Sebi can now hike its penalties, police to help in searches

Mar 31 2014, 20:34 IST
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Sebi would have powers to increase the penalty on an erring entity within three months of passing an order. Reuters Sebi would have powers to increase the penalty on an erring entity within three months of passing an order. Reuters
SummaryWith re-promulgation of the much-awaited Sebi ordinance, the market regulator can now enhance its own penalty against defaulters.

With re-promulgation of the much-awaited Sebi ordinance, the market regulator can now enhance its own penalty against defaulters within three months while it can avail services of police and central government officers for search and seizure operations.

These powers are in addition to those granted to Sebi through earlier two ordinances, the last of which lapsed in January.

The new ordinance has come into effect from March 28 and has restored many other powers to more effectively crackdown on ponzi schemes and other manipulative activities.

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The ordinance vests with the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) various powers, including carrying out search and seizure operations, and calling for information from bank, corporation, board or any other authority. It also allows the regulator to seek telephone call data records.

Sebi would have powers to increase the penalty on an erring entity within three months of passing an order provided the concerned person is given an opportunity to be heard in the matter.

In case, the board considers that the order passed by the adjudicating officer "is erroneous to the extent that it is not in the interests of the securities market, it may, after making or causing to be made such inquiry as it deems necessary, pass an order enhancing the quantum of penalty, if circumstances of the case so justify".

Such an action could be initiated only within three months from the date of passing an order by the adjudicating officer or dismissal of the appeal, whichever is earlier, as per the ordinance, re-promulgated for the third time by President Pranab Mukherjee on March 28.

The market watchdog can also seek the help of police or any central government officer to assist in cases.

"The authorised officer may requisition the services of any police officer or any officer of the central government, or of both, to assist him for all or any of the purposes... it shall be the duty of every such officer to comply with such requisition," according to the 'The Securities Laws (Amendment) Ordinance, 2014'.

It has been re-promulgated for the third time as the Parliament could not pass the Securities Laws (Amendment) Bill 2013 in the Winter session. It was first promulgated on July 18, 2013 and then again on September 16.

The fresh powers would also help the market regulator to more effectively clamp down on illicit money pooling activities, or ponzi schemes, especially since such incidents have been on the rise in recent times.

Under the amended law, Sebi can regulate any money pooling scheme worth Rs 100 crore or more and attach assets in cases of non-compliance. Besides, its chairman can order search and seizure operations.

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