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SEBI cannot circumvent rule of law, says Supreme Court; allows Reliance Industries access to documents relied on

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The Supreme Court on Friday flayed the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), stating that the market regulator cannot circumvent the rule of law.

A Bench comprising Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana, Justice J.K. Maheshwari and Justice Hima Kohli expressed the views, while permitting Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), access to certain documents that were relied upon by SEBI in connection with acquisition of own shares by the company.

Stating that SEBI has a duty to act in a fair manner, the Apex Court directed the market regulator to furnish the documents sought by RIL.

RIL had filed a petition in the Apex Court, challenging the Bombay High Court order, which rejected its plea to access certain documents that sought to prove its innocence on allegations levelled by SEBI.

One S Gurumurthy had filed a complaint with SEBI in 2002, alleging irregularities by RIL, when it acquired its own shares between 1994-2000.

The market regulator moved the City Civil and Sessions Court in 2020, seeking prosecution of RIL. However, SEBI’s plea was rejected on the grounds that there was a delay of 18 years in acting on the complaint.

SEBI then moved the Bombay High Court. RIL also filed a plea in the High Court, seeking three documents relied upon by SEBI, which was rejected, leading to the present petition.

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