‘Conflict of interest’: Plea in Supreme Court for fresh panel on Adani probe | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

‘Conflict of interest’: Plea in Supreme Court for fresh panel on Adani probe

Sep 18, 2023 02:20 PM IST

Acting on a clutch of petitions demanding a probe into the matter, the Supreme Court on March 2 set up a six-member panel

One of the petitioners in the Adani-Hindenburg case has requested the Supreme Court to reconstitute the panel of experts to investigate into the accusations of regulatory failure and breach of laws against the conglomerate, alleging conflict of interest of three of the six-member panel that is headed by a retired apex court judge.

The panel was set up by the court through its order on March 2. (Sanchit Khanna | HT Photo)
The panel was set up by the court through its order on March 2. (Sanchit Khanna | HT Photo)

Submitting an application on Monday, Anamika Jaiswal claimed that inclusion of OP Bhatt (former State Bank of India chairman), KV Kamath (veteran banker) and senior advocate Somasekhar Sundaresan in the expert panel is not appropriate, considering their possible conflict of interest in the outcome of the probe into the allegations by US short-seller Hindenburg Research.

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Also Read:SEBI hid facts to shield Adani, petitioner claims in Supreme Court

According to the application, Bhatt is presently working as the chairman of Greenko, a leading renewable energy company, which is working in a close partnership with the Adani group since March 2022 for providing energy to Adani groups facilities in India.

“It has also come to the knowledge of the petitioner that Bhatt was examined by the CBI in March 2018 in a case of alleged wrongdoing in disbursing loans to the former liquor baron and fugitive economic offender, Vijay Mallya. Mallya is accused of defrauding banks, including SBI, of US $1.2 billion. It is submitted that Bhatt served as the SBI chairman between 2006 and 2011 when the majority of these loans were advanced to Mallya’s companies,” contended Jaiswal, adding Bhatt should have informed the top court of these relevant facts by himself. Jaiswal is represented by advocate Prashant Bhushan in the matter.

About Kamath, Jaiswal said that Kamath, who was the chairman of ICICI Bank from 1996 to 2009, figured in CBI FIR in the ICICI Bank fraud case, in which the bank’s former CEO Chanda Kocchar has been named as a prime accused.

“The CBI alleged that she (Kochhar) and her family received various kickbacks over her tenure in lieu of loans provided to the Videocon group, many of which turned into non-performing assets (NPAs).

Kamath was the non-executive chairman of the bank when some of those loans were approved and a member of the committee that sanctioned/approved the loans,” the application said.

Senior advocate Sundaresan, the plea claimed, has been a lawyer representing the Adani group before various bodies, including the Sebi Board.

Jaiswal attached a 2007 order passed by the Sebi Board, showing Sundaresan to have appeared for the Adani group.

“In light of above, there is an apprehension that the present expert committee would fail to inspire confidence among the people of the country. It is therefore respectfully prayed, a fresh expert committee may be constituted by this Hon’ble Court with experts from the field of finance, law and stock market with impeccable integrity, and who have no conflict of interest in the outcome of the instant matter,” prayed Jaiswal’s application.

The panel, set up by the court through its order on March 2, is headed by former Supreme Court judge AM Sapre, and also comprises justice JP Devdhar (former high court judge) and Nandan Nilekani (Infosys co-founder).

Hindenburg’s report published in January claimed, “brazen accounting fraud” and “stock manipulation” by the Gautam Adani-led group. Though the conglomerate rejected the report as “unresearched” and “maliciously mischievous”, it triggered a massive rout of Adani Group stocks, which lost over $140 billion in days and forced the cancellation of a 20,000 crore share sale in the group’s flagship.

In another application filed on September 11, Jaiswal had alleged that Sebi not only concealed several facts about previous investigations against Adani companies, but also tweaked the regulations to keep the group’s regulatory contraventions and price manipulations undetected.

She contended that the market regulator did not apprise the court of an investigation initiated by the directorate of revenue intelligence (DRI) in 2014 against the Adani group companies over alleged overvaluation of import of equipment and machinery by various entities of the group from a UAE-based subsidiary.

This application further maintained that Sebi brought amendments into the regulations relating to foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) and listing obligations and disclosure requirement (LODR) were in 2014 and 2015 respectively only to benefit the Adani group.

Acting on a clutch of petitions demanding a probe into the matter, the Supreme Court on March 2 set up a six-member panel, led by retired Supreme Court judge AM Sapre, to look into regulatory failure by Sebi and alleged breach of laws by the Adani Group.

In its report submitted in May, the committee said the allegations of stock price manipulation or violation of MPS norms by Adani Group companies cannot be proved “at this stage”.

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