New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday directed Sahara group's real estate company to return Rs 17,000 crore (USD 3.5 billion) with a 15 percent interest that it had mopped up as optional fully convertible debentures (CFCDs) from investors.

The apex court bench of Justice KS Radhakrishnan and Justice JS Khehar gave the directions while rejecting Sahara's plea, challenging the order of markets watchdog Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) to refund the investors money.

The court has appointed formal apex court judge Justice BN Agarwal to oversee the compliance of its order.

The court also said that in case Sahara fails to comply with its orders of returning the money taken as optionally fully convertible debentures, then the watchdog will take legal remedies, including attaching properties of the Sahara company, dealing in real estate.

On June 14, the Supreme Court had reserved its verdict on a plea by the Sahara group of companies, dealing in real estate and housing, challenging a tribunal's direction to repay the money.

The apex court bench reserved the order after arguments spread over three weeks wherein senior counsel Fali Nariman and Gopal Subramanium, who had appeared for the Sahara group of companies, contested the October 18, 2011 award of the Securities Appellate Tribunal.

What the verdict says?

The tribunal directed Sahara India Real Estate Corp Ltd (SIRECL) and Sahara Housing Investment Corp Ltd to return the money, which amounted to Rs 19,400 crore, including interest.

It also contended that SEBI could not proceed against it in the absence of a complaint by investors. The stock market regulator had told the court that the company resorted to the massive mobilisation outside the well-developed investor protection framework developed by it, which provided for checks and balances and statutory protection to investors.

(Agencies)

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