‘Serious error’: Relief for NDTV as Bombay HC strikes down SEBI order against news channel
The court said NDTV’s request for a delay in filing settlement applications was elaborate but was ‘summarily rejected by recording a one-line reason’.
The division bench said that the grounds made out for condonation of delay applications filed by the news network were elaborate.
The Bombay High Court on Wednesday granted relief to NDTV promoters Prannoy Roy and Radhika Roy by setting aside the Securities and Exchange Board of India’s orders that rejected the news channel’s delay in filing settlement applications. SEBI had initiated adjudication proceedings against NDTV for alleged violations of the Securities Contract (Regulation) Act, 1956, reported Live Law.
A division bench of Justices Akil Kureshi and SJ Kathawalla said the grounds made out for condonation of delay applications filed by NDTV were elaborate and sufficient. “These grounds were summarily rejected by recording one-line reason that the panel of whole-time members did not find the reasons sufficient,” the court said, adding that in their opinion the board has committed a serious error.
Advocates Fereshte Sethna and Adhiraj Malhotra, representing NDTV, said there was no contraction in minimum public shareholding and non-disclosure of tax demand as opposed what was alleged in the first two show-cause notices given to the channel in the case. They said in the third show-cause notice that SEBI could only trace proof of some of the disclosures but not of the rest.
Advocate Shiraz Rustomjee, appearing for SEBI, argued that the delay in both the cases was substantial, which was not satisfactorily explained. He said the applications for condonation of delay did not disclose any ground for such a long delay.
In 2018, NDTV filed writ petitions challenging SEBI orders dated August 23, 2017 and August 31, 2017 rejecting two separate applications moved by NDTV for condonation of delay. SEBI had initiated adjudication proceedings against NDTV through a show-cause notice dated February 12, 2015, alleging violation of clause 36 of listing agreement on the ground that there was non-disclosure of a tax demand of Rs 450 crore, which was raised under an assessment order dated February 21, 2014 against the company for the year 2009-’10. The markets regulator issued a corrigendum to the first show-cause notice on March 17, 2015.
In its response, NDTV said that they were given legal advice that the tax demand was not required to be reported under clause 36 of the listing agreement. On June 6, 2015, SEBI passed an order holding the petitioner liable for violation of clause 36 of the listing agreement and fined Rs 25 lakh under section 23A of the Securities Contracts (Regulation) Act, 1956. On June 8, 2016 a third show-cause notice was issued alleging further non-disclosures by NDTV.
The Securities and Exchange Board of India had in June barred the Roys from the securities market, as well as from holding any managerial posts in the news network for two years. SEBI said it passed the order because the Roys had allegedly violated insider trading regulations.
The markets regulator had initiated an investigation after an NDTV shareholder claimed that Prannoy Roy, Radhika Roy and RRPR Holdings had not disclosed information about loan agreements they entered into with a company known as Vishvapradhan Commercial. ICICI Bank was also part of this agreement.
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