A petitioner in the Adani-Hindenburg case has urged the Supreme Court to reconstitute its panel investigating the accusations, alleging that two out of its six members have a conflict of interest.
The panel was formed in March to conduct an inquiry after American firm Hindenburg Research in a report on January 24 alleged that billionaire Gautam Adani’s group was pulling off the “largest con in corporate history”.
The company claimed that the conglomerate has been involved in accounting fraud, improper use of tax havens and money laundering. The Adani Group has rejected these allegations but the report still pummeled the stocks of the conglomerate’s listed companies.
The court-appointed panel is headed by former Supreme Court judge Justice AM Sapre and has former State Bank of India chairperson OP Bhat, retired Justice JP Devdatt, Infosys chairperson Nandan Nilekani, former ICICI bank chief KV Kamath as well as advocate, securities and regulatory expert Somasekharan Sundaresan as its members.
In its report before the Supreme Court in May, the panel said that prima facie it was not possible to conclude whether there had been any regulatory failure in the case.
It pointed out that the Securities and Exchange Board of India has “drawn a blank” in its inquiry into suspected violations in foreign investments in the Adani Group and added that its investigation in the case could be a “journey without a destination”.
On Monday, the petitioner, Anamika Jaiswal, represented by advocates Prashant Bhushan and Cheryl D’Souza, contended that Bhatt is the chairperson of Greenko, a leading renewable energy company.
The company has been working in a close partnership to provide energy to Adani Group facilities in India since March 2022, the petitioner told the court.
Jaiswal claimed that Bhatt was examined by the Central Bureau of Investigation in March 2018 in a case of alleged wrongdoing in disbursing loans to fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya.
“The above shows clear conflict of interest of Mr OP Bhatt which in the respectful submission of the petitioner ought to have been pointed out by Mr Bhatt himself,” the plea stated.
The petitioner said that Sundaresan represented the Adani Group as a lawyer before various forums, including the SEBI board.
Jaiswal also questioned the inclusion of Kamath, who was the chairperson of ICICI Bank from 1996 to 2009, saying that he had “figured” in the first information report of the Central Bureau of Investigation in the ICICI Bank fraud case.
“The petitioner respectfully submits that in light of above, there is an apprehension that the present expert committee would fail to inspire confidence among the people of the country,” the plea read. “It is therefore respectfully prayed, a fresh expert committee may be constituted by this Hon’ble court with experts from the field of finance, law and the stock market with impeccable integrity, and who have no conflict of interest in the outcome of the instant matter.”
Scroll has contacted Bhatt, Sundaresan and Kamath, asking for their response to the allegations. The story will be updated if they respond.