In a significant ruling on March 29, 2023, the Supreme Court directed the transfer of Rs 5,000 crore from the Sebi-Sahara refund account to compensate depositors of four Sahara cooperative societies: Sahara Credit Cooperative Society, Humara India Credit Cooperative Society, Saharayn Universal Multipurpose Society, and Stars Multipurpose Cooperative Society. This verdict was the result of a public interest litigation filed by Pinak Pani Mohanty from Cuttack.

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) created a refund account to collect the Rs 25,781 crore that Sahara Group companies were ordered to pay back for issuing unauthorized optionally convertible bonds. The account will now transfer Rs 5,000 crore for compensation to depositors in four Sahara cooperative societies. Retired judge R Subhash Reddy, appointed by the Supreme Court, will oversee the reimbursement process with the assistance of attorney Gaurav Agarwal within nine months.

The court directed that Justice R Subhash Reddy and amicus curiae Gaurav Agarwal should each receive a monthly honorarium of Rs. 15 lakhs. The bench of Justices CT Ravikumar and MR Shah noted that the money was sitting unused in the “Sahara-SEBI Refund Account”. Justice Reddy, a former judge of the court, was appointed to oversee the reimbursement process along with the help of attorney Gaurav Agarwal.

Who is Pinak Pani Mohanty?

Since 2014-2015, Pinak Pani Mohanty has been focusing on the issues faced by investors in fraudulent investment schemes. He is a potato chips supplier in Cuttack, and his journey to the Supreme Court has not been easy. Despite earning about Rs 3.15 lakh annually, he has spent over Rs 4.8 lakh on his case so far, as reported by Economic Times.

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Starting from 2015, Pinak Mohanty, along with his fellow social workers, have been striving to obtain compensation for the victims of 44 fraudulent companies including Saradha, Rose Valley, and Seashore. In 2015, Prashant Dash, the managing director of Seashore, accused 47 members of the ruling party of siphoning off 550 crores from the company.

Mohanty had shared the audio with the CBI. He recalled his “sting operation” and mentioned that some participants were arrested. During the COVID-19 lockdown, Mohanty wrote a letter to the Prime Minister, expressing concern about the ongoing suffering and suicides among the working class and poor despite years of investigations. The PMO forwarded the letter to the Odisha chief secretary in January 2022.

In early 2022, Mohanty appealed to the Supreme Court with the aim of establishing a single judge or committee responsible for safeguarding the hard-earned assets and money of investors, which were seized by various agencies such as CBI, ED, State of Odisha, CB of Odisha, OPID special court, Sebi, and other state and central agencies. The ultimate goal was to pay off the investors with the recovered money.

In his second request to the Supreme Court in early 2022, Mohanty asked for CBI and ED to prepare a final report on the 44 other companies and to investigate the four cooperative societies.