Adani-Hindenburg row: SC no to govt's sealed cover names for panel

Apex court says will form expert committee itself to ensure 'full transparency'

Bhavini Mishra New Delhi
Supreme Court

The top court has also made it clear to the petitioners that a ‘sitting’ judge will not be in the committee to examine the issue

The Supreme Court on Friday rejected the Centre’s suggestion of giving it in a sealed cover the names of people who would form an expert committee to examine the adverse report by American short-seller Hindenburg Research on the Adani group of companies and its impact on the markets.
A Bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) D Y Chandrachud said: “We will select the experts and maintain full transparency. If we take names from the government, it would amount to a government-constituted committee. There has to be full (public) confidence in the committee.”

Meanwhile, the Centre, represented by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, submitted a report in a sealed cover before the top court, suggesting names for the expert committee. The Centre told the court there should be no delay in setting up the committee.
However, the apex court refused to accept suggestions by the Centre in the interests of “full transparency”. “If we accept suggestions, we should disclose them to the other side so that there is transparency,” the court said.

The court has reserved its order on the matter.
While reading the government’s submission, the court remarked: “You (the Centre) have said the impact on the market is zero. But stats say investors faced lakhs of crores worth losses.”

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The court said it could not start with the “presumption of a regulatory failure” and told the petitioners a sitting judge would not be on the committee. 
Last Friday, the court had asked the Centre and the Securities and Exchange Board of India to suggest measures needed to improve the regulatory and statutory mechanism to deal with instances like the slump in Adani group stocks after the Hindenburg report.
What SC said
  • If we accept (govt’s) suggestions, we should disclose it to the other side
  • We will select experts and maintain full transparency; won’t take suggestions from govt or petitioners
  • There has to be full (public) confidence in the committee
  • We cannot start with the ‘presumption of a regulatory failure’
According to counsel privy to the Centre’s submission, the government suggested a committee to ascertain and submit a report regarding Hindenburg’s admitted claim of taking a “short position in Adani group companies through US-traded bonds and non-Indian traded derivatives instruments” prior to the publication of its report and whether they were in violation of regulatory/penal/preventive or other statutory provisions.

The note also proposed the committee should suggest measures to strengthen the statutory and/or regulatory framework.
The court was hearing the petitions filed by advocates M L Sharma and Vishal Tiwari. Sharma’s plea seeks the prosecution of Nathan Anderson of Hindenburg Research and his associates in India and the US for allegedly exploiting investors and the “artificial crashing” of the Adani group’s stocks.

Meanwhile, advocate Tiwari’s plea sought the court’s directions to set up a special committee to oversee a policy for sanctioning loans of more than Rs 500 crore given to big corporations.
The third petitioner in the case was Congress member Jaya Thakur, whose plea seeks a probe against Life Insurance Corporation and State Bank of India for allegedly investing in the Adani Enterprises follow-on public offer at Rs 3,200 per share when the price was Rs 1,800 per share in the secondary market.

The fourth petition, heard by the court on Friday and tagged with Thakur’s plea, was filed by Anamika Jaiswal, whose plea sought a probe into the allegations against the Adani group of companies and the source of funds of shell companies which had allegedly been used to invest large sums in shares of the group.

First Published: Feb 17 2023 | 7:00 PM IST

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