Make RIL party to SEBI-CIC dispute: HC

The Bombay High Court on Tuesday directed that Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) be made a party to the case between the Securities & Exchange Board of India, Central Information Commission (CIC), and lawyer and right to information activist Arun Kumar Agarwal, who is seeking the release of names involved in an insider trading case.
The division bench comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and A A Sayed said since the matter relates to a probe against RIL, the company should be given a chance to present its case. It posted the next hearing for 19 December.

Agarwal, using the RTI Act, has sought from SEBI the names of individuals, partners, directors and major shareholders involved in the short sale of shares of Reliance Petroleum in November 2007. He had also sought the names of brokerages through which the alleged short-sales were done.

This led to a dispute between market regulator SEBI and the CIC.

On 22 November, SEBI had filed a petition against the CIC, the country's apex body monitoring the enforcement of the RTI Act, after its Chief Information Commissioner Satyananda Mishra asked SEBI to disclose all details related to the case, which SEBI refused to do.

The court has now directed the lawyers of SEBI to take instructions from their client if it could disclose the file notings and the underlying process of the consent route circular to the RTI applicant.

The court's observations came after Agrawal alleged that Mukesh Ambani-owned RIL and SEBI have been trying to resolve the case through a so-called consent process, by which the individual or entity being investigated pays a fine and the regulator drops the case and also all charges of wrongdoing. He said RIL was trying to settle the case by paying just Rs10 crore, even though the alleged unlawful gains amount to Rs 500 crore.