Only Rs258.47 crore has been paid to 277,000 applicants out of 12.1mn (million) claims filed by depositors of Sahara group's four cooperative societies through the central registrar of cooperative societies (CRCS) online portal as of 31 January 2024, the government told the Lok Sabha. However, a response received last month under the Right to Information (RTI) Act gives an entirely different picture. As per the RTI reply, the total registrations on the CRCS refund portal for Sahara stand at a staggering 16mn (16,038,266), and the number of claims submitted on the portal reached an astounding 34.1mn (34,115,418). (Read: Sahara CRCS Refund Portal Registers Claims of Over Rs82,695 Crore, but Pays Only Rs228.77 Crore, Reveals RTI
In a written reply, Pankaj Chaudhary, minister of state for finance, says, "A total of around 1.21 crore applications have been registered on the 'CRCS-Sahara refund portal', and an amount of Rs258.47 crore has been released to 2,77,607 depositors of Sahara group of cooperative societies upto 31 January 2024."
"The entire process of disbursement is being carried out under the supervision and monitoring of justice R Subhash Reddy, former judge of the Supreme Court. Presently, payment only up to Rs10,000 is being disbursed to each genuine depositor of the Sahara group of cooperative societies against verified claims through Aadhaar-seeded bank account," he added.
The four credit cooperative societies are Sahara Credit Cooperative Society Ltd, Saharayn Universal Multipurpose Society Ltd, Humara India Credit Cooperative Society Ltd and Stars Multipurpose Cooperative Society Ltd.
As per the order from the Supreme Court in March 2023, an online portal, 'Sahara-CRCS Refund portal', developed through StockHolding Document Management Services Ltd (SDMS), was launched in July last year for submission of claims by the genuine depositors of four multi-state cooperative societies of Sahara group.
Mr Chaudhary reiterated that "SEBI made refunds with respect to 17,526 eligible bondholders of Sahara India Real Estate Corp Ltd (SIRECL) and Sahara Housing Investment Corp Ltd (SHICL) involving 48,326 original bond certificates or passbooks for an aggregate amount of Rs138.07 crores, i.e., Rs70.09 crore as principal and Rs67.98 crore as an interest, by way of transfer through NEFT and RTGS."
In March 2023, the apex court allowed an application filed by the Union government seeking a Rs5,000 crore allocation to pay back to the depositors of the Sahara group of cooperative societies out of the nearly Rs25,000 crore deposited with SEBI.
The Union ministry of cooperation had filed an application seeking directions from the apex court to transfer Rs5,000 crore out of an unutilised amount of Rs23,937 crore (lying in the Sahara-SEBI refund account) to be disbursed against the legitimate dues of depositors of the Sahara group of cooperatives societies.
A bench headed by justice MR Shah and comprising justice CT Ravikumar directed the transfer of Rs5,000 crore from the Rs24,979.67 crore in the Sahara-SEBI refund account to the CRCS to pay it to genuine depositors of the Sahara group of cooperative societies.
"The disbursement shall be supervised and monitored by justice R Subhash Reddy, former judge of this court, with the able assistance of Gaurav Agarwal, advocate, who is appointed as amicus curiae to assist Justice Reddy as well as the central registrar of cooperative societies in disbursing the amount to the genuine depositors of the Sahara group of cooperative societies," the SC says. (Read: Sahara: SC Allows Govt's Plea Seeking Allocation of Rs5,000 Crore To Repay Depositors
Interestingly, Moneylife Foundation had made a similar plea to SEBI in December 2020 since the regulator is sitting on Rs24,000 crore funds collected from the two Sahara realty companies which had issued optionally convertible bonds without regulatory permission over 15 years ago. A landmark order of the Supreme Court in August 2012 forced Sahara to deposit the funds collected with SEBI.
Separately, Moneylife Foundation filed three intervention applications in a civil contempt petition case (SEBI vs Sahara No. 412 of 2012), making the same plea before the SC.
In January 2023, the apex court had directed SEBI and Sahara India Real Estate Corp Ltd to file responses to three intervention applications filed by Moneylife Foundation.
The application has submitted investor data of 240 people collated and verified from the Telegram channel. The total amount claimed by the investors in the list submitted to the apex court is approximately Rs15 crore. These are individuals who are small-time investors who were methodically persuaded to part with their hard-earned money to contribute to various schemes under the Sahara group. The intervention application is also accompanied by affidavits from two investors whose details have been included to showcase the hardship and difficulties the aggrieved depositors face.