Adani-Hindenburg row: SC to hear SEBI’s plea on extension of probe time on Tuesday

The Supreme Court adjourned to Tuesday the hearing on a plea of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) seeking extension of six months to complete a probe into allegations of stock price manipulation by the Adani group.

The hearing on the market regulator’s plea and PILs could not take place on Monday due to paucity of time and on account of scheduled hearing of certain matters before a special bench at 3 pm.

A bench comprising Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and justices P S Narasimha and J B Pardiwala on May 12 had said it would consider granting three more months to SEBI for concluding its probe into the allegations of stock price manipulation and lapses in regulatory disclosure.

In the meanwhile, SEBI filed a rejoinder affidavit giving additional reasons for seeking more time to probe the issue.

“The application for extension of time filed by SEBI is meant to ensure carriage of justice keeping in mind the interest of investors and the securities market since any incorrect or premature conclusion of the case arrived at without full facts material on record would not serve the ends of justice and hence would be legally untenable,” it said.

The market regulator has referred to complexities of transactions referred to in the Hindenburg report to justify its plea for extension of time to conclude the probe.

“In respect of the investigation/examination relating to 12 transactions referred to in the Hindenburg Report, prima facie it is noted that these transactions are highly complex and have many sub-transactions across numerous jurisdictions and a rigorous investigation of these transactions would require collation of data/information from various sources including bank statements from multiple domestic as well as international banks, financial statements of onshore and offshore entities involved in the transactions and contracts and agreements, if any, entered between the entities along with other supporting documents,” SEBI said in its plea.

“Thereafter, analysis would have to be conducted on the documents received from various sources before conclusive findings can be arrived at,” it said.

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

It had also ordered setting up of a six-member committee headed by former apex court judge Justice A M Sapre to investigate the issue.

The scope and ambit of the Sapre panel is to provide an overall assessment of the situation, including the relevant causal factors which have led to volatility in the securities market in the recent past.

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The panel was asked to suggest measures to “(i) strengthen the statutory and/or regulatory framework; and (ii) secure compliance with the existing framework for the protection of investors”, the court said.

Till now, four PILs have been filed in the top court on the issue, including by lawyers M L Sharma and Vishal Tiwari and Congress leader Jaya Thakur.

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

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

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