The Supreme Court on July 25 issued notice to former Indian cricket team captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who was the brand ambassador for the embattled firm Amrapali Group and stayed arbitration proceedings initiated by Delhi High Court against the realty firm over financial issues on his plea.
A bench comprising justices U U Lalit and Bela M Trivedi was on July 25 informed by the court-appointed receiver, senior advocate R Venkataramani, regarding the pending arbitration proceedings between Dhoni and the embattled real estate firm and the difficulties that he was encountering in pursuing it.
In the order, the top court noted that to secure the interests of the home buyers, it had taken cognisance of the matters and had appointed a court receiver to ensure that the housing projects are completed well within time and apartments are allotted to the buyers. In view of this, it would be extremely difficult for the receiver to defend and take care of such litigations...It cannot be expected that the erstwhile management or anybody else can represent the Amrapali group of companies before the learned sole arbitrator, the bench said.
The apex court-appointed forensic auditors had told the bench that Amrapali Group had entered into ‘sham agreements’ with Rhiti Sports Management Pvt Ltd (RSMPL), the brand promoted by Dhoni, to "illegally divert" home buyers' money and a total amount of Rs 42.22 crore was paid to RSMPL during 2009-2015.
Dhoni had moved to the Delhi High Court which, on October 16, 2019, had appointed its former judge Veena Birbal as sole arbitrator to arbitrate the commercial dispute between the cricketer and the embattled real estate firm. Issuing notice to the cricketer, the top court requested Justice Birbal to not proceed with the arbitration.
In April 2019, Dhoni had moved the apex court seeking protection of his ownership rights on an over 5,500-square feet penthouse he booked 10 years ago in a project of Amrapali Group.
In today’s hearing, development Authorities, Noida and Greater Noida, objected to the sale/carving out Floor Area Ratio by the court receiver unless dues of the settlement are reached and there is a revision of FAR/layout.
The apex court directed the court receiver and NBCC to put together a proposal for carving out FAR to separate projects to safeguard the interests of all stakeholders. The report is to be submitted in 10 days before the court decides upon the sale of such FAR. The Court also directed development authorities to depute high-level officials to assist the court receiver in drafting the final proposal.
The court receiver had in a note, requested that to protect the interest of homebuyers, separation of plots should be allowed by the authorities in all projects located in Noida and Greater Noida so that prospective buyers can procure project funding and other approvals.
The Supreme Court on July 12 had put a proposal for the creation of a Sinking cum Reserve Fund on ‘hold until its merits are debated’ after counsels for homebuyers objected to a policy decision of the Supreme Court-appointed receiver asking homebuyers to deposit an additional amount of Rs 200 per sq-ft for their flats to meet the shortfall for the construction of incomplete housing units.
Counsels of homebuyers advocates M L Lahoty and Kumar Mihir had been asked to submit their objections to the proposal. The matter was to be taken up on July 25. This matter did not come up for discussion in today’s hearing.
The next date of hearing is on August 1.The Supreme Court in 2019 directed that the former directors of Amrapali Group, Anil Kumar Sharma, Shiv Priya, and Ajay Kumar, be jailed, and multiple cases have been lodged against them for allegedly diverting homebuyers’ money. All three are in prison on the top court's order.