Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) chairman UK Sinha on Friday expressed disappointment over Indian companies’ inability to appoint even one woman director on their boards and warned of serious consequences against those failing to abide by the rule.
“I find it very shameful that this country, (with) about 8,000-9,000 listed companies, cannot find even one woman who is competent enough to be on their board. Any requirement, including the requirement of a woman director, is something which has to be enforced. If people do not follow it willingly, then it will have consequences as per law and it can be very serious,” Sinha told reporters on the sidelines of Sebi’s second International Research Conference.
Data compiled by Prime Database show that many large-cap and PSU companies are still to appoint at least one woman director on their boards as required by the guidelines.
As many as 451 listed companies from National Stock Exchange (NSE) are still to meet the March 31 deadline to appoint at least one woman director to meet the Corporate Governance Code introduced by Sebi about a year ago.
At least 27 public sector undertakings are yet to meet this guideline as also large-cap companies like L&T, Hero MotoCorp, and all the three listed Adani group firms. PSUs that have so far failed to comply with the rule include Oil Natural Gas Corp (ONGC), National Thermal Power Corp (NTPC), NMDC, Container and Corp. PSU lenders like Punjab National Bank (PNB), Indian Bank and Oriental Bank are also yet to appoint women directors.
Among other things, Sinha said Sebi would announce guidelines for the development of the Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT), an international financial service centre, before April 1. The Sebi board will meet on Sunday to discuss and finalise GIFT-City regulations and finance minister Arun Jaitley will make the key note address.
“We are in constant touch with RBI, and the RBI and Sebi will come out with (GIFT City) formulations before April 1. There are challenges on how you treat the territory — whether Indian or foreign. Will Fema apply or not?” Sinha said.
The market regulator is also in the process of formulating easier rules for initial public offerings (IPOs) of start-up companies and aims to notify draft regulations in 3-4 months. Sinha told reporters that Sebi recently met about 50 people in Bengaluru to understand their requirements and highlighted that these companies have very niche and specific business models for which a certain set of rules have to be developed.
“We want our companies to list in India rather than being forced to do so in another country. We had a discussion with the primary market advisory committee (PMAC). We hope that, within 3-4 months, we will have our policy in place,” Sinha added.
Sebi is also engaged in a dialogue with the Reserve Bank of India on formulating new rules on wilful defaulters, Sinha said. “Tackling willful defaulters has various dimensions. We are in dialogue with RBI and hope to come out with our policy very soon,” Sinha said.