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Duties of the regulator and demand of fair trial

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The Hon’ble Supreme Court recently passed an order in the case of Reliance Industries Ltd. v. SEBI & Ors., Criminal Appeal No. 1167/2022 wherein issue was relating to an order dated 28.03.2022 passed by the Bombay High Court.

The case was related to a complaint filed by one Shri S. Gurumurthy before Securities & Exchange Board of India (herein referred as “SEBI”) against Reliance Industries Ltd. alleging fraudulent allotment of 12 crore equity shares of Reliance Industries Ltd. to entities which were apparently connected with the promoters of Reliance Industries Ltd. and were funded by Reliance Industries Ltd. & other group companies in 1994. It was also alleged in the complaint that the Reliance Industries Ltd. and its directors were in violation of Section 77 of the Companies Act, 1956. On the said complaint, SEBI then appointed an investigating officer to inquire & investigate. A report was then submitted after due investigation accordingly on 04.02.2005. It was then alleged that a note was prepared by the Legal Affairs of SEBI on 17.05.2006, wherein it was noted that the report had not brought out any specific violation of any legal provision by Reliance Industries Ltd.

The note however also observed that an opinion was required from an external expert on the possibility of initiating appropriate criminal proceedings against Reliance Industries Ltd. HMJ. (Retd.) B.N. Srikrishna, former judge of Supreme Court was then approached by SEBI who gave his opinion.

Thereafter SEBI sent a letter to Reliance Industries Ltd. on the allegations that Reliance Industries Ltd. had funded purchase of its own shares by 38 related entities and henceforth had violated Section 77 (2) of the Companies Act, 1956 and consequently also violated Regulations 3, 5 and 6 of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Prohibition of Fraudulent and Unfair Trade Practices relating to Securities Market) Regulations, 1995.

Thereafter a showcause notice was also sent by SEBI to the promoters of Reliance Industries Ltd. under Rule 4 of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Procedure for Holding Inquiry and Imposing Penalties by Adjudicating Officer) Rules, 1995 for violation of Regulation 11(1) of the SEBI Takeover Regulations (as it then stood).

The issue then stood at a position wherein Reliance Industries Ltd. filed a settlement application before SEBI without any prejudice to its rights so as to settle the issue once and for all.

However SEBI denied any access to Reliance Industries Ltd., which was seeking copy of the opinion of HMJ. (Retd.) B.N. Srikrishna. With the matter still lingering on, another opinion was sought by SEBI from HMJ. (Retd.) B.N. Srikrishna, this time around Mr. Y.H. Malegam, Chartered Accountant also examined the issue in concern. Thereafter Reliance Industries Ltd.

sought documents pertaining to the opinions/reports submitted which were denied by SEBI. A writ petition was filed by Reliance Industries Ltd. against SEBI denying the documents, unfortunately for Reliance Industries Ltd. Bombay High Court upheld the views of SEBI. That on 16.07.2020 SEBI then filed a complaint in the Court of SEBI Special Judge, Mumbai which was denied by the SEBI Special Judge as the same being time barred.

After which SEBI went in appeal in a Criminal Revision Application before the Bombay High Court. Therein Reliance Industries Ltd. filed an interim application seeking documents pertaining to the opinion of HMJ. (Retd.) B.N. Srikrishna and Mr. Y.H. Malegam, Chartered Accountant, which was denied by the Bombay High Court.

On the issue of document disclosures the Supreme Court while quoting State Bank of Patiala v. SK Sharma, (1996) 3 SCC 364 held that it is the duty of SEBI to act fairly within the principles of natural justice wherein a party cannot be condemned without having been given an adequate opportunity to defend itself. While referring to T. Takano v. Securities and Exchange Board of India 2022 SCC Online SC 210 the Supreme Court also held that there are three fundamental purposes of disclosure of information- a) reliability, b) fair trial, c) transparency and accountability. The approach of SEBI in failing to disclose the documents before the Court raised concerns of transparency and fair trial and the same being against the rule of law as was propelled in the case of S.P. Velumani v. Arappor Iyakkam, 2022 SCC Online SC 663. The Hon’ble Supreme Court then went into differentiating Indian Courts and English Courts on the aspect of confidential & privileged information vis-à-vis section 126 to 129 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.

While holding that SEBI cannot cherry pick the documents it chooses to disclose, the Supreme Court directed SEBI to furnish the documents to Reliance Industries Ltd. as sought by it. Now it must be seen that that any regulating authority does not infringe upon the rights of any party for a fair trial especially in context of disclosing relevant materials & documents to that affected party. In the aforementioned case in hand it is also to be affirmed in mind that there was an Office Memorandum dated 18.7.2011 as part of the record which was issued by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs wherein it was noted that provisions under Section 77 of the Companies Act, 1956 were not attracted against Reliance Industries Ltd. Therefore it further begs the question that how much discretionary rights can a regulatory authority hold while conducting trial against a party concerned.

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Centre increases DA for govt workers by 4%

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The Centre on Wednesday increased the dearness allowance for retirees and government workers by four percent. Anurag Thakur , an union minister, revealed that as a result, the dearness allowance is now up to 38 percent.

The revised dearness allowance will be given to government employees and pensioners in arrears starting on July 1. The Centre typically announces the DA hikes in March and September before implementing them on January 1 and July 1. Dearness allowance is essentially the portion of central government employees’ monthly salaries that is paid to offset the rise in living expenses brought on by compensation.

The dearness allowance had been raised to 34 percent by the Center in March of this year. The new DA went into effect on January 1 of this year. The Odisha government announced a 3 percent increase in daily allowance (DA) for its employees and pensioners on September 19.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik approved the proposal for increasing DA from 31 per cent to 34 per cent, effective from January 1, 2022. Four lakh employees and 3.5 lakh pensioners will be benefitted, according to an official release.

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On PFI ban, Lalu Yadav says ‘RSS should be banned as well’

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The national president of the Rashtriya Janta Dal (RJD) and a former chief minister of Bihar, Lalu Prasad Yadav, responded to the central government’s move to outlaw the Popular Front of India (PFI) by saying that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) should also be banned.

“PFI is being investigated. All organisations like PFI, including RSS, should be banned and an investigation should be done,” said Prasad after filing his nomination papers for the post of national president.

Prasad claimed that Muslim organisations were being targeted by the government.

First of all, ban the RSS. It is a worse organisation than that. If you get anything, then take action,” he said.

He attacked the Modi government, saying the situation in the country has become worse due to unemployment and inflation.

“Efforts are being made to spread bigotry. Such a government has to be overthrown,” he said.

The JD (U), a partner of the RJD alliance, also questioned the PFI ban.

Party leader Ghulam Rasool Balyawi said, “Today in the country, only one party is giving the certificate of loyalty and branding people as traitors.”

“Does anybody know the source of funding for RSS?” he asked.

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Media and Entertainment sector should grow to more than 100 billion dollars by year 2030: Apurva Chandra

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The Union Secretary for Information and Broadcasting Apurva Chandra has exhorted the media and entertainment industry to set a target of growing the industry to more than 100 billion dollars by the year 2030. “India will be a 10 trillion dollar economy in the next 10 years, we should target that the media and entertainment sector should grow to more than 100 billion dollars by 2030. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting will do whatever it takes to support the M&E sector and help it grow.” The Secretary was addressing the inaugural session of FICCI Frames Fast Track 2022 in Mumbai today, September 27, 2022.
The Secretary announced that Invest India is going to be leveraged in order to bring in higher foreign investment into India in the film sector. “The Ministry has merged various film units under one; NFDC based in Mumbai is going to be the hub of the cinematic arm of the government. With this, we want to revamp the Film Facilitation Office. We are going to hand this over to Invest India, the main investment arm created by the government under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to attract industry to India. More than 100 billion dollars of FDI is coming to India this year. We want to leverage Invest India to bring in foreign investment, we will reach out to foreign filmmakers to come to India.”
The Secretary informed that the government will work with states to facilitate and promote film shooting in India. “Recently at Cannes Film Fesival, we announced Incentive Scheme for Audio-Visual Co-production and Incentive Scheme for Shooting of Foreign Films in India. With incentives given by states too, it becomes a viable and attractive package for filmmakers.”
The Secretary announced that the Government of India will work with the states and formulate a Model Theatre Policy. “Over the past 5-6 years, the number of theatres has been on a decline. We need to reverse this trend. We will assign the Film Facilitation Office to work with Invest India to come up with a single-window portal for opening theatres, so that more and more theatres can come up and the public gets more avenues to watch the magic of films in theatres. We will also work with the states to create a Model Theatre Policy, so that the states can adopt and work on the same.”
Please read concluding on thedailyguardian.com

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Conference on eco-alternatives to banned single use plastics and air quality management

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A Conference of startups and innovators working on eco-alternatives to banned single use plastics and air quality management was inaugurated on 27th September 2022 at Chennai Trade Centre, Chennai, by Ashwini Kumar Choubey, Minister of State for Environment, Forest and Climate Change and Consumer Affairs, Government of India in the august presence of Siva V Meyyanathan, Minister of Environment, Climate Change, Youth Welfare and Sports Development, Government of Tamil Nadu. The Startup Conference has been jointly organized by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India, and Government of Tamil Nadu.
Startups and innovators have been involved in developing solutions for many pressing environmental challenges including in the development of eco-alternatives to banned single use plastics and air quality management.
Ashwini Kumar Choubey, Minister of State for Environment, Forest and Climate Change and Consumer Affairs highlighted that availability of alternatives to banned single use plastic items is extremely important. The Startups and innovators have taken up this challenge and developed eco-alternatives. One Startup has made packaging material from rice stubble. The innovation not only addressed plastic pollution but will also help in reducing the pollution caused by burning of rice stubble. Another startup has developed flexible packaging material from sea weeds. He highlighted that the startups and innovators are not only providing solutions to environmental problems but also assisting in economic development of the country. The Government of India is giving focus on supporting innovators and startups through various schemes of the Government such as Startup India Mission.
Many startups and innovators from across the country working in the area alternatives to banned single use plastic items and air quality management are participating in the Startup Conference. Representatives from concerned central Ministries involved in supporting innovation, startups, and MSMEs and banks who are key in mobilizing finances for startups and manufacturers are participating in the Expo. Representatives from State Governments, State Pollution Control Boards are participating in the Startup Conference.
The Conference of Startups will provide a platform for engagement and exchange views amongst innovators and institutions, Government Departments supporting startup ecosystems in the country and banks, on steps taken for scaling up innovations and supporting startups.
The Conference will have experience sharing sessions of startups working in the field of alternatives to banned single use plastics and startups working in the area of air quality management.
A separate session on role of financial institutions in scaling up startups has also been organized representatives of Startup India Mission, banks and Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium enterprises has also been organized.
The Minister mentioned that the strategy adopted by the Government to tackle unmanaged and littered plastic waste has two pillars to ban single use plastic items which have high littering potential and low utility, and implementation of extended producer responsibility on plastic packaging. Promotion of innovation and startups for elimination of single use plastics will help us address the problem of littered and unmanaged plastic waste in the country.

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497 Railway stations made Divyangjan friendly by providing either lifts or escalators

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s a part of ‘Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan’, to provide ease of movement for Divyangjans, aged and children on railway platforms, Indian Railways is installing lifts and escalators at railway stations across the country. So far, there are 497 stations where either lifts or escalators have been provided.
Escalators:- As per policy, normally Railways are providing escalators at State Capitals, Cities having population more than 10 Lakh or stations having footfall more than 25000 per day.
So far, 1090 Escalators at 339 stations have been provided upto Aug’2022. Yearwise position of provision of Escalators is as under:-
Lifts:- As per policy, GM/Zonal Railways are empowered to select stations/platforms for provision of Lift considering footfall, constraints of space etc.
So far, 981 Lifts at 400 stations have been provided upto Aug.’2022. Yearwise position of provision of Lifts is as under:-Indian Railways has been consistently trying to improve passenger amenities at various stations. Provision of escalators and Lifts at the railway platforms is a part of this and also a necessity in view of the ever increasing passenger volumes. Such facility would facilitate improvement at exit/entry of passengers and is a further step to improve passenger safety as well.

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Prime Minister attends State Funeral of former Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended the State Funeral of former Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe at the Nippon Budokan, Tokyo. Representatives from over 100 countries, including more than 20 Heads of State / Government participated in the State Funeral.
Prime Minister honoured the memory of former PM Abe, who he considered a dear friend and a great champion of India-Japan partnership.
Following the State Funeral, Prime Minister had a private meeting with Mrs. Akie Abe, spouse of Late PM Abe, at the Akasaka Palace. Prime Minister Modi conveyed his heartfelt condolences to Mrs. Abe. He recalled his fond friendship and the significant contribution made by former PM Abe in taking India-Japan relationship to new heights. Prime Minister also had a brief interaction thereafter with Prime Minister Kishida to reiterate his condolences.

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