The Supreme Court on Tuesday sought to know how the Subrata Roy-owned Sahara Group transacted thousands of crores in cash for purportedly refunding Rs 20,000 crore to its 3.3 crore investors.
Raising this question, the SC asked the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) to find out the genuineness of the property deeds of assets submitted by the group and whether they were saleable.
It also asked Sebi to give, 'sequentially', details of how and when the properties were sold by the group and the consequent refunds made to investors.
A bench comprising Justices KS Radhakrishnan and JS Khehar also asked Sebi to find out whether the Company Law and the RBI guidelines allow cash transactions of such huge amounts, bypassing banking channels.
“There is some RBI regulation under which a transaction beyond Rs 10 lakh has to be done through cheque,” the bench said, asking Sebi to find out about the RBI rules.
Senior counsel Arvind Datar, appearing for Sebi, said that “under Section 73 of the Companies Act, refund has to be made only by cheque. Even the Sebi ICDR (Issue of Capital and Disclosure requirements) regulations mandate that payments have to be made through banking channels only”.
The counsel said the group has not supplied the bank statements of its firms, including Sahara India, to show the trail of money that it claims to have refunded to investors in cash.
“They say everything was paid in cash, so there is no bank statement. They say Rs 16,000-crore cash was paid by the group entity Sahara Credit Cooperative Society to Sahara India in May-June 2012 when the apex court was hearing the matter,” Datar said, accusing Sahara of coming up with “new theories in every hearing”.
He added: “This time, their theory is Sahara India is a large firm and is a collection centre for all group entities. The money collected by different branches is paid to Sahara India in cash.”
Datar said: “They have filed five volumes of documents. These contain everything except what we want... They are not coming straight forward. Money can’t come from heaven. It took three years to collect these Rs 24,000 crore and you are saying you repaid most of this in two months?”
On the last date of hearing on January 9, SC had warned the group to reveal the source of Rs 22,885 crore or be ready to face inquiry by CBI and the Registrar of Companies. Dattar also asked the court to reject the argument of refund and pass an order on contempt proceedings.
However, the bench said: “We want to know whether our order has been complied with or not. Contempt can wait.”