The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear during the day a batch of PILs on the recent Adani Group shares crash triggered by the Hindenburg Research’s fraud allegations and is likely to mull over setting up of a panel of domain experts for strengthening existing regulatory measures for stock exchanges.
The crucial hearing on the PILs by a bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud assumes significance in the wake of recent developments in which the Centre agreed to the apex court’s proposal to set up a committee, likely to be headed by a former Supreme Court judge, to look into the regulatory regimes.
Stressing that statutory bodies like market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) are “fully equipped” and are on job, the central government had expressed apprehensions that any “unintentional” message to the investors that regulatory bodies in India needed a monitoring by a panel may have some adverse impact on the flow of money into the country.
The Centre had told the bench, also comprising Justices P S Narasimha and J B Pardiwala, that it wanted to provide details such as names and the scope of the panel’s mandate in a “sealed cover”.
Stock market regulator SEBI, in its note filed in the top court, had indicated it is not in favour of banning short-selling or sale of borrowed shares, and said it is investigating allegations made by a tiny short-seller against the Adani Group as well as its share price movements.
The top court on February 10 had said the interests of Indian investors need to be protected against market volatility in the backdrop of the Adani stocks rout and asked the Centre to consider setting up a panel of domain experts headed by a former judge to look into strengthening the regulatory mechanisms.
Till now, four PILs have been filed in the top court on the issue by lawyers M L Sharma, Vishal Tiwari, Congress leader Jaya Thakur and Mukesh Kumar, who claims to be a social activist, respectively.
Tiwari, in his PIL, sought a direction to the Centre to constitute a committee monitored by a retired apex court judge to inquire into the Hindenburg Research report which has made a slew of allegations against the business conglomerate led by industrialist Gautam Adani.
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Another PIL filed by advocate M L Sharma sought prosecution of short-seller Nathan Anderson of the US-based Hindenburg Research and his associates in India and the US for allegedly exploiting innocent investors and the “artificial crashing” of the Adani Group’s stock value in the market.
Congress leader Thakur, in his plea, has sought an investigation under the supervision of a sitting apex court judge against the Adani Group of companies in light of the allegations.
The fourth PIL seeks a probe by multiple central government agencies under the supervision of a panel or a former apex court judge against the Adani Group following allegations of fraud and share price manipulation.
“Direct appropriate audit (transactional and forensic audits), inquiry and investigation by appropriate agencies such as Serious Frauds Investigation Office (SFIO); Registrar of Companies (RoC); Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI); ED (Directorate of Enforcement) on money-laundering aspect; I-T (Income-Tax Department on aspects of offshore transactions and tax-havens involved and DRI( Department of Revenue Intelligence),” the fourth plea said.
Besides seeking a direction to the Centre and its agencies to render cooperation in the probe, the PIL has sought a direction to appoint a retired judge of the apex court “or a committee to oversee and monitor the inquiry and investigation”.
Adani Group stocks have taken a beating on the bourses after the 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.