The Supreme Court on Friday indicated that it may grant three months more time to the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) to complete its probe into the controversy surrounding the Hindenburg Research report on the Adani Group.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) D.Y. Chandrachud and comprising justices P.S. Narasimha and J.B. Pardiwala said that it accepts the petitioners' point that Sebi cannot take indefinitely long period to complete its probe and "we are not going to give them six months, we give them three months", adding that it is not keen on accepting Sebi's request to grant six-month extension to complete the probe.
The Chief Justice told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing Sebi, "We will now place the matter for around mid-August that will give you three months' time. You complete your investigation in three months and come back to us, because there has to be some alacrity... We cannot say that you need a minimum of six months."
The top court said that it has received the report submitted by the court-appointed expert committee headed by retired apex court judge Justice A.M. Sapre.
The apex court was hearing an application moved by Sebi seeking an extension of six months to submit its probe report. The six-month extension was vehemently opposed by advocate Prashant Bhushan.
The Chief Justice said the report of the committee headed by Justice Sapre has been received in the registry and it will examine it over the weekend and then pronounce the order on Sebi's application on Monday.
Bhushan argued before the court that Sebi should have disclosed to the court the information on the investigation conducted so far.
"We must know what investigations have been done so far in this matter, because Hindenburg is not levelling these allegations for the first time," said Bhushan, who represented a petitioner.
The Chief Justice replied, "Mr Bhushan, it is not a criminal investigation that we are looking at the case diary. It would not be proper at this stage."
Tushar Mehta said, "I have taken instruction from Sebi's highest administrative level. Six months are also a compressed period and I am saying it with a degree of sincerity. I will not be promising something, which we also know is something not achievable."
On April 29, Sebi had moved the Supreme Court seeking six-month extension to complete its probe into the Hindenburg allegations of "stock manipulation" by the Adani Group.
Sebi had said: "Applicant/Sebi most respectfully submits that keeping in view the forgoing circumstances, it would take further time to arrive at verified findings and conclude the investigationa for ascertaining possible violations related to mis-representation of financials, circumvention of regulations and/or fraudulent nature of transactions in respect of 12 suspicious transactions... Given the complexity of the matter, Sebi in the normal course would take at least 15 months for completion of the investigation of these transactions, but it is making all reasonable endeavours to conclude the same within six months."
Sebi had submitted that in order to conduct a proper investigation and arrive at verified findings, it would be just, expedient and in the interest of justice that the apex court extends time to conclude the investigation by at least six months.
The apex court, in an order passed on March 2, had set a deadline to submit a status report on May 2, while asking Sebi to expeditiously conclude the investigation and file a status report.