Adani-Hindenburg Case Petitioner Alleges Conflict of Interest of SC-Appointed Expert Panel

The petitioner has filed an application with the Supreme Court asking for the committee to be reconstituted.

New Delhi: A petitioner in the Adani-Hindenburg case has urged the Supreme Court to make a new expert committee, alleging conflict of interest by the current one.

In early March, the Supreme Court had constituted the committee headed by former Supreme Court judge, Justice A. M. Sapre, to look into whether a regulatory failure had led to investors losing money after the short seller Hindenburg Research’s report pointed to fraud and manipulation by the Adani Group.

The committee also has former bankers K.V. Kamath and O.P. Bhatt, Infosys cofounder Nandan Nilekani, securities lawyer Somasekhar Sundaresan and retired high court judge J.P. Devadhar. This committee was formed after the apex court rejected the names suggested by the Union government in a sealed cover as members of the committee, and announced the formation of its won expert committee.

The six-member panel had submitted its report in a sealed cover to the apex court on May 8.

The petitioner has filed an application saying that many in the panel may have conflicts of interest.

“It is submitted that Mr O.P. Bhatt, one of the members of the Expert Committee, and the former chairman of State Bank of India, is
presently working as the Chairman of Greenko, a leading renewable energy company. Since March, 2022 Greenko and Adani Group are working in a close partnership to provide energy to Adani Groups facilities in India. Greenko issued a press release dated 14.03.2022 regarding their partnership,” the petition says.

In addition to this, the petition alleges that Bhatt was examined by the CBI 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 US $1.2 billion.

“Bhatt served as the SBI chairman between 2006 and 2011 when the majority of these loans were advanced to Mallya’s companies. CBI has alleged that the SBI-led consortium of lenders did not conduct any ‘forensic audit’ despite being aware of the ‘poor financial health’ of Mallya’s companies,” the application notes.

The petitioner has also submitted that another member of the expert committee, K.V. Kamath, who was the chairman of ICICI Bank from 1996 to 2009, figured in a CBI FIR in the ICICI Bank fraud case.

“The case relates to Ms. Chanda Kocchar who served as the Managing Director and CEO of ICICI Bank from 2009 to 2018. The CBI alleged that she and her family received various kickbacks over her tenure in lieu of loans provided to the Videocon group, many of which turned into non- performing assets (NPAs). Kamath was the non-executive chairman of the bank when some of those loans were approved and a member of the committee that sanctioned/approved the loans,” the petitioner says.

The petitioner has also repeated that Somashekhar Sundaresan has been a lawyer representing Adani before various forums including the SEBI Board.

It has asked the court to field experts from the “field of finance, law and stock market with impeccable integrity, and who have no conflict of interest in the outcome of the instant matter” and reconstitute the committee.