SC sends former journalist to jail in Sahara case

US firm that backed out of buying resulted in the order

SC sends former journalist to jail in Sahara case

The Supreme Court on Thursday sent a former journalist to one month in jail after he went back on an offer that he made on behalf of a US-based company to buy a Sahara group hotel.

“You are a small man but tried to become big. Temptation sometimes lands a man into confinement. You now have to suffer the consequences,” a three-judge bench, presided over by Justice Dipak Misra, told Prakash Swamy, who held the power of attorney for the US-based MG Capital.

The court ordered the police to take Swamy into custody, rejecting his plea for clemency.

The court had taken a strong stance on Swamy’s failure to prove a bona fide in buying Sahara’s Plaza Hotel for Rs 4,000 crore. He was later asked to deposit Rs 750 crore in the apex court’s registry.

When he failed to do so, the court, on April 17, asked for Swamy’s personal presence for the hearing on Thursday, asking him to deposit an amount of Rs 10 crore within 10 days in the Sahara-Sebi refund account. The court had said the money will be forfeited towards costs.

On Thursday, Swamy failed to deposit the money and his counsel senior advocate Mohan Parasaran sought his discharge, adding that if anyone must be held responsible, it is the principal (company).

“No no, why should we go after principal? He (Swamy) was before us and filed an affidavit on behalf of the company. The question of sympathy and exoneration does not arise. He can be given 30 minutes’ time to deposit 10 crore or he will go to jail,” the bench, also comprising Justices Ranjan Gogoi and A K Sikri, said.

Swamy broke down in court and said he was a journalist for 35 years, and also worked with the United Nations, and is now retired.

He said the US company asked him to submit an affidavit for buying the New York-based hotel and he did so. “That is the biggest mistake of my life,” he said.

“We are not prepared to hear stories,” the bench said.

Amicus curiae Shekhar Naphade also urged the court to show leniency to Swamy but the court was unmoved.

“He is in violation of the order passed by this court. Having heard his explanation, which is not satisfactory, we hold him guilty of contempt of this court and convict him accordingly,” the bench said.

The court also warned Sahara chief Subrata Roy, who was present in the court, that if the cheques he issued for payment of Rs 1,500 crore, dated June 15, and Rs 522 crore, dated July 15, to the Sahara-Sebi account do not get cleared, he will be sent back to jail.
Roy’s parole was extended till June 19, the date of the next hearing.
 

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