Meet SC’s Panel Appointed to Probe Adani-Hindenburg Saga, Stock Market Volatility

NEW DELHI: In the latest development of the Adani-Hindenburg dispute, the Supreme Court on Thursday set up a 6-member panel of experts to examine the protection of Indian investors in the aftermath of a damning report by the US short seller.
The panel, led by former CS judge AM Sapre, will adjust the assessment of the existing regulatory framework and make recommendations to strengthen the process. The report will be submitted in a sealed envelope within 2 months.
The apex court noted that it was appropriate to set up such a panel of experts in order to “protect Indian investors from volatility of the type that has been seen in the recent past.”
Seven Adani Group listed companies have lost about $135 billion since Jan. 24 after a report by US short seller Hindenburg Research accused Adani Group of misusing offshore tax havens and manipulating stocks.
Here are the members of the panel nominated by SC:
* AM Sapre
The former SC judge was charged with overseeing the investigation that led to the collapse of Adani Group shares and other regulatory aspects of the stock market.
Sapre hails from Madhya Pradesh and was elevated to the top court on 13 August 2014. He served until 27 August 2019.
The 68-year-old was initially appointed as a judge of the Madhya Pradesh High Court on 25 October 1999 and served there until 10 February 2010. He was later transferred to the Rajasthan High Court where he remained until 22 March 2013.
He was appointed Chief Justice of Manipur High Court on 23 March 2013 and served there until 18 October 2023. Sapre was then appointed Chief Justice of Gauhati High Court where he served until 12 August 2014 before be elevated to the high court.
*OP Bhatt
A former chairman of the State Bank of India (SBI), OP Bhat is currently a director on the boards of Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), Tata Steel, Tata Motors, TCS and Hindustan Unilever Ltd.
He is also a past president of the Indian Banks’ Association and held the position for 2010-11. He has served as India’s economic diplomat as a government candidate in the India-US CEO Forum, Indo-French CEO Forum and Indo-Russia CEO Forum, building ties with a cross section of the world’s business leaders.
According to reports, SBI raided the Fortune 500 club during Bhatt’s tenure as bank president.

*JP Devadar
Retired Bombay High Court Judge JP Devadhar is the third member of the Panel of experts appointed by the CS.
Devadhar has served as the chairman of the Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT) and brings immense experience in adjudicating stock market matters.
According to the Bombay HC website, Devadhar has been a counsel counsel for the Income Tax Department since 1985. He has appeared in a large number of cases in the aforementioned branches of law in the Bombay High Court, CEGAT, Appellate Court for the Income Tax, Maharashtra Administrative Court, Central Administrative Court and Supreme Court of India.
*KV Kamath
KV Kamath is a former head of the New Development Bank of the BRICS countries. He was also president of Infosys.
He was the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Executive Officer of ICICI Bank from 1996 to 2009 and retired from office in April 2009. Kamath then became non-executive chairman of the bank.
The veteran banker serves as an independent director on the board of directors of Reliance Industries. He was also appointed independent director and non-executive chairman of Jio Financial Services.
Kamath also serves as an independent director on the boards of Houston-based oil services company, Schlumberger, since 2010, and Indian pharmaceutical manufacturer, Lupine.
*Nandan Nilekani
Infosys co-founder and chairman, Nandan Nilekani is the fifth member to be elected to the expert panel appointed by the SC.
He was the founding chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) in the rank of cabinet minister from 2009 to 2014. Nilekani is regarded as the architect of Aadhaar.
In January 2023, he was named co-chair of the “G20 Task Force on Digital Public Infrastructure for Economic Transformation, Financial Inclusion and Development”.
Nilekani is also helping the Center design the Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC), an e-commerce platform.

* Somasekharan Sundaresan
Attorney Somasekharan Sundaresan, the sixth member of the panel, is a securities and regulatory expert.
His name was recently recommended to the Center as a judge of the Bombay High Court. The panel of the Supreme Court later reaffirmed his name for the judgeship after the Center raised an objection.
The business journalist-turned-lawyer is an expert on securities law, financial sector regulations and competition law.
What will the panel do
The panel appointed by the Supervisory Committee will suggest measures to enhance investor awareness.
The committee will verify whether there has been a regulatory shortcoming in addressing the alleged violation of securities market rules against the Adani Group or other companies.

The Justice Sapre panel will receive assistance from the Center and other statutory agencies, including the president of SEBI.
The bank noted the ongoing investigation by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and said that the market regulator specifically did not refer to an investigation into the alleged violation of the Securities Contracts (Regulation ) Rules 1957 providing for the maintenance of the minimum public interest in a public company.
“Similarly, there could be various other allegations that SEBI needs to include in its investigation,” he said, ordering SEBI to also investigate the possible violation of the Securities Contracts Rules (Regulation).
What SC said
The highest court has clarified that the market regulator can also go beyond its indications regarding the contours of the ongoing investigation. “SEBI will quickly conclude the investigation within two months and submit a status report.”
Dealing with the details of the court-appointed panel, the 9-page order, written by the CJI, said that SEBI will inform the panel of experts of the action taken as a result of guidance during the ongoing investigation.
The establishment of a domain expert panel does not deprive SEBI of its powers or responsibilities to continue its investigation into the recent volatility in the securities market, he added.
“In order to protect Indian investors from such volatility as has been witnessed in the recent past, we believe it is appropriate to establish a Committee of Experts to evaluate the existing regulatory framework and to formulate recommendations to strengthen it.”

Adani shares stabilize on the upside
Adani Group companies maintained their winning run on Thursday, with all ten listed entities finishing in positive territory.
Shares of Adani Transmission were up 5%, Adani Green Energy up 4.99%, Adani Wilmar up 4.99% and Adani Power up 4.98%.
In addition, shares of NDTV gained 4.96%, Ambuja Cements (4.94%) and Adani Total Gas (4.41%) on BSE.
Adani Ports’ scrips rose 3.5%, Adani Enterprises (2.69%) and ACC (1.50%).
The cumulative market valuation of the ten companies stood at Rs 7.86 lakh crore by close of trade on Thursday.

How it all began
The row began when Hindenburg Research, a US-based short seller, released a report on Jan. 24 calling Adani Group’s takeover the “biggest scam in company history.”
In the report, Hindenburg accused Adani Group of a “blatant inventory manipulation and accounting fraud scheme.” He cited 2 years of research, including interviews with former top executives of the company and reviews of several documents.
The report was released 2 days before the opening of Adani Enterprises Rs 20,000 crore FPO. The company had already raised Rs 5,985 crore by allocating shares to anchor investors. The FPO was fully underwritten, however, the rout of the Adani stock market forced the company to revoke the FPO.
Caught in the company-to-stock-market storm, Adani Group released a statement on Jan. 29 against Hindenburg’s allegations a few days later and likened the damning allegations to a “calculated attack” on India, its institutions and its history of growth.
Adani says ‘truth will prevail’
Welcoming SC’s decision today, Gautam Adani said that the order of a time-limited investigation into the allegations made by Hindenburg Research will bring finality and truth prevail.
Shortly after a panel chaired by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud approved the order, Adani tweeted, “Adani Group welcomes the Honorable Supreme Court’s order. It will bring finality in a constrained way. The truth will prevail.”
(With contributions from agencies)


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