Supreme court grants Sahara chief Subrata Roy temporary relief

Sahara Group Chairman Subrata Roy
Sahara Group Chairman Subrata Roy

INDIA’S supreme court extended embattled Sahara conglomerate chief Subrata Roy’s parole by a week on Friday (September 23), temporarily staying an order it had issued just hours before that he be taken back into custody.

Roy was first arrested in March 2014 after Sahara, a household name in India, failed to comply with a court order to refund 360 billion rupees ($5.4 billion) raised from millions of small investors by selling them bonds later ruled to be illegal.

Roy was released from prison on parole in May and the hearing on September 23 was to determine whether it should be extended.

The court initially rejected the parole application and ordered Roy return into custody until October 3, the date for the next hearing. But later, after an appeal from his lawyers, the court granted him interim parole until September 30. The October 3 hearing has been brought forward to September 28.

Embattled Sahara has been trying to raise funds since Roy’s arrest by selling real estate assets but has failed in several past bids. Sahara has also previously said it had repaid 95 percent of its liability, a claim which has not been accepted by the court.

Sahara, the former main sponsor of India’s national cricket team, has some prized assets, including New York’s Plaza Hotel, the Grosvenor House in London, Sahara Star hotel in Mumbai and a stake in a Formula One racing team.

In March, the court asked the national markets regulator, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), to submit a plan for selling Sahara’s 86 properties in the country excluding its overseas assets, Sahara Star hotel in Mumbai and Aamby Valley luxury resort in the hills of western India.

The decision, earlier on September 23, to not grant a further extension was made after SEBI told the court it was unable to raise money from the Sahara properties as they had been requisitioned by the income tax department against unpaid dues.

SEBI on Friday also made an application in court to appoint a receiver to handle Sahara’s properties.