SC orders auction of Unitech properties to refund money to homebuyers

The Supreme Court on Thursday asked a panel headed by former Delhi High Court judge Justice S N Dhingra to proceed with the auction of real estate major Unitech Ltd's unencumbered properties at Agra and Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh and Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu to refund money to home buyers.

The top court had earlier set up the three-member panel for "expeditious" auction of over 600 acres of land of the real estate firm for refunding money to home buyers who do not want possession of their homes or flats.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra also directed Unitech Ltd to submit a list of all properties of the company, its subsidiaries and personal properties of all the directors on July 9.

The bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud asked the Justice Dhingra panel to complete the process of auctioning the land properties of the firm at Agra within four weeks from Friday.

It asked the panel to conclude auctioning of the properties in Varanasi and Sriperumbudur within six weeks.

The court was intimated by the panel that it was making efforts to ensure that the auctioning fetches "good price".

Meanwhile, the Income Tax department moved the apex court for making itself a party in the ongoing litigation claiming that the real estate firm owed it Rs 9.50 billion in taxes.

Senior advocate Ranjit Kumar, appearing for the firm, said it also wanted to sell the properties at Bangalore. The court then asked the Justice Dhingra committee to undertake the exercise of valuation of the Bangalore properties in 10 days.

The bench asked lawyer Pawanshree Agarwal, who is assisting the court as the amicus curiae, and the counsel for the real estate firm to "sit together" for verification of the home buyers and their actual claims for refund.

The court did not pass any order on the submission that Sanjay Chandra, the MD of the firm and his brother Ajay Chandra, who are in jail, be allowed to come out so that they can arrange funds to refund the home buyers.

The bench sought the firm's response on the allegations of some home buyers, who were allowed to take possession of their flats on "as is where is basis", that the high-rise buildings have neither lifts, nor water or power back-up.

The bench posted the bail plea of Chandra for further hearing on July 16.

The court had set up the Justice Dhingra panel asking it to nominate a Chartered Accountant and a valuer in the committee for speedy auction of over 600 acres of unencumbered land of the firm.

Unitech Ltd had given a list of its unencumbered land properties located at Agra, Varanasi, Bangalore and Sriperumbudur near Chennai.

Prior to this, the apex court had asked all directors of Unitech Ltd and its subsidiaries to furnish details of their personal assets and warned them that if Rs 100 crore was not deposited by May 11, their assets would be auctioned.

Sanjay Chandra, the MD, is seeking interim bail from the apex court after the Delhi High Court on August 11 last year 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 Gurgaon in Haryana.

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