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NSE scandal: CBI granted custody of Chitra Ramkrishna for 7 days

The CBI prosecutor sought the former NSE MD’s custody for 14 days, arguing that she was "evasive in her replies" and "refused to even identify" co-accused Subramanian.

Written by Anand Mohan J | New Delhi |
Updated: March 8, 2022 2:26:50 am
Ramkrishna leaves the CBI court in New Delhi, Monday. (PTI)

A Delhi court on Monday granted CBI seven days’ custody of Chitra Ramkrishna, former CEO and MD of National Stock Exchange (NSE), arrested by the agency on Sunday in a 2018 bourse manipulation case.

Chitra’s is the second high-profile arrest in the case after Anand Subramanian, NSE’s former group operating officer and her deputy and confidante, who was arrested last month.

Special Judge Sanjeev Aggarwal while granting her custody to the CBI wrote, “It appears that the custodial interrogation of the above accused would be required to find out the detailed modus operandi adopted by this accused in conspiracy with the other co-accused, including Anand Subramanian… the present case may be of unimaginable magnitude.”

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The court said that Chitra’s custody was “required for a fair and proper investigation and there are more than reasonable and substantial grounds for doing so”. “Further, her custodial interrogation would also be required to dig out voluminous digital evidence pertaining to this case,” the court said.

The CBI prosecutor had moved a plea for 14-day custody, arguing that Chitra has been “evasive in her replies”, and when confronted with Subramanian, she “refused to even identify him”. The agency’s prosecutor told the court that Chitra had to be confronted with 2,500 emails exchanged between her and Subramanian “which affected the decision making of the accused”.

The CBI alleged that Chitra “facilitated providing confidential trading data to Infotech Financial Services Pvt Ltd and to Ajay Shah, knowing well that the firm was providing algorithmic software to the brokers in the NSE and that there was a conflict of interest”.

In its remand application, the CBI submitted that the “NSE under Chitra purposefully did not define policies and procedures with regard to secondary server access that gave unfair advantage to brokers at the cost of others.”

On March 5, when Chitra’s anticipatory bail was rejected, the court had pulled up the CBI, calling its investigation “lackadaisical”, noting that the agency had not acted against the main beneficiaries of the scam.

In Monday’s hearing, the court said, “For four years there was no action. The main beneficiaries are all enjoying. The FIR was lying in cold storage.”

The CBI prosecutor told the court that the agency was investigating and it could move forward only after “certain documents came to light”.

The court found it strange that Chitra joined the investigation on her own. “This is very strange. She went to the CBI office on her own. Who goes to the CBI office on their own? Did she have some assurance from the CBI or was there a divine intervention?” the judge said.

Her lawyer senior advocate Trideep Pais asked the court to look into her “exemplary conduct” while deciding on her remand application. “She resigned from the NSE in 2016. She had no access to the NSE when the FIR was registered in 2018. She cooperated with the investigation. The IT raids found nothing. All her devices have been taken. Why do you need her custody? To unravel emails?” he told the court.

On Chitra’s conduct, the court said, “She is so brave. She goes off on her own thrice to the CBI. Most people tremble. Going by the pace with which you are investigating, you will take one year?”

The CBI action comes in the wake of allegations against Chitra that she was sharing confidential information of the bourse with a “Himalayan Yogi” and had got Subramanian appointed in violation of rules.

The CBI’s case pertains to charges that some brokers being given preferential access to the NSE’s trading system in the form of a co-location facility through which they bought “rack space” for their servers. The malpractice was first highlighted in January 2015 by a whistleblower who wrote to the SEBI whose technical advisory committee later found that OPG Securities had consistently logged in first on selected servers on most trading days between 2010 and 2014, and had access to servers with better hardware.

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