Just a year ago in March, Subrata Roy was served an order to come to the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) office for a final opportunity to refund Rs 24,000 crore to Sahara group investors.
The man who served the order was Sebi board’s full time member Prashant Saran. But Subrata Roy wasted the opportunity when he came in April to discuss how to refund the money. He, instead, launched into theatrics later with journalists assembled outside the Sebi Bhawan about how the officers inside did not offer him even a cup of tea.
Subrata Roy’s trouble started soon thereafter. Saran’s order followed from an earlier one he had issued a month ago to attach several Sahara group properties, bank accounts and movable and immovable properties of Sahara Housing Investment Corp (SHICL) and Sahara India Real Estate Corp (SIRECL). That order also asked all scheduled banks to freeze personal accounts and properties of Subrata Roy and three full time members of the board of directors Vandana Bhargava, Ravi Shanker Dubey and Ashok Roy Choudhary. By blocking access to finance and asking for a clear time table to settle the repayments, Sebi made it almost impossible for the media-real estate-financial sector group to claim any leeway from the courts, without getting them out of the way.
Prashant Saran had come to Sebi on deputation from the RBI where he was working as chef general manager. The wiry officer with a Master’s degree in Physics from Punjab University has also forwarded all his orders to the Enforcement Directorate, which has opened up another source of concern for Sahara.
Along with Saran, Sebi deployed J Ranganayakulu, the executive director (legal) to track the Sahara cases through the courts. Ranganayakulu tracked the developments from the time Sahara filed the first case at the Allahabad high court challenging Sebi’s right to police the raising of the deposits by its two group companies SHICL and SIRECL, their appeal in the Supreme Court, back to the Securities Appellate Tribunal and then again back to the apex court.
Along with him was the Sebi counsel Arvind Datar, a lawyer from the Madras High Court. If Ranganayakulu and Saran can be credited for fighting for investors rights to their logical conclusion, the actual handling of the cases in the courts was by Datar. Sahara had hired some of the best legal brains in the country to