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Sebi faces heat to name entities in Reliance insider trading case

Sebi has also been asked to give details of the file notings that led to the notification of the consent order mechanism

N Sundaresha Subramanian  |  New Delhi 

The Right to Information (RTI) movement, which has shaken up the government, has begun to knock on the doors of corporate India. In a significant move, the Central Information Commission (CIC), the apex body under the RTI Act, 2005, has directed the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) to share the details of several entities that were involved in the Reliance Petroleum (RPL) insider trading case in 2007.

It also told the regulator to share details of the investigation reports and proceedings on the consent application filed by Reliance Industries (RIL) in this case.

The directions came on an appeal by Arun Kumar Agarwal, a Bangalore-based lawyer. Earlier, the Sebi’s Chief Public Information Officer (CPIO) had refused to share these details with Agarwal under RTI on the grounds that investigations and quasi-judicial proceedings were pending.

But the commission said, “After carefully considering the facts of the case and the submissions made before us, we are inclined to agree to the demand of the appellant that the disclosure of this information would serve a larger public interest,” in an order dated November 6. It added, “We direct the CPIO to provide the first two items of information to the appellant within 10 working days of receiving this order.”

The commission also directed the market regulator to give details of the file notings and other proceedings that led to the notification of the consent order mechanism in 2007. 

  • RIL had sold 4.1% equity in RPL in the open market in Nov 2007
  • To reduce price impact, RIL first short sold RPL in the F&O segment and then the spot market while covering the shorts
  • RIL generated revenues (sale consideration) of Rs 4,023 crore and an estimated profit of Rs 500 crore from the F&O short sale
  • Sebi probed trading pattern in RPL stock between Nov 1 and 29, 2007
  • Sebi said since the company was aware of the sale of equity and sold futures prior to that, it amounted to insider trading
  • The company has maintained all rules and regulations complied with
  • RIL had also said its action was driven by “protection” of market sentiment and the gain was recorded in the company’s balance sheet
  • RPL was merged with parent RIL in 2009 and delisted
  • Sebi first issued a showcause notice to RIL in May 2009

Agarwal has also filed a public interest litigation in the Supreme Court challenging the appointment of Sebi Chairman U K Sinha.

The regulator has the option to move an appeal in the high court against the CIC order. It is not clear if it plans to do so and on what grounds, as the CIC has said it is in public interest to reveal these details. An email questionnaire sent to a Sebi spokesperson did not elicit any response.

Several entities have been identified by the Sebi who were involved in insider trading/short sale of shares of Reliance Petroleum in 2007. The details of these entities are still not in public domain.

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First Published: Fri, November 09 2012. 00:34 IST