Adani-Hindenburg row: PIL petitioner moves SC, opposes SEBI’s plea for extension of time to complete probe

One of the PIL petitioners has moved the Supreme Court opposing SEBI’s plea seeking a six-month extension to complete the probe into allegations of stock price manipulation by the Adani group and lapses in regulatory disclosure, saying the market regulator has already got sufficient time to inspect, examine, collect and seize relevant documents.

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) recently moved an application in the top court seeking six more months for ascertaining possible violations related to misrepresentation of financials, circumvention of regulations and/or fraudulent nature of transactions, and completing the exercise.

The top court had on March 2 asked SEBI to probe the matter within two months and also set up a panel to look into the protection of Indian investors after a damning report by a US short seller wiped out more than USD 140 billion of the conglomerate’s market value.

PIL petitioner and lawyer Vishal Tiwari Tuesday filed an application before a bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud opposing the SEBI’s plea, saying it will prolong the probe and cause inordinate delay.

“That the Application filed by the respondent (SEBI) may prolong the matter and cause inordinate delay. The …delay may allow the various corporate entities which are under the umbrella of investigation to manipulate the important data and figures and may cause tampering of evidence present in different shapes and modes,” Tiwari said in his reply.

He said SEBI, even before the court ordered a probe, stated it had already begun the investigation and was enquiring into the situation emerging after the Hindenburg report.

“When SEBI is already in action prior to the order passed by this court of investigation then it should have got the records and data which are required in the present investigation of several corporate entities and of Adani group,” Tiwari’s reply said.

The reply said SEBI has not stated in its plea as to who it has appointed to investigate the issue.

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“The reasons given in the application by SEBI for the extension time of six months are not acceptable because SEBI has already got sufficient time to inspect, examine, collect and cease (sic) the relevant documents, data, information, accounts statements etc. SEBI is trying to make the investigation process endless and delay will grant benefit to the wrong-doer companies and promoters,” it said.

If SEBI does not take effective steps expeditiously without delay, then the investors’ investments will remain in danger and the wrong-doers will manage to “manipulate or protect themselves by wrong means”, it said, insisting the market regulator should not be given more time for probe.

In respect of the investigation related to 12 suspicious transactions, the SEBI has said these are complex and have many sub-transactions.

A rigorous investigation of these transactions would require collation of data from various sources along with detailed analysis including verification of submissions made by the companies, it has said.

The apex court, while directing the setting up of a six-member committee headed by former apex court judge Justice A M Sapre for the assessment of the extant regulatory framework and for making recommendations to strengthen the process, had said it was appropriate to constitute such a panel of experts in order to protect Indian investors against the volatility of the kind which has been witnessed in the recent past.

The court-appointed Justice Sapre panel is to be provided assistance by the Centre and other statutory agencies including the SEBI chairperson.

The Centre had agreed to the apex court’s proposal to set up the committee to go into regulatory regimes.

Four PILs have been filed in the top court so far on the issue by lawyers M L Sharma and Vishal Tiwari, Congress leader Jaya Thakur and Mukesh Kumar, who claims to be a social activist.

Adani Group’s stocks had taken a terrible hit on the bourses after Hindenburg Research made a litany of allegations, including those of fraudulent transactions and share-price manipulation, against the business conglomerate.

The Adani Group has dismissed the charges as lies and asserted it complies with all laws and disclosure requirements.

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