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SAT to hear Reliance Industries' appeal against SEBI Friday

The Securities Appellate Tribunal will hear tomorrow Reliance Industries' appeal against Sebi in a case related to rejection of a settlement plea filed by the corporate major with the market regulator.

Mumbai: The Securities Appellate Tribunal will hear Friday Reliance Industries' appeal against Sebi in a case related to rejection of a settlement plea filed by the corporate major with the market regulator.

Reliance Industries (RIL) had sought to settle certain investigations into alleged violation of insider trading norms in sale of shares of its erstwhile subsidiary Reliance Petroleum Ltd, but the application to settle of the matter under Sebi's consent framework was rejected by the regulator.

While there were no official word on the contents of the appeal, sources said that RIL has challenged Sebi's decision to reject its application and also the changes made by Sebi in the regulations governing settlement of cases through consent mechanism -- especially for cases already under consideration.

Under Sebi's consent mechanism, companies can seek to settle cases with the market regulator after payment of certain charges and disgorgement of any ill-gotten gains.

In May 2012, Sebi tightened the regulations for settlement through consent framework, as a result of which many cases including those related to insider trading, cannot be settled through this mechanism.

RIL's appeal against Sebi (Securities and Exchange Board of India) was earlier scheduled to heard by SAT for admission purpose on January 4, but the Tribunal adjourned the hearing to January 11.

Sebi on January 3 made public a list of 149 consent applications, including 16 from various entities related to RIL group, which it had found unsuitable for settlement through consent process.

These include applications of Reliance Industries Ltd itself, as also various group companies and that of RIL Chairman Mukesh Ambani's close aide Manoj Modi.

As per Sebi, these 149 consent applications were rejected as they were not found to be in consonance with the revised guidelines. Sebi said that proceedings in these cases will continue in accordance with law.

These include 13 applications from various entities in a case involving alleged violation of Sebi regulations for 'Prohibition of fraudulent and unfair trade practices' in a matter of RIL's erstwhile subsidiary Reliance Petroleum Ltd.

Besides, there are three applications related to alleged violation of 'Prohibition of Insider Trading Regulations' in the matter of another erstwhile RIL group company - Indian Petrochemicals Corporation Ltd (IPCL) - which used to be a government-owned company and was later acquired by Mukesh Ambani-led group as part of a disinvestment exercise.

Both the companies, Reliance Petroleum and IPCL, used to be separately listed entities, but were later acquired by RIL and got delisted from the stock exchanges. The merger process for RPL was completed in 2009.

In the IPCL case, Sebi has rejected consent pleas of Reliance Petroinvestments Ltd, Alaska Mercantile Co Pvt Ltd, as also one from Manoj Modi and Smita Modi.

Manoj Modi is considered a close aide of Mukesh Ambani and also serves on key positions in some of the RIL companies.

In the RPL matter, Sebi has rejected consent pleas of Reliance Industries Ltd itself, as also that of Reliance ports & Terminals Ltd, LPG Infrastructure (India) Ltd and Vinamra Universal Traders.

The other applicants in this matter were Gujarat Petcoke and Petroproducts Supply, Relogistics (Rajasthan) Pvt Ltd, Relogistics (India) Pvt Ltd, Relpol Plastic Products, Darshan Securities, Fine Tech Commercials, Dharti Investment & Holdings, Aarthik Commercials and Mo Tech Software.

RIL had earlier also sought to settle the matter through consent mechanism at least twice, but the proposals were rejected by Sebi terming the proposed charges as too less.

As per Sebi's preliminary investigations, RIL is said to have gained nearly Rs 4,500 crore through sale of shares in RPL, pegging the total charges for consent settlement at nearly three-times of this amount as per earlier consent regulations.

RIL's appeal before SAT follows fresh show-cause notices issued by Sebi to the corporate giant with regard to the alleged irregularities in its share dealings, sources said.

In the past also, Sebi has issued show-cause notices to RIL in cases involving sale of shares of RPL and allotment of shares to certain firms against warrants linked to privately placed debentures issued by RIL.

In the case involving sale of shares of RPL, Sebi is said to have been investigating for a long time the alleged violation of insider trading regulations by RIL.

As per the company's annual report for the fiscal year 2011-12, Sebi had issued it show-cause notices in connection with the sale of shares of erstwhile RPL and the allotment of RIL shares to certain companies against detachable warrants attached to privately placed debentures issued by it.

"The company has submitted its reply to the same," RIL had said in the annual report.


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