In yet another big setback to three directors including CMD of beleaguered Amrapali Group, the Supreme Court on Thursday initiated contempt proceedings against them and directed that they are placed under police surveillance for the next 15-days.
The top court had on October 9, directed that the Chairman and Managing Director Anil Kumar Sharma and directors Shiv Priya and Ajay Kumar be taken into police custody till they hand over all the documents of the group's 46 firms.
It clarified today that they will not be kept in police lockup for the night and instead be taken to a hotel in Noida, where their phones will be seized.
The three directors were released last night from police custody after nine properties of Amrapali Group, where bulky documents of group companies are stashed, were sealed in compliance with the top court's order.
A bench of Justices U U Lalit and D Y Chandrachud allowed the three directors to stay in their home for tonight but asked them to present themselves before Station House Officer (SHO) of Noida Sector 58 tomorrow before 8 AM.
The top court fixed a 15-day limit for forensic auditors to collect, collate and catalogue the documents from 2008 till now with regard to the 46 companies of the group from the nine properties situated in Noida, Greater Noida of Delhi-NCR and Rajgir and Buxar district in Bihar.
"During the entirety of operation of cataloguing of documents of Group companies, the applicants (three directors) shall remain under police surveillance...We direct the SSP of Noida to see that after the operation is over for the day, they are brought to the Hotel Park Ascent in sector 62, Noida and taken the next day to the properties, where documents are kept," the bench said.
The court, while issuing a notice of contempt to the three directors for prima facie violating court's order and thwarting the course of justice, asked the registrar of the apex court to register a separate suo motu case against them.
"We, therefore, issue a formal notice of contempt against directors of Amrapali Group and direct the registrar of the Supreme Court to register a separate suo motu contempt case to be listed on November 20. Reply to be filed in four weeks", the bench said.
The court directed that the three directors shall not use cell phones during their stay in a hotel at night without the express authorization of police but granted them liberty to use the phones during the daytime when they will be assisting in collating the documents of 46 Amrapali Group companies.
The court said that three directors including the CMD shall remain present for the next 15 days at the properties where the documents are being catalogued from 8 AM to 6 PM every day.
"The concerned police officer SHO of sector 58, Noida shall personally supervise and see that seals are open at sharp 8 AM and re-sealed at 6 PM in the evening. Two police personnel shall remain guard at the premises," it said, adding that forensic auditors or their representatives should also be present to guide the entire operation of cataloguing.
After the work at one premise is over, the team will move to other premises and the seal of one property will be opened at a time.
The court said that at the end of operation of each day, the details should be brought to the notice of forensic auditors and they should chalk out the operation of each day.
The court said that forensic auditors should complete the task of auditing the records and affairs of all 46 companies in 10 weeks, after the 15 days period of cataloguing of documents is over.
It said that the directors can deploy as many of their staff to help in collating and cataloguing of documents which are stashed in these nine properties.
Two forensic auditors Ravi Bhatia and Pawan Aggarwal informed the court, the directors have not rendered any assistance to them and the documents have been stashed in the basements of the buildings where there is no power.
"They should be asked to give the list of documents indicating as to where and what is located. Without the list, it will be very difficult to collate and catalogue the documents which are very enormous. The power is cut in the basement where these documents are located," Agarwal said.
Earlier, in the day Amrapali Group informed the apex court that its nine properties including seven at Noida and Greater Noida were sealed in compliance with the order of the court and they have filed an undertaking to this regard.
The apex court had yesterday ordered the sealing of nine properties of the embattled real estate company after the three directors, who were in police custody, said the documents related to the group's 46 firms were stored there.
The three directors had moved an application before the court stating that they were willing to hand over all the documents, but the police were unaware about which one needed to be seized.
The directors were taken into police custody on October 9 and the firm was castigated for playing "hide and seek" with the court by not complying with its orders to hand over all documents to forensic auditors.
The court is seized of a batch of petitions filed by home buyers who are seeking possession of around 42,000 flats booked in projects of the Amrapali group.
(With inputs from agencies.)