Market regulator, the Securities and Exchange Board of India, has moved the Supreme Court for the arrest of Sahara group founder Subrata Roy. Its petition filed in the top court today also seeks that Mr Roy be prevented from travelling abroad.
The Supreme Court will hear Sebi's petition in the first week of April, after Sebi lawyer Pratap Venugopal requested the court to take up this petition at an early date.
The petition requests the court to allow Sebi to "take measures for arrest and detention in civil prison of promoter of Sahara Shri Subrata Roy Sahara and the two male directors, viz., Shri Ashok Roy Choudhary and Shri Ravi Shankar Dubey after giving reasonable opportunity of hearing."
The market regulator has also pleaded that Mr Roy and two directors in his companies be asked to deposit their passports with the court.
The Sahara Group issued a statement in the evening stating that Sebi is maliciously leaking news without substance to the media. It also added that the market regulator is not allowed to appeal for 'civil detention' under the SEBI Act. (Read full statement)
The regulator and unlisted Sahara have been locked in a long-running dispute relating to a Supreme Court order asking the Sahara group to refund more than Rs. 24,000 crore of investors' money raised by two group firms through the issue of bonds. Sebi had been asked to facilitate the refund.
The group was ordered in August last year to repay sums raised by what the Supreme Court called "dubious" means from nearly 30 million small investors, with 15 per cent interest a year. Two Sahara firms -- Sahara Housing Investment Corporation and Sahara India Real Estate Corporation -- raised a total of Rs. 2,578 crore in bonds as of April 2011, according to Sahara court affidavits cited by Sebi.
In December last year, the court ordered Sahara to pay an initial deposit of Rs. 5,120 crore with Sebi, pay another Rs. 10,000 crore in the first week of January and the remainder in the first week of February.
The Sahara companies, however, have said that only Rs. 2,620 crore remains to be refunded as they have repaid the remainder, an assertion the regulator disputes.
In February, Sebi ordered a freeze on the assets and bank accounts of the two Sahara group companies.
It also ordered a freeze on all bank accounts and properties in the name of Subrata Roy and the three other directors of the two firms.
Sahara said the directives were based on "old facts" and had not taken into account redemptions it has made since January 2012, adding that its total liability was unlikely to exceed the Rs. 5,120 crore it had deposited with the regulator. It added that the orders for attaching assets of individuals are "incorrect".
The group also ran a major advertisement campaign in newspapers claiming that "Sahara has nothing to pay (and) rather Sahara shall soon be eligible to take a big refund from Sebi", and that it was submitting to Sebi the provisional balance sheets of two companies as on December 31, 2012, for more clarity on the matter.
Sebi has cautioned investors and the general public against transacting with the Sahara companies or persons associated with these companies.
Late last month, the Supreme Court dismissed a petition filed by the Sahara group seeking an extension of a deadline for depositing the money and documents with Sebi.
With inputs from agencies