A Supreme Court bench headed by chief justice Dipak Misra, on October 30, 2017, said that the counsel for Unitech Ltd’s managing director Sanjay Chandra, could bring up the matter related to Chandra’s bail before it, only after the company deposits Rs 750 crores with its registry. The top court directed the jail authorities to facilitate Chandra’s meeting with his company officials and lawyers, so that he could arrange the money for refunding home buyers, as well as for completing ongoing housing projects.
“Having heard counsel for the parties at length, it is directed that the petitioners shall be admitted to bail, subject to the condition that they shall deposit a sum of Rs 750 crores in the registry of this court, which shall be kept in an interest earning fixed deposit. The deposit shall be made by the end of December 2017,” the bench, also comprising justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud, said. As far as the visits to the jail are concerned, ‘the jail authorities shall facilitate the meetings of the petitioners with their officers/officials/employees, at such intervals as may be intimated by the petitioners,’ it said.
The bench said the visit to jail shall be made within the normal visiting hours, as per the jail rules and Chandra’s counsel can also go there to meet him. “The jail authorities shall also arrange a place, where the petitioners will be in a position to negotiate,” it said, while asking them to make video conferencing facility available to the petitioners within the visiting hours, so that they shall be in a position to negotiate.
The bench, however, made it clear that Chandra was only entitled to negotiate, in respect of unencumbered properties or assets of the group. The apex court said if any proceedings were pending against Chandra and the company, then, the same may continue and the final order may be passed but no coercive steps would be taken for executing those orders. “We have passed such an order, as the entire scenario has been projected before us and we are sure that the petitioners shall comply with the directions issued by this court from time to time,” the bench noted in its order and posted the matter for hearing in the second week of January 2018.
Advocate Pawan Shree Aggarwal, assisting the court as an amicus curiae in the matter, told the bench that presently, the amount that was computed for refund to the home buyers may go above Rs 2,000 crores, while some of the buyers want possession of flats. Senior advocate Ranjit Kumar, appearing for Chandra, told the court that if they were given liberty, they would monetise their assets and would be able to complete the ongoing housing projects so that the buyers, who intend to have possession of flats, can be satisfied. He also told the court that they have given a plan for refund of money and completion of projects and they needed some time to do it.
Kumar argued that the group was committed to refund the money and give possession of flats to the buyers and sought interim bail or custody parole for Chandra, to enable him to do his work. Meanwhile, the counsel appearing for the real estate firm said if construction of ongoing projects is completed, then, the problem of refund and possession of flats, will be sorted out.
The amicus curaie told the court that around 9,390 home buyers, out of a total of around 16,000, have responded to him on the issue of either seeking refund from the builder or getting possession of flats. He said around 4,700 buyers wanted refund of their money. “The home buyers who have already expressed their option in the portal made by the amicus curiae, shall not put in anything by which their option will be changed,” the bench said in its order.
The apex court had on October 23, 2017, asked Chandra to establish his bonafide by depositing at least Rs 1,000 crores out of a total of Rs 1,865 crores, to refund hassled home buyers who do not want possession of flats. Chandra is seeking interim bail from the apex court after the Delhi High Court, on August 11, 2017, had rejected the plea in a criminal case lodged in 2015 by 158 home buyers of Unitech projects – Wild Flower Country and Anthea Project – situated in Gurugram.