English media’s hidden jealousy

I have written about this earlier too, and have taken the liberty to reproduce some statements from my earlier editorials on this topic. I do not believe that Subrata Roy is wrong. However, that bit later. What amazes me is the way media has declared him a cheat and is almost celebrating his arrest without any mention of his arguments that are compellingly logical. To me, headings like, Subrata Roy brought to justice, are such shameful giveaways of media’s hidden jealousy against a self-made one-generation success story, something that the media just cannot handle.

His group is said to be India’s biggest private sector employer and second biggest overall. He has shown absolute commitment to support sports – an area where success is always associated with a nation’s pride internationally. However, he has never compromised with the establishment and has always taken it head on, whenever harassed, with full page advertisements, explaining his reasoning quite logically and clearly. He may not be as polished as the Tatas and the Birlas and may have certain quirks in his living style or office culture, which can be an eyesore to some. But that cannot be the reason to celebrate his agony. And yes, having known him personally over many a long discussion, I can guarantee that the man religiously knows his numbers and has a financial acumen that is better than the combined intellect of all Indian regulators.

In April last year, I had written on how various points in a 2012 Supreme Court judgement against the Sahara Group, on the basis of an earlier Securities and Exchange Board of India order, were erroneous. Let me try and give a short synopsis. The Sahara group, which had issued OFCDs since 2001 with government permission, suddenly got a prohibitory order from SEBI in November 2010 against the OFCDs issued by two unlisted group companies, Sahara Housing Investment Corporation Ltd and Sahara India Real Estate Corporation Ltd.

This, despite the fact that just seven months before, SEBI had said that these two firms do not come under their purview. Importantly, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs mentioned in the Allahabad High Court in 2010, that ‘the issuance of OFCD [by] the petitioner company after the registration with the Registrar of Companies has been permissible under law. The Central government remains the regulating authority for the company.’ Similar were the notings of Additional Solicitor General, Mohan Parasaran (who is now Solicitor General), and of the Minister of Corporate Affairs, Veerappa Moily.

After subsequent hearings in the Securities Appellate Tribunal, finally in August 2012 in the Supreme Court, Sahara was ordered to pay back the OFCD moneys with interest. Interestingly, not only were a few of the statements in the judgement seemingly wrong, but the judges also weren’t clear on how much money was in contention. Moreover, the August 2012 judgement gave powers to SEBI much beyond the SEBI Act. The Supreme Court order resulted in SEBI attaching not just the movable and immovable properties of the two companies involved, but also of other group companies even though this wasn’t mentioned in the judgement.

And despite the fact that Subrata Roy is not a director in those companies, and cannot be held liable, SEBI wanted the court to take action against him specifically. SEBI also pleaded to the court that the Sahara Group was a single economic entity and any group company’s commitments were liable to be paid by the other group companies. And finally, erroneously influenced by SEBI’s argument, we now have Subrata Roy being sent to Tihar by the court. SEBI claims that thousands of crores are payable to investors, despite the fact that SEBI can’t line them up, and no one is coming and claiming they have been cheated by Sahara. By basic logic, had it been true that Rs 20,000 crores and above worth money was cheated off the Indian public, then there would have been millions grouping up, staging protests, making FB groups, filing cases, and hundreds committing suicides. One just needs to see what happened in the recent Sharda scam to understand. None of that has happened in this case.

The basic fact is that Subrata Roy represents the other India, what I call ‘Bharat’, but it seems like the English media can’t handle the trust that ‘Bharat’ holds in him and his companies. Yes, when he started working in 1978 armed purely with a mechanical engineering diploma and a two wheeler (a Lambretta), one could not have forethought Roy’s business gumption. But capitalism does work for some; and if one is jealous that he is ultra-rich and his group has acquired riches too much, too soon, then lynch-mobbing is not the appropriate way to respond. Capitalism was never about pulling down growing corporations by hanging them in public.

And if that is what it has become in India, then we have to change it, rationally and immediately. And it is the Supreme Court itself that will have to play a role to see through this reality and come out with a correct judgement that really does justice.

The author is a management guru and director of IIPM think tank
Next Story
Share it