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NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday reserved its order on release of Subrata Roy for 40 days after the Sahara group chief pleaded for ” raham” (mercy) and urged the court to let him out of jail so that he could negotiate the sale of properties to deposit Rs 10,000 crore with Sebi.

“Raham is what is required now in this case. Today he has spend more months behind bars and his release would enhance chances of negotiation for sale of properties,” senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for Roy, told the court.

However, piling on the misery for Roy, the income tax department on Friday informed the court that the tax liability of Sahara Real Estate and Sahara Housing, which have been engaged in a festering legal battle over refund of Rs 24,000 crore, was assessed at Rs 10,051 crore.

Additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta said, “As of today, the total tax assessment of the two companies stood at Rs 10,051 crore.” He sought the court’s permission to intervene in the pending matter without interfering in the judicial monitoring of the process for recovery of money from Sahara for refund to nearly three crore investors.

Sahara, through senior advocates Rajeev Dhavan and S Ganesh, refuted the I-T department’s claim and said these were old assessments, which the group has challenged before the I-T appellate tribunal.

A bench of Justices T S Thakur, A R Dave and A K Sikri asked the I-T department to file an affidavit in two weeks “setting out details of (tax) assessment already made against Sahara companies, action taken against such companies and action proposed to be taken against them with regard to the transaction in question”.

The transaction in question was declared illegal by the Supreme Court in its August 31, 2012 order. It had directed the two companies – Sahara Real Estate and Sahara Housing – to return through market regulator Sebi the Rs 24,000 crore it had collected from nearly 3 crore investors.

Sahara had said it had refunded most of the investors through its field offices. It admitted an outstanding of Rs 2,000-odd crores and said to meet this, it had deposited Rs 5,120 crore.

The court had prima facie disbelieved the refund story and asked Sahara to deposit the entire money with a direction to Sebi to verify the investors. It had said if the investors were not traced or refund was not substantiated, the money would go to the Reserve Bank of India.

The bench reserved its order on Sahara’s plea for release of Roy for 40 days to negotiate the sale of three hotels abroad – Grosvenor House in London and Dreams Downtown and Plaza in New York.

On the safeguards to be put for transparent sale of the properties, Sebi counsel Arvind Datar said the market regulator had no expertise in real estate sector. “It is for Sahara to arrange for Rs 5,000 crore in cash and Rs 5,000 crore in bank guarantee. How they get it is for them to decide,” Datar said.

However, the court asked Sebi that it also had to verify details of investors submitted by Sahara. It said amounts actually refunded to investors should not be shown as due from Sahara as it would amount to double payment.

Sebi said it was planning to give advertisements in language newspapers in the Hindi heartland as most investors shown were from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. It said it was contemplating putting a deadline of March 31, 2015 for investors to write back for refund and accordingly the money due to them would be refunded after verifying the antecedents. It admitted that till date it had refunded only Rs 5-6 crore of the Rs 5,120 crore deposited by Sahara in December 2012.

Source: TOI

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