In a relief to Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries Ltd group, the Securities Appellate Tribunal has quashed a Sebi order imposing Rs 11 crore fine on Reliance Petroinvestments and has asked the regulator to pass another direction within three months after looking into the matter afresh.
The penalty was imposed by Sebi in May 2013 in an over six-year old insider trading case at that time involving the shares of Reliance Industries’ erstwhile subsidiary IPCL.
After this, Reliance Petroinvestments had approached SAT (Securities Appellate Tribunal), which has now observed that the Sebi order was “passed merely on the basis of presumption without considering the arguments advanced on behalf of the Appellant to rebut the presumption”.
Accordingly, the SAT has now said that “impugned order is quashed and set aside and the matter is restored to the file of Adjudicating Officer of Sebi for passing fresh order on merits and in accordance with law”.
Stating that the company has already deposited the amount of penalty with Sebi, SAT said that “the adjudicating officer of Sebi is directed to hear the Appellant and pass fresh order on merits in accordance with law within three months from today. All contentions are kept open.
“The amount of penalty deposited will be subject to the result of the fresh order that is to be passed by Sebi,” as per the SAT order dated December 7, which was released today.
Pronouncing Reliance Petroinvestments Ltd (RPIL) guilty of violating the insider trading regulations with regard to its dealings in shares of Indian Petrochemicals Corp Ltd (IPCL) in early 2007, Sebi had said in its order that RPIL made profits of over Rs 3.82 crore through these trades.
After taking into account the quantum and nature of the violations, Sebi had decided to impose a penalty of Rs 11 crore on RPIL, which was listed as one of the promoter entities by IPCL itself in its regulatory filings as on March 31, 2006, the regulator had said in its order.
Once a subsidiary of Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), IPCL used to be a separately-listed entity of the group, but was later merged with RIL and delisted from the stock exchanges.
Sebi had said that its investigations into charges of insider trading norm violations by RPIL showed that the company was having control over IPCL as “promoter having control over the company with the total shareholding of approximately 46 per cent”.
Further, RIL was shown as a ‘person(s) acting in concert’ with RPIL with regard to the shareholding of IPCL, Sebi said.
It was held by Sebi that purchase of 21,32,953 shares of IPCL by the Appellant for over Rs 55 crore during the period from February 27, 2007 to March 2, 2007 was in violation of insider trading regulations.
SAT, however, said that apart from denying that it was an insider, the Appellant had placed on record various documents before Sebi to rebut the presumption of being in possession of UPSI at the time of purchasing shares.
The Appellant had also made submission to the effect that the price sensitive information itself came into existence after the shares were purchased by the Appellant, SAT said.
“Neither the documents furnished have been considered nor the arguments advanced on behalf of the Appellant have been considered in the impugned order,” it added.
IPCL originally used to be a government-owned entity and was sold to RIL group during a disinvestment exercise.
Mukesh Ambani was Chairman of IPCL, as well as Chairman and MD of RIL during the period under review, thus putting both the companies under same management, while RPIL held more than one-third of total voting power of IPCL at that time.
Also, RIL held the entire share capital of RPIL through two wholly owned subsidiaries.