the future course of action.

Gorakhpur Real Estate Developers Private Limited complied with the July 7 order and deposited Rs 11 crore with the Supreme Court Registry to establish its bonafides.

Samriddhi also placed a letter and a cheque from its bankers to show its bonafides.

Earlier, the court had declined to relax the conditions for interim bail of Roy like depositing Rs 5000 crore in cash and a bank guarantee of equal amount and tough terms including payment of the entire Rs 36,000 crore in 18 months.

Sahara's counsel Kapil Sibal on Monday reiterated that no business group in the world could pay Rs 36,000 crore and the banks are also saying that how can there be a bank guarantee when it is for sure that there will be a default.

He had during the last hearing said that the group was unable to secure the bank guarantee as the financial institution which had agreed to furnish it has backed out when SEBI insisted on fixation of the "trigger point" for encashing it.

The company, he said on Monday, will file a petition in this regard.

The court also allowed the plea of Sahara Group that the SEBI should place before the its the bank statement of SEBI-Sahara account on the amount deposited and the investment made by the market regulator.

The court had also asked the 65-year-old Roy, who has been in Tihar jail since March 4, 2014, to pay Rs 36,000 crore to the SEBI within 18 months and in nine instalments from the date of release.

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