[Hindenburg Report] Supreme Court constitutes Expert Committee to review regulatory framework

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The committee has been set up while passing orders in a batch of petitions has sought a probe into the Hindenberg Research report on the Adani Group.

The Supreme Court today constituted an expert committee to review the regulatory mechanism in the light of Adani-Hindenburg issue.

Notably, the Committee will be headed by former Supreme Court judge Justice AM Sapre and will consist of OP Bhat (former Chairman of SBI), retired Justice JP Devadhar, KV Kamath, Nandan Nilakeni, and Somasekharan Sundaresan as the members.

Court has also directed the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) to complete the investigation into the issue within a period of two months and file a status report before it.

On February 17, the top court had reserved its order in a batch of pleas seeking a probe in connection with the Hindenburg Research report on the Adani Group. Court said that it is inclined to maintain 'full transparency' in the matter.

A bench of Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, Justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala was hearing a batch of petitions seeking an investigation against US-based Hindenburg Research and others seeking an investigation against Adani Group over allegations made by Hindenburg Research.

The bench said that it'll not accept the sealed cover suggestions filed by the Government because they want to maintain full transparency and if they accept suggestions in a sealed cover, it will be like they keep it away from another side, and people will think that it is a government-appointed committee.

It may be noted that recently, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had submitted his apprehension before the Supreme Court appointing an expert committee to look into the Hindenburg Report.

"Existing agencies are fully equipped. However, responding to your lordships suggestions, we have no objection in constituting a committee. The only thing is, we don't want to send a message that a government agency needs to be overseen by a committee...", the SG had submitted before a CJI Chandrachud-led bench.

SG Mehta had added that this needed to be considered as a foreign investment that must not be hampered.

Earlier, the Supreme Court had directed the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) to submit an overall report on the situation.

CJI Chandrachud led bench had recently agreed to hear a plea which also sought direction to set up a committee monitored by a retired apex court judge to investigate the Hindenburg Research report.

The Supreme Court also took up Advocate ML Sharma's petition which seeks to declare 'short-selling' as an offense of fraud. The said petition seeks an investigation against Nathan Anderson, the founder of Hindenburg, "for exploiting innocent Investors via short selling under the garb of artificial crashing".

On January 24, a US-based investment research firm named Hindenburg Research published a report titled 'Adani Group: How The World’s 3rd Richest Man Is Pulling The Largest Con In Corporate History', making allegations against the conglomerate, saying that the group has been involved 'in a brazen stock manipulation and accounting fraud scheme over the course of decades.' 

The report led to a stock rout, erasing over $ 100 billion from Adani's empire and pushing him down on the global rich list. Also, the report came two days before a $2.5 billion follow-up public offering was issued by Adani Enterprises.

Congress Leader Jaya Thakur has also filed a plea before the Supreme Court seeking the prosecution of the Adani Group and questioning the decision of the State Bank of India (SBI) and the Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) to invest in Adani shares at allegedly inflated prices.

Case Title: Vishal Tiwari vs. Union of India & Other Connected Matters