New SC bench to hear SEBI's contempt plea against Sahara

New Delhi, May 15 (IANS): Chief Justice R.M. Lodha has constituted a new bench of the Supreme Court to hear market regulator SEBI's contempt plea against two Sahara group companies for their failure to return investors' money as ordered by the court.

The apex court bench of Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan and Justice J.S. Khehar had Aug 31, 2012, ordered the Sahara India Real Estate Corporation Limited and Sahara Housing Investment Corporation Limited to return investors' money that it had collected through Optionally Fully Convertible Debentures (OFCDs).

The August order was reiterated by a three-judge bench of the court Dec 5, 2012, when it asked SEBI to accept Rs.5,120 crore by Sahara's two companies as part payment of the total amount of Rs.24,000 crore as it allowed them to make payments of the balance amount over a period of two months.

Chief Justice Lodha constituted the new bench May 7, 2014, after Justice J.S. Khehar recused himself from hearing the case and the other judge Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan was set to retire May 14, 2014.

Justice Khehar sent a letter recusing himself from hearing the matter May 6 after pronouncing the judgment by which it rejected Sahara chief Subrata Roy's plea challenging the court's March 4, 2014, order sending him to judicial custody.

The communication dated May 6 received from Justice J.S. Khehar was placed before Chief Justice R.M. Lodha May 7. On May 7, Chief Justice Lodha constituted another bench to hear the pending interlocutory application and contempt petitions moved by the market regulator against the two companies.

The apex court May 6, while rejecting Roy's plea, held that there was "no merit" in the plea and said: "Disobedience of orders of a court strikes at the very root of the rule of law, on which the judicial system rests. Judicial orders are bound to be obeyed at all costs."

"Howsoever grave the effect may be, is no answer for non-compliance of a judicial order. Judicial orders cannot be permitted to be circumvented," Justice Khehar had said as he pronounced the judgment.

Rejecting Roy's contention that Justice Radhakrishnan and Justice Khehar should recuse from hearing his plea, the court had said: "Calculated psychological offensives and mind games adopted to seek recusal of judges need to be strongly repulsed. We deprecate such tactics and commend a similar approach to other courts, when they experience such behaviour."

Addressing Roy's contention that the court had no power to send him to judicial custody for non-compliance of its order, the apex court had said: "In exercise of contempt jurisdiction, courts have the power to enforce compliance of judicial orders, and also, the power to punish for contempt."

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Title: New SC bench to hear SEBI's contempt plea against Sahara

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