More than a month after the Hindenburg Research report's damning allegations of corruption sent Adani stocks crashing down, the Supreme Court has appointed a panel to probe the matter. After rejecting the government's recommendations in a closed envelop, the apex court itself picked six experts, including two retired judges, to take a closer look at the claims. The Adani Group which has been challenged by Hindenburg to sue it in a US court, has welcomed the move, saying that truth will prevail.
Given the concerns regarding exposure of banks to Adani, its only apt that two veteran bankers are part of the committee. At the same time a tech CEO, and an opinionated lawyer in the race to become Bombay HC Judge, have also joined the team.
Here's an introduction to the experience of the panelists and their experience with corporate probes.
Retired Justice AM Sapre, former SC judge
Having served as a judge in the apex court himself till 2019, Abhay Mohan Sapre is already heading a committee which is responsible for the sales of assets of bankrupt real estate firm Unitech. As for corporate litigation, he is also overseeing refunds for homebuyers, who need their money back for medical expenses and other emergencies.
Retired Justice JP Deodhar, former HC judge
As a former judge of the Bombay High Court, JP Deodhar is known for allowing the IT department to probe the Aditya Birla Group's acquisition of AT&T in IDEA. He had also rejected a plea by Vodafone against the tax department's demand for Rs 12,000 crore after it took over Hutch.
Known for his strict stance on compliance, the retired judge Deodhar was heading a committee for probing a building collapse in Mumbai, where 11 people lost their lives.
OP Bhatt, former State Bank of India Chairman
Bhatt was the SBI Chairman between 2006 and 2011, which is hailed as an era when the state-owned lender became a part of the Fortune 500 club. But his term at the helm of the leading PSB, was also marked by controversial moves, such as loans to absconding defaulter Vijay Mallya.
Bhatt was one of a dozen banking officials who came under CBI's scanner, for failing to conduct a forensic audit into Kingfisher Airlines' financial health, before lending money. He had been calld for questioning by CBI and faced travel restrictions till 2021, when they were scrapped by the Bombay HC.
KV Kamath, founder and ex-CEO at ICICI Bank
The veteran banker, without naming Adani, has already stated that one firm doesn't shape a country's economy. Kamath has previously served as CEO of private banking major ICICI for 13 years, and was a mentor to his successor Chanda Kochhar.
In 2019, the CBI had named Kamath in a probe into the ICICI fraud case, involving loans for Videocon sanctioned by his Kochhar, which led to financial benefits for her husband. The move had also triggered criticism of the agency by then Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
Nandan Nilekani, Co-founder and ex-CEO at Infosys
Known for being one of Indian IT sector's pioneers, and is credited for a six-fold increase in the topline of Infosys during his term as CEO. As the first chairman of the UIDAI, Nilekani also helped the government create and implement Aadhar. More recently, he also helped build the Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC), designed to help common vendors grow without Amazon and Flipkart.
In 2020, Nilekani defended the decision to withhold whistleblower complaints about unethical dealings by Infosys CEO Salil Parikh and his CFO, from SEBI. This forced the concerned employees to go to the media, and the news led to a 15 per cent crash in Infosys stocks, leaving a Rs 50,000 crore in its market cap.
Somasekhar Sundaresan, journalist turned advocate
The former journalist who started off his practice as a lawyer in the ports sector, has been known for representing the National Stock Exchange as well. Sundaresan focuses largely on SEBI-related matters and competition law, and has represented the likes of Glenmark Pharma as well as Cyrus Mistry in his battle against Tata.
Sundaresan is also in the race to become a Bombay High Court Judge, and while the SC collegium backs him, the Department of Justice has opposed his elevation. The centre feels that he is biased and opinionated, because of his criticism of government policies on social media.
This panel of six people with diverse experiences, overseeing, conducting and facing corporate probes, has been tasked with submitting a report to the Supreme Court in two months.
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