Market regulator SEBI has moved the Supreme Court seeking a six-month extension to complete its probe into the allegations of stock price manipulation by the Adani group and any lapses in regulatory disclosures.
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.
In an application moved before the court, SEBI submitted that for ascertaining possible violations related to misrepresentation of financials, circumvention of regulations and/or fraudulent nature of transactions, it would take six more months to complete the exercise.
“Pass an order extending the time to conclude the investigation as directed by this Court by the common order dated March 2 by a period of 6 months or such other period as this court may deem fit and necessary in the facts and circumstances of the present case,” the plea said.
SEBI submitted that in respect of the investigation relating to 12 suspicious transactions, 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 said.
“Applicant submits that replies and documents/information received from the companies would require reconfirmation and reconciliation, as well as independent verification.
“The detailed investigation process would also include depositions as may be required from various entities such as, Key Managerial Personnel (KMPs), statutory auditors and other relevant persons,” the plea said.
The petition also submitted that the investigation would also require obtaining bank statements from multiple domestic as well as international banks and as the bank statements would also be for the transactions undertaken more than 10 years ago, this would take time and be challenging.
“SEBI further submits that this process of seeking bank statements from the offshore banks would entail taking assistance from offshore regulators, which may be time consuming and challenging… that only thereafter, analysis would have to be conducted for the voluminous bank statements,” it 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, said it was appropriate to set up 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 a committee, to be headed by a former Supreme Court judge, to go into the regulatory regimes.
Till now, four PILs have been filed in the top court 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 stocks had taken a beating on the bourses after Hindenburg Research made a litany of allegations, including fraudulent transactions and share-price manipulation, against the business conglomerate.
The Adani Group has dismissed the charges as lies, saying it complies with all laws and disclosure requirements.