Monday, October 2, 2023

Hindenburg report: Fresh plea seeks SC-monitored probe against Adani group of companies, raises doubts on credibility of Expert Committee members

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A fresh petition has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking a Court-monitored probe against the Adani Group of Companies, raising doubts over the credibility of members of the Expert Committee constituted by the Apex Court.

Filed by Anamika Jaiswal, the petition alleged that three out of six members of the committee failed to ‘inspire confidence’ among the people of the country, owing to their background and relations with Adani.

The Apex Court had constituted an expert committee on March 3, 2023 to review the regulatory mechanism in light of the Adani-Hindenburg issue. 

The committee consisted of the following members– i) Mr OP Bhatt, ii) Justice JP Devadhar(former Bombay HC judge), iii) Mr KV Kamath, iv) Mr Nandan Nilekani and v) Mr Somashekhar Sundaresan and was 

Headed by former SC judge Justice (Retd) Abhay Manohar Sapre, the committee comprised of OP Bhatt, former Bombay High Court judge Justice J.P. Devadhar, K.V. Kamath, Nandan Nilekani and Somashekhar Sundaresan.

The affidavit claimed that Bhatt, one of the members of the Expert Committee and former chairman of the State Bank of India, was presently working as the Chairman of Greenko. 

It said since March 2022, Greenko and Adani Group have been working in a ‘close partnership’ to provide energy to Adani Groups facilities in India. The plea pointed out that this clear conflict of interest should have been pointed out by Bhatt himself.

Further, the affidavit submitted that Bhatt was also examined by the CBI in March 2018 in a case of alleged wrongdoing in disbursing loans to fugitive economic offender, Vijay Mallya. 

It alleged that Bhatt served as the SBI chairman between 2006 and 2011 when the majority of these loans were advanced to Mallya’s companies. 

CBI has alleged that the SBI-led consortium of lenders did not conduct any ‘forensic audit’ despite being aware of the ‘poor financial health’ of Mallya’s companies, it noted.

The affidavit also raises apprehensions against Somashekhar Sundaresan. It asserts that Sundaresan has been a lawyer representing Adani before various forums including the SEBI Board. 

This conflict of interest was also earlier pointed by the petitioner.

It said Kamath, who was the chairman of ICICI Bank from 1996 to 2009, figured in the CBI FIR in the ICICI Bank fraud case. This fraud case was related to Chanda Kocchar who served as the Managing Director and CEO of ICICI Bank from 2009 to 2018. 

As per the affidavit–”The CBI alleged that she and her family received various kickbacks over her tenure in lieu of loans provided to the Videocon group, many of which turned into non- performing assets (NPAs). Kamath was the non-executive chairman of the bank when some of those loans were approved and a member of the committee that sanctioned/approved the loans.”

In light of the same, the petitioner sought disbanding of the Expert Committee and constitution of a new committee. 

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