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SC asks SEBI to complete probe by Aug 14

The Supreme Court on Wednesday granted the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) time till August 14 to complete its probe into the allegations of stock price manipulation by the Adani group and asked the market regulator to place on record an updated status report of the probe.

A bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud also directed that copies of the report submitted before it by the apex court-appointed Justice (retd) A M Sapre expert committee be made available to the parties to enable them to assist it in further deliberations in the matter.

When Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for SEBI, requested the top court to consider extending the deadline till September end, the bench said, “We are not granting an indefinite extension of time. If there is some genuine difficulty, you let us know.”

Gautam Adani

Adani Group Chairman Gautam Adani

The bench, also comprising Justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala, was hearing the pleas filed on the Adani-Hindenburg row. It was also considering the SEBI’s application seeking an extension of time by six months to complete the probe into allegations of stock price manipulation by the Adani group.

“SEBI is granted an extension of time till August 14, 2023, to submit its report,” the bench said, adding, “SEBI shall place on record an updated status report with regard to the course of the investigation.”

The remit of the Justice Sapre panel was 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.

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 had earlier said.

At the outset of Wednesday, the CJI observed, “The committee has submitted its report. It is a tentative report and now SEBI has asked for an extension of time to complete their investigation.”

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for one of the petitioners, referred to a reply given by the minister of state for finance in Parliament in July 2021 about SEBI investigating some Adani group companies with regard to compliance with SEBI regulations.

“What I am saying is they (SEBI) have to put on record as to what has happened to these investigations which they have been doing since at least 2016 … They have to put this on record what has happened to those because otherwise what is happening is, that there is clearly, I mean one can see that so clearly, somehow an attempt to shield the Adani companies in recent years,” Bhushan said.

He argued in recent times, despite many complaints having been made to SEBI over the last six-seven years, it appeared that they are doing “absolutely nothing despite it being written on the wall”.

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