New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked market regulator Securities Exchange Board of India, or Sebi, to expedite enquiry against global auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in the corporate fraud case involving Satyam Computer Services Ltd.
“Conclude the case within six months from today,” the court said.
A bench comprising Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar, justices N.V. Ramana and D.Y. Chandrachud was hearing a plea filed by Sebi seeking a stay of an order passed by Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT) in June 2015 that allowed PwC to cross examine B. Ramalinga Raju, the former managing director of now-defunct Satyam Ltd.
Sebi is investigating the role of the auditing firm that worked for Satyam between 2000 and 2008. Two senior partners—S. Gopalakrishnan and Srinivas Talluri—had certified Satyam’s audit reports in that period. PwC has challenged Sebi’s power to conduct an enquiry of a chartered accountancy firm regulated by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI).
Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing on behalf of PwC, alleged that Sebi has unfairly denied access of important statements of accused to it.The apex court took a stern view of Sebi’s actions and directed that material collected by Sebi for the enquiry must be made available for inspection by PwC.
“The trial that began in 2010 is still going on. You (Sebi) are following a trend that every order must be challenged only because there’s some bigger court you can go to,” the court said in an oral observation.
In a seperate investigation related to the Satyam fraud, Sebi in September 2016 asked Raju and nine entities linked to him to return over Rs1,800 crore of illegal gains made by them. SAT has stayed the penalty order.
On 10 April, a special court sentenced Raju, and nine others to seven years of rigorous imprisonment after convicting them. All 10 have challenged the verdict.