Congress sees Amit Shah ‘cover-up’ bid on Adani investigation
The Congress has accused home minister Amit Shah of creating a misleading impression that the Supreme Court-appointed expert committee would probe all the charges against the Adani group, arguing that the panel’s limited mandate and scope left out the main concerns.
Shah had in an interview with a TV channel on Friday said that anyone who had evidence of wrongdoing relating to the Adani group was free to submit it before the apex court-appointed expert committee, set up on March 2.
Congress communications chief Jairam Ramesh asked the Prime Minister: “Why is the home minister, your close political ally, misleading the people of India? By misrepresenting the limited mandate of the expert committee, are you both preparing the ground for a cover-up?”
Ramesh added: “The expert committee’s mandate excludes the main charge against you (Prime Minister): that you have sought to enrich your close friend and financier Gautam Adani at any cost; that you have pressurised regulators and investigative agencies to turn a blind eye to blatant wrongdoing by your cronies, be it money-laundering via shell companies or dubious associations with Chinese nationals accused, among other things, of illicit trading with the China- and Pakistan-allied North Korea.
“And that you have compelled the Centre, state governments and foreign governments to steer business towards the Adani group, granting it monopolies in ports, airports, defence and other critical sectors at the expense of consumers and taxpayers.”
The mandate of the expert committee is:
■ To provide an overall assessment of the situation including the relevant causal factors that have led to volatility in the securities market in the recent past;
■ To suggest measures to strengthen investor awareness;
■ To investigate whether there has been regulatory failure in dealing with the alleged contravention of laws pertaining to the securities market in relation to the Adani group or other companies;
■ To suggest measures to (i) strengthen the statutory and/ or regulatory framework; (ii) secure compliance with the existing framework for the protection of investors.
Ramesh said the expert committee had no formal jurisdiction over inquiries by market regulator Sebi or any other investigative agency.
“It lacks the power to enforce summons, to compel the production of evidence or to cross-examine witnesses; and statements before it do not have the same force in terms of evidentiary value as a court of law,” Ramesh said.
“At the most, the Supreme Court has requested the Sebi chairperson to ‘ensure that all requisite information is provided to the committee’ and asked that ‘all agencies of the Union government including agencies connected with financial regulation, fiscal agencies and law enforcement agencies’ cooperate with it.”
Pointing to the Modi government’s track record, Ramesh said: “We would like to remind you that (then) Chief Justice C.V. Ramana stated on August 24, 2022, that your government refused to cooperate with the committee investigating the illegal use of Pegasus malware in India, setting a disturbing precedent.
“Given this history, is it not obvious that the only way to comprehensively investigate the Adani scam is through a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) with appropriate powers? Is it not obvious that any committee other than a JPC, whatever its merits, will be reduced to an exercise in legitimation and exoneration?”
However, Ramesh hoped that “even with its limited mandate, we pray that the expert committee’s report, which is scheduled to be submitted in two months’ time in a ‘sealed cover’, does not meet the same fate as previous such reports”.
“The Pegasus report is yet to see the light of day even though it was submitted in July 2022. What is the guarantee that the same fate does not await the report into the Adani scam?” he said.
“Does this not call, once again, for a JPC to ensure that all the relevant aspects are taken into account?”