SEBI should own up its decisions and not push it on to individual officials. Deposition of dealing officials before external agencies like CBI several years after a decision should be only an exception and not routine, the employees union argues
Market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) fails to stand by its own officials deposing before external agencies and these employees are left to defend themselves, according to an officers’ union in SEBI.
The union, in a letter (a copy of which is with Moneylife) to SEBI chief UK Sinha, has said, "Absence of any institutional mechanism within SEBI is leading to a growing feeling amongst a large section of SEBItes that for carrying out their official duties in a bonafide manner, no one is there to stand by them, no protection is available to them and they are left to fend themselves on their own."
According to the union, over the past two years, around 70 officials or 10% from the SEBI workforce have been summoned by external agencies like Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), and Economic Offences Wing (EOW) for obtaining information or documents and to record their statement.
"While we understand that the truth needs to come out and law needs to take its own course, what is shocking is the manner, magnitude and the scale at which this process is taking place, not within or by SEBI but external agencies, and more so during the last couple of years," the union says.
Normally, such examination by external agencies takes place after couple of years of processing and by that time, the officer concerned is transferred from the department. However, each official who has put his/her signature on the file in any capacity is made to appear in person, several years after transfer and give statement on oath, at times based on memory.
The union says, "Since, the documents on record were sufficient for SEBI to take the decision in the matter, the same documents should be sufficient for fact finding by external agencies."
"Further, SEBI takes decision based on record at that time and the personal knowledge of the processing official beyond such documents is non-est. So the question of personal knowledge of the concerned official does not arise even several years after the decision. SEBI as an organisation should own the decision and not individual officials and the nodal cell of SEBI should only do the coordination. Deposition of dealing officials should be only an exception and not routine and this too should take place only when SEBI is satisfied that it is absolutely necessary," the union said.
The nodal cell in SEBI, after receiving requests from external agencies routinely forward it to the concerned department. The department then directs concerned official to depose before the external agency.
According to Section 23 of the SEBI Act, "...no suit, prosecution or other legal proceedings shall lie against the Central Government or Board or any other officer of the Central Government or any member, official or other employee of the Board for anything, which is in good faith done or intended to be done under this Act or the rules or regulations made thereunder."
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has an institutional mechanism in place for such matters to protect its officials, the union pointed out.
"SEBItes are losing confidence and it has a demoralising effect across SEBI employees. There is a concern that this atmosphere is not conduction to the growing responsibilities of SEBI and it is paramount to address this without further delay," the union demanded.