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Volume IconWho is the mysterious yogi in the NSE saga?

At the heart of the National Stock Exchange controversy is a mysterious yogi everyone is talking about now. Did the mystic really lived in the Himalayas and guided Chitra Ramkrishna ? Here's a report

ImageSamie Modak New Delhi
nse, National Stock Exchange

National Stock Exchange

Let us first briefly go through what the controversy is. Chitra Ramkrishna was appointed joint MD of NSE in 2009 and was promoted to CEO in 2013.

Besides playing a key role at NSE, she was also closely involved with the team that put in place a framework to set up the Securities and Exchange Board of India.

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After she took over as chief executive, NSE’s daily average turnover, including both cash and derivatives, doubled to Rs 3.5 trillion, from Rs 1.6 trillion in the three-and-a-half years.

But now the flip side. In February 2022, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) charged Ramkrishna and other NSE officials for alleged governance lapses and for violating securities contract rules in the hiring at the senior levels and appointment of Anand Subramanian as the chief strategic advisor and his re-designation as group operating officer and advisor to MD.

Subramanian, a mid-level official in one of Balmer Lawrie’s subsidiaries in Calcutta, suddenly became Ramkrishna’s principal advisor. He moved in the office with all the authority and had access to all the information at the high-security exchange.

And when questioned, Ramkrishna told the probe agency that she did all this on the direction of the yogi passed on to her through an email.

Now, according to a letter written by former NSE chairman Ashok Chawla to the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi), the mysterious Himalayan ‘yogi’ could be none other than Anand Subramanian.

Subramanian was group operating officer of the NSE and advisor to Ramkrishna during 2015-16. He joined as Chief Strategic Advisor in April 2013.

Chawla’s letter, dated July 6, 2018, and addressed to Madhabi Puri Buch, former whole-time member (WTM) of Sebi, provides evidence of why Subramanian was behind the email address, which the latest Sebi order says belongs to an “unknown person”.

According to the letter, which has been reviewed by Business Standard, “The Skype accounts in the name of ‘anand.subamanian9’ and ‘sironmani.10’, which were found on Mr Subramanian’s NSE desktop, were configured in the Skype application database and linked to the email ID and the mobile number used by Mr Subramanian.”

Further, the word documents sent from the said email id show the author as Subramanian, and the difference between the time of creation of documents and the time of email attachments was only a few minutes. Also, images sent from the email ID had a geo-tag of the address of Subramanian’s Chennai residence, it mentioned.

The email ID showed a booking made at Umaid Bhawan Palace around the same time Subramanian’s bank statement showed payment of around Rs 2.4 lakh made to the hotel.

In a reply to a query by Business Standard, Chawla said, “The basis (of my letter) was an EY forensic audit. I have nothing to say.”

The Sebi order issued this month also stated that a forensic investigation by EY had concluded that the unknown person was Subramanian.

Interestingly, on June 20, 2018, NSE board members Dinesh Kanabar and Prakash Parthasarthy grilled Ramkrishna about the identity of the unknown person with whom she exchanged correspondence. The former NSE CEO told them that “she believed the person was a siddha-purusha who had no physical persona and could materialise at will”.

According to the letter, Ramkrishna told the NSE board members that the confidential information shared by her wasn’t used for personal or monetary gains. She further told them that while she took guidance from the spiritual person, all her decisions in the course of her work were her alone.

Sebi whole-time member Ananta Barua, however, has held that the report doesn’t provide conclusive finding that Subramanian was the unknown person.

Legal experts said Sebi orders are quasi-judicial in nature where the adjudicating officer has the liberty to conclude one way or the other based on the evidence.

After whistlebowler complaints against Subramanian emerged in 2015, Sebi wrote to the NSE on three occasions between March 2016 and September 2016, seeking an explanation.

The NSE, which was then headed by Ramkrishna, was evasive. This prompted Sebi to send three more reminders in October, November, and December. Finally, in November 2017, the exchange’s nomination and remuneration committee (NRC) submitted a detailed report.

Sebi then embarked upon a tedious exercise of going through voluminous documents of the NSE’s board meetings, internal committee meetings, and HR records for a period between 2013 and 2016 to establish lapses and fix responsibility at the NSE.

Ramkrishna’s email correspondence to the unknown person came to Sebi’s notice only in 2018. In 2019, Sebi composed a detailed examination report. Within months, it issued show-cause notices to the NSE, Ramkrishna, Subramanian, and former MD & CEO Ravi Narain, and two others.

The regulator then had to provide hearing opportunities to all the individuals. The process was further delayed by the outbreak of Covid-19. The final order in the matter culminated in February 2022.

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First Published: Feb 25 2022 | 8:30 AM IST

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