Adani case: Plea claims conflict of interest in court-appointed panel  

A fresh petition notes that the committee has members with potential conflict of interest and there is a need to appoint a fresh panel to probe allegations raised by US-based short seller Hindenburg.
Adani Group chairman Gautam Adani (Photo | AFP)
Adani Group chairman Gautam Adani (Photo | AFP)

NEW DELHI:   A fresh petition filed in the Supreme Court has alleged links between the apex court-appointed expert committee members and billionaire Gautam Adani.

 The petition notes that the committee has members with potential conflict of interest and there is a need to appoint a fresh panel to probe allegations raised by the US-based short seller Hindenburg Research.  

Petitioner Anamika Jaiswal claimed the appointment of former State Bank of India Chairman OP Bhatt, who is part of the six-member committee, is conflicted as he is also the head of renewable energy firm Greenko, which has commercial dealings with the Adani group.

The petition cited Greenko’s March 14, 2022, statement announcing the supply of up to 1,000 megawatts of renewable electricity to Adani’s proposed industrial complex. It also cited a news report of a partnership between the two being entered in Davos. “The above shows a clear conflict of interest of OP Bhatt...ought to have been pointed out by Bhatt himself,” the petition said.

The petitioner claimed the CBI also examined Bhatt in March 2018 in a case of alleged wrongdoing in disbursing loans to the former liquor baron and fugitive economic offender Vijay Mallya, who is accused of defrauding banks, including SBI, of $1.2 billion.

In May 2023, the report of the 6-member expert committee set up by the Supreme Court gave a clean chit to the Adani group on charges of stock price manipulation based on the information provided by the market regulator Sebi. The panel has also refused to conclude in its report that there was a regulatory failure by Sebi.

The petition also found faults with two other members of the panel -- K V Kamath, who served as ICICI Bank’s chairman between 1996 and 2009, and Somashekhar Sundaresan, a lawyer who had represented Adani in various forums including the Sebi board.

The other three members were Abhay Manohar Sapre, retired Justice JP Devadhar and businessman Nandan Nilekani.  Kamath, it claimed, had figured in a CBI FIR in ICICI Bank fraud case relating to alleged kickbacks former MD and CEO Chanda Kocchar received for loans given to Videocon group. “There is an apprehension that the expert committee would fail to inspire confidence among the people of the country,” it said.

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