The Supreme Court today accepted market regulator SEBI’s contention that over 1500 cases of banned ponzi schemes were referred to other agencies for further probe as they did not fall under its jurisdiction.
The disposal of the PIL by the apex court, which agreed to the submission of SEBI, led lawyer Prashant Bhushan, appearing for an NGO, to start arguments on a high pitch and allege that this approach would render the jurisdiction of PILs, devised to help poor, “meaningless”. However, Bhushan’s statement did not go down well with the bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar which shot back saying “Who are you?” “All the orders of SEBI are available on its website and aggrieved persons can challenge them and they may hire you (Bhushan) as a counsel as well”, the bench said, adding that the PIL is disposed of and “no further action” is required.
“The investigations have already been transferred to other agencies which are beyond the jurisdiction of SEBI. These are responsible agencies. What else do you want? A super agency above the Supreme Court, the President, what is the solution,” the bench also comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and S K Kaul, asked. Perusing the joint affidavit filed by the Centre and the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), the bench said it was in agreement with the regulator on rightly transferring 1538 cases to other empowered agencies. The apex court noted that a comprehensive legislation was already under the government’s consideration and trashed the argument advanced by Bhushan, appearing for the NGO ‘Humanity Salt Lake’, that the matter should be kept pending.
“Who are you to ask? If there is something, the parties concerned will approach us or hire you as a counsel. You are a private person who has no authority to ask question. Whenever there is something substantial, we will pass directions. You point out if a serious fraud has been committed. You are asking for a super agency to control all such wrongs,” the court said. Despite reluctance from the bench to entertain the PIL, Bhushan submitted that there has been a spurt in such fraudulent activities over the last few years and there was an urgent need for the top court to intervene in the matter.
The activist lawyer said he was espousing the cause of lakhs of people through this PIL who have been swallowed by these investment schemes and only this court could provide them the requisite solution.
The apex court had earlier sought to know from the Centre and SEBI about the status of 1538 cases of banned Ponzi schemes which were referred to other agencies for probe. The Centre had told the court that SEBI had passed interim orders against 299 entities, including 76 Collective Investment Schemes (CIS) and 223 Deemed Public Issues (DPI).
Over 1000 cases, which did not fall under the SEBI’s jurisdiction, have been transferred to other agencies which have jurisidiction over them, it had said. SEBI in its affidavit had earlier informed the apex court that ponzi schemes did not fall under its regulatory purview and only the state governments concerned can control them. The stock market regulator had also told the apex court that it has been “alert and proactive in tackling the menace of unauthorised money mobilisation”. It had said that “during last three years, on completion of examination with respect to the applicability of the SEBI Act, 1992 and regulations, SEBI passed interim order against 299 entities, including 76 CIS and 223 DPI.
SEBI said that it has referred 1657 cases to various agencies as activities of these entities did not fall in its regulatory purview.