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SAT dismisses SEBI order to impose a penalty of Rs 1 crore on Falcon Tyres Ltd and appellants

 In a major turn of events, SAT (Securities Appellate Tribunal) has dismissed the SEBI (Securities and exchange board of India) order to impose a penalty of Rs 1 crore on Falcon Tyres Ltd, Mr. Pawan Kumar Ruia and other appellants. The decision was made in response to an appeal filed by the appellants, after being aggrieved by the order of the adjudicating officer earlier.


Having heard both the sides, SAT said that the impugned order suggests that the adjudicating officer was irked by the act of Falcon Tyres Limited of repeatedly taking stand of non-supply of documents which were not relevant in the present matter. It also said that the manner in which the appellants had conducted themselves in the case had caused certain discomfort to the adjudicating officer. 


The history of the case showed a similar order passed by the same adjudicating officer, who was challenged by Falcon Tyres Limited. The tribunal vide order remanded the matter to SEBI on the ground that before passing the said impugned order, the adjudicating officer ought to have got the suspicion cleared regarding the minutes of the board meeting dated 16 Dec, 2008 by calling for the copy of minutes. 


SAT learned that the inspection and investigation prior to the issues of show cause notice showed lacunas in the compliance matter of the Falcon. It also found that the company had not set any code of internal conduct and the code of corporate disclosure practices of the company. The closing of the trading window system was also not prided with, which is why the show cause notice was issued SAT also learned that from time to time, the  company sought inspection of all the documents collected by SEBI, while the inspection of the document relevant to the charge was given.  


However, Falcon Tyres Limited insisted on getting the inspection of all the documents. The company has contended that it had a code of conduct and ethics but the copy of the same was not made available to the respondent SEBI, while SEBI initially took a stand that there was no trading window system in the company. The impugned order showed that pursuant to the remand of the case opportunity of hearing was provided to the Falcon as well as the appellants.  


However, none of them appeared. The adjudicating officer further found that the code provided that all officers and other designated employees shall pass on price-sensitive information directly or indirectly while the model code of conduct prescribed that all officers and other designated employees shall not pass any such price-sensitive information. 


It was further found that the appellants had made a statement that they had placed a system of the closure of trading window, while the website of Bombay Stock Exchange did not show the same.  The adjudicating officer, however, found that there are no allegations against Falcon or appellants that either they or any of the officer or designated employees or their relatives have traded in the securities of the company when the trading window should remain closed.  


The adjudicating officer also found that respondent Falcon and appellants had complied with the provisions of PIT regulations, 1992 as well as the takeover regulations 1997 and 2011 and no action in this regard or breach of regulations was noticed at any point of time. Finding that respondent and appellants have taken a lackadaisical and uninvolved stand as detailed above, maximum penalty of Rs 1,00,00,000 was imposed.  


SAT also said that the adjudicating officer should have noticed that no company would form a code of conduct which would grant permission to the director of passing on any price sensitive information against the model code of conduct. It also said that the absence of the word ‘no’ in the copy of the code was merely a clerical mistake. 


The adjudicating officer had noticed that no breach of rules regarding closing of trading window was found. Instead of acting in the right manner, the officer imposed the maximum penalty for reasons stated aforesaid. So, the impugned order was not sustained by SAT and remains quashed.

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