Only way to probe Adani issue is through JPC, any other panel will be 'exercise in exoneration': Congress
The Congress on Saturday asserted that the only way to comprehensively investigate the Adani issue is through a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) with appropriate powers as any other panel will be reduced to an "exercise in legitimation and exoneration".
The Opposition party's assertion came a day after Home Minister Amit Shah said that anyone who has evidence of wrongdoing in the matter is free to submit it to the Supreme Court-appointed expert committee.
The Congress has been persistent on its attack on the government weeks after Adani Group stocks took a beating on the bourses after US-based short seller Hindenburg Research made a litany of allegations, including fraudulent transactions and share-price manipulation.
The Gautam Adani-led group has dismissed the charges as lies, saying it complies with all laws and disclosure requirements.
Posing a set of three questions to Prime Minister Narendra Modi as part of the party's "Hum Adani ke Hain Kaun" series, Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh referred to Shah's remarks and underlined that the mandate of the Supreme Court-appointed committee is to provide an overall assessment of the situation including the relevant causal factors which have led to the volatility in the securities market in the recent past.
The panel's mandate is to suggest measures to strengthen investor awareness, 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 strengthen the statutory and/or regulatory framework, and secure compliance with the existing framework for the protection of investors, Ramesh said.
"Clearly, the expert committee's mandate excludes the main charge against you: that you have sought to enrich your close friend and financier Gautam Adani at any cost," Ramesh said, addressing the prime minister.
The expert committee has no formal jurisdiction over investigations by SEBI and any other investigative agency and 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 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," he pointed out.
"We would like to remind you that Chief Justice CV Ramana reportedly stated on 25 August 2022 that your government refused to cooperate with the committee investigating the illegal use of Pegasus malware in India, setting a disturbing precedent," he said.
Ramesh said that given this history, is it not obvious that the only way to comprehensively investigate the Adani scam is through a 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?" he said.
"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," he said.
What is the guarantee that the same fate does not await the report into the Adani scam, he asked.
"Does this not call, once again, for a JPC to ensure that all the relevant aspects are taken into account?" Ramesh said.
Asked about the probe against the Adani Group, Shah on Friday said the Supreme Court has constituted a two-member committee with retired judges and everyone should go and submit to it whatever proof they have.
"No one should be spared if any wrong has been done. Everyone should have faith in the judicial process," he said.
He said people should not make baseless allegations as they can't last long.
The home minister said market regulator SEBI has informed the court in an affidavit that it is probing the matter.
"The Supreme Court told SEBI to continue its probe, which is parallel to the other probe and submit it to the Supreme Court. SEBI has already been told and SEBI conveyed that it was conducting the investigation," he said.
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