Roy’s case is curious for several reasons and raises many questions:
Why is Roy not paying up despite having the assets worth Rs 1.8 lakh Crore?
Why is Roy not eager at all to get out of jail?
Why is the Supreme Court itself not doing the obvious: that is, put the group under a receiver/administrator, who can then inventory the properties, sell the ones which are unencumbered, collect the dues, and then let Roy go free?
Given that prima facie Roy has defied the court (that’s why he is in jail), why has the court not convicted him for contempt?
Why is there complete radio silence in political circles in Roy’s case? Why has no politician condemned Roy when they are willing to chase Mallya to the end of the earth? Is it because Roy knows too much about them?
The Sahara case is getting curiouser and curiouser. Jailbird Subrata Roy, bossman of the Sahara group, has been in Tihar for more than two years but is showing no eagerness to come out. The Supreme Court is exasperated but has not found a way to make him pay his bail amount and get out. Politicians are quiet, despite being on bum-chum terms with Roy. Sebi has been twiddling its thumbs on Roy, attending court hearing after court hearing, without anything to show for its patience.
What gives? Roy has been in jail since 4 March 2014 for failing to comply with a Supreme Court order of August 2012 asking him to refund over Rs 24,000 crore raised illegally by two Sahara group companies. With interest piling up due to non-compliance, Roy’s bill has shot up to over Rs 36,000 crore now. And counting. (Read what the Sahara case is all about here)
After failing to pay up and evading the court’s orders for more than 18 months, an angry Supreme Court ordered his arrest and said he could be released only on a bail amount of Rs 10,000 crore – half in cash, and the rest by way of a bank guarantee.
But between 4 March 2014, when he was
arrested, and 29 March 2016, Roy could not (or would not) cobble up the sum despite claiming
assets of more than Rs 1.8 lakh crore. At the latest hearing, Roy’s lawyer
Kapil Sibal claimed the court had no business keeping Roy locked up, saying
nowhere in the world could courts do this.
But the court, according to a report in The Times of India, rebutted him: “Nowhere
in the world a person says that I have assets worth Rs 187,000 crore. I can pay
any time but is not paying Rs 10,000 crore.”
To get over this problem, the court
asked Sebi to dispose of Sahara’s unencumbered properties, with the aid of the
court-appointed overseer, ex-judge BN Agrawal. But this could take months, if
The case is curious for several
reasons. The questions still to be answered are:
why is Roy not paying up despite having the assets? One reason could be an
obstinate ego – the same ego that made him decline to pay up Rs 24,000-and-odd
crore to Sebi for ultimate repayment to genuine investors. Most of those
investors turned out to be non-existent in a Sebi survey.
So one possibility is that the money
is not his to pay. It may be benami money, and cannot be paid to random investors
who may or may not exist. Both Sebi and the Supreme Court have raised this
suspicion, and surely they don’t believe Roy when he says he has already repaid
his investors and hence does not have to pay it again to Sebi.
why is Roy not eager at all to get out of jail? For a man who has friends in
high places (among politicians, Bollywood heroes, and cricketers) it should not
have been difficult for him to arrange finances from them, or even ask them to
lend the money against collateral for repayment after he is out. Why didn’t he
do so? Is it because he felt safer in jail, especially since some of his hidden
investors may have tough questions to ask him when he gets out?
why is the Supreme Court itself not doing the obvious: that is, put the group
under a receiver/administrator, who can then inventory the properties, sell the
ones which are unencumbered, collect the dues, and then let Roy go free? If
this had been done in March 2014, when Roy was arrested, the process would have
been over by now. Why has the court not used this simple way out? At the last
hearing, it did entertain the idea of appointing a receiver, but had not taken
a final call. This is exactly what needs to be done. But why did the penny not
drop in more than two years of fruitless hearings, when the court itself had
reason to disbelieve Roy’s claims on his investors?
why has the court now tossed the ball back to Sebi, by asking it to sell the
properties and give Roy bail? How can Sebi, a regulator, be playing the role of
a real estate auctioneer?
given that prima facie Roy has defied the court (that’s why he is in jail), why
has the court not convicted him for contempt, especially when Sahara issued
full-page ads at one stage questioning the court’s orders in his case? Why is
the Supreme Court reluctant to nail him for contempt, and put his properties
into receivership and be done with it?
why is there complete radio silence in political circles in Roy’s case? Not one
politician has spoken about him, when everyone and the dog at the lamp-post has
done so in the case of Vijay Mallya, who, after all, is just a loan defaulter.
Why has no politician condemned Roy when they are willing to chase Mallya to the
end of the earth? Is it because Roy knows too much about them?
It is clear that Roy’s is a case of
the emperor without clothes, but no one is willing to call this out. The
justice and regulatory system will not come out of this smelling of roses.
The Supreme Court delivered its final verdict on 31 August 2012. It is now 31 March 2016. Surely, three years and eight months are enough to bring someone to justice?