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TN solar power project: Adani seeks to gag its lawyer after he claims ‘violations’

According to Adani’s petition, Manoharan was engaged to verify the title deeds of the land to be purchased in and around Kamudhi for the solar project.

Written by Arun Janardhanan | Chennai | Updated: February 28, 2016 3:48 am
File photo of Adani Group chairman Gautam Adani File photo of Adani Group chairman Gautam Adani

In an unusual move, the Gujarat-based Adani Group of Companies has filed a petition in the Madras High Court seeking to gag its own lawyer after he allegedly threatened to expose “major violations”, and name those involved in the purchase and funding of 1,800 acres of land for its solar power project in Tamil Nadu.

Justice K K Sasidharan on Friday granted an interim injunction restraining Adani’s lawyer, Kabilan Manoharan of KABiLAW Attorneys-at-Law, from “disclosing in any manner, the professional communication made to him by Adani Group in the course and for the purpose of his employment as a lawyer, or publication of the contents or conditions of any documents with which he has become acquainted in the course and for the purpose of his professional employment within the meaning of Section 126 of the Indian Evidence Act till 14 March 2016.”

Claiming that it had “not indulged in any kind of acts or omissions which would constitute fraud”, Adani Group said Manoharan threatened to report the alleged violations after the company refused to revise his fees. Stating that Manoharan had sent at least six letters and emails, the Adani Group has attached these as part of its petition.

In one of these letters, dated January 25, Manoharan has alleged “fraudulent documentation and surreptitious compliance that could definitely lead to losing out on the Rs 7.01/ unit business opportunity”. The letter also mentions “illegalities in purchase of land at the ground level, continued non-compliance with many of the regulatory compliances necessary under existing laws, illegal and fraudulent documentation that has formed the basis of meeting TANGEDCO’s (Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation) specifications and conditions before entering into EPA/ PPA (Energy Purchase Agreement/ Power Purchase Agreement).”

He has warned that the disclosures would risk the group’s line of credit of about Rs 4,606 crore. The letter also refers to violation of Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) Regulation 30, which refers to substantial acquisition of shares and takeovers and warns of SEBI action for non-disclosure of material information.

Demanding a hike in remuneration, he has alleged violation of the listing agreement, which mandates every listed company to intimate stock exchanges on any material event which will have bearing on operation of company or any information which is price sensitive in nature.

The letter warns that the group will face trouble if there is a scrutiny by TANGEDCO, other government departments, competitors and disgruntled companies/ people, public interest activists, court cases for illegality in purchase of land.

“No amount of political patronage will ever be able to sweep under the carpet the illegalities, non-compliance and surreptitious circumvention of procedure in the bid to meet TANGEDCO’s specification, and to move ahead with the project on ground, especially when a diligent legal scrutiny of the footprint/ trail will easily establish the unfair and legally violative path taken. And so, I would dutifully reemphasise caution and compliance as it would otherwise jeopardise the entire project (under different SPVs) and the effort behind it,” it says.

It also warns of criminal prosecution “over the company’s employees/ management being party/ signatory to fraudulent documentation presented to TANGEDCO/ Tamil Nadu government agencies”, for “fraudulent documentation, gross misrepresentation, false representation and warranty with regard to security for lines of credit and allied aspects, RBI for gross violation of prudential banking norms in the lines of credit, a probe by Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) for collusion with banking staff/ management over lines of credit.”

According to Adani’s petition, Manoharan was engaged to verify the title deeds of the land to be purchased in and around Kamudhi for the solar project. Adani had reportedly agreed to pay Rs 6,000 per acre in three stages as fees, while it had already paid him Rs 70 lakh. But Manoharan reportedly revised his fees to Rs15,000 per acre and demanded a further payment of Rs 1.43 crore.

Despite repeated attempts, Roy Paul, general manager of corporate communication, Adani Group, was not available for comment.

648-MW project

> Adani Group to set up 648 MW solar plant project in Kamudhi, in Ramanathapuram, following its pact with Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation.

> Opposition parties, including BJP, attacked the government on the deal. The government has agreed to buy power at Rs 7.01 per unit, even as Adani Group’s price in Madhya Pradesh is
Rs 6.04 per unit.