Yesterday, 17 April, 2017 would go down as a watershed day in the annals of India’s judiciary. The three-member bench of the Supreme Court walked its talk, and ordered the official liquidator of the Bombay High Court to auction Sahara’s Aamby valley township project. The purpose of the article is not to repeat the facts leading up to the stern order to auction the property worth Rs 34,000 crore which in addition is a symbol of lavish opulence rivalling for parallel attention of those who eyed Dubai’s Palm Grove project raised on sea that was dried up first.
It is significant to note that the Court has repeatedly used the word contemnor to describe Sahara promoter Subrata Roy and his misdemeanours. Indeed a person who has the gall to look askance at the highest court of the land and seeks indefinite parole merits no sympathy.
The SC knows that acceptance of deposits aggregating to some Rs 24,000 crore by two Sahara group companies Sahara India Real Estate Corporation (SIRECL) and Sahara Housing Investment Corp Ltd (SHICL) that were conveniently converted into bonds in defiance of listing norms was a calculated and careful attempt to launder black money of the rich and famous using gullible village folks as cat’s paw. It expected Roy to spill the beans through means that bore resemblance to custodial torture without actually subjecting him to one because in Delhi’s Tihar jail he has been enjoying all the creature comforts and more. But the threat of incarceration can dispirit anyone especially free-birds.
One suspects that the 17 April, 2017 order is just the prelude to events that are going to unfold. Once the Aamby Valley property is disposed off, the Court would logically follow it up with transferring the same to the Sebi-Sahara fund with a view to repaying the so-called bondholders. In all likelihood the true owners are not likely to surface for the fear of courting ignominy nor are all of them benami holders living persons, with ghosts pitching in for many of the real owners. Indeed, the SC would be enacting its own version of the benami law and confiscating for the government huge amounts of money from the Sahara group, long suspected of being money launderer to the nation.
And SC is using the Sahara case to send a stern message to other crooks. Already, Vijay Mallya must be shaking in his boots in his London hideout. The two cases are not on all fours but both have cheated the nation in their own distinct ways. If money-laundering and hiding black money is a crime, the crime committed by Mallya is to blithely use banking system and listing to finance his luxurious life style and vaulting ambition with repayment figuring only tangentially in his scheme of things.
Hiding behind corporate veil is no longer a ready escape route for crooks, certainly not if what the SC is doing in Sahara is any indicator.
Prime Minister Modi sent chill down the spines of black money owners through demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. The SC too has been sending chill down the spines of crooks masquerading as pedigree industrialists. The message sometimes is more important than the outcome. Demonetisation might not have flushed out the entire black money nor even a substantial part of it but it has succeeded in sending home the message that this government would rise again and again to make a frontal attack on it.
Updated Date: Apr 18, 2017 11:49 AM