New Delhi: Sebi is set to reopen its probe into multi-crore IPO scam of 2003-2006, after more than a year of declaring as 'null and void' the charges made by its own committee against depository NSDL and others in the matter.

Sebi will discuss afresh in its next board meeting on June 30 a two-member committee's investigation report on the scam, except the part where the market regulator itself was accused of failing in its regulatory role, sources said.

Still, this will be probably the first instance of Sebi revisiting an issue previously dismissed by it, as also an unprecedented case of the regulator being open to a report, where its own role has been criticised.

The committee, comprising the then Sebi board members G Mohan Gopal and V Leeladhar, was constituted in 2008 to look into NSDL's role in the IPO scam and it found various lapses on part of the depository, as also the Sebi itself.

Sebi declared the findings as 'null and void' on the ground that the committee had breached its mandate in making these charges.

However, Sebi has now agreed to revisit the matter after an intervention by the Supreme Court.

Commenting on the case, Sebi's former Executive Director Sandeep Parekh said that Sebi should be open to its self-criticism.

Replying to emailed queries, Parekh said, "I believe that Sebi should be open to self critical examination. In the specific case, the Board seemed to have assumed powers of a writ court by setting aside a quasi judicial order".

"This appears without power and so the Supreme Court is giving a chance to the new board of Sebi to reverse its previous action," Parekh said, who is an expert on financial market laws and runs financial sector boutique law firm Finsec Law Advisors.

The Mohan Gopal Committee's findings would come alive again at Sebi's next board meeting, but the regulator would consider the contents of the report as "recommendations and suggestions" rather than a stricture against any entity, including Sebi, sources said.

The issue may still open a pandora's box, as the charges were made against NSDL for a period when it had C B Bhave as its chief, while Sebi declared the two-member committee's probe into the matter as 'non-existent' at a time when Bhave was serving as Chairman of the regulatory authority.

While Bhave had rescued himself from the meetings whenever the NSDL matter was discussed, it has been still alleged in various court petitions that he might have influenced the decision of other Sebi board members. Bhave served as Sebi Chairman for three years till February 17, 2011. Prior to joining Sebi, Bhave was heading NSDL, the leading national depository that enables holding of shares and other securities in demat or electronic format.

Incidentally, it recently became public through a RTI (Right to Information) query that Mohan Gopal wrote to Prime Minister in December, 2010 that Sebi board abused its powers to protect Bhave from facing an independent inquiry with respect to his actions as NSDL Chairman during the IPO scam.

Mohan Gopal had served as an independent board member of Sebi, while Leeladhar was on its board as an RBI nominee.

The PMO had forwarded Mohan Gopal's letter to the Finance Ministry, which in turn forwarded the same to the Sebi, but did not get a reply despite three reminders.

NSDL had first come under scanner in 2006 in connection with the IPO scam, wherein various entities had fraudulently cornered shares reserved for retail investors and sold them later after the listing.

The depository was accused of not following best practices to detect opening of thousands of fictitious accounts in the name of retail investors for share allotment in IPOs between 2003 and 2006.

After investigating into the matter, the Mohan Gopal Committee submitted in December, 2008 that NSDL failed in its duty and also made adverse remarks about the manner in which Sebi had handled the issue of IPO scam.

The matter reached the Supreme Court earlier this year after a special leave petition was filed in the apex court against Sebi's rejection of the committee report.



(Agencies)