In an unusual use of RTI route,the main accused of over Rs 1,500-crore ‘StockGuru’ scam has tried to get complaints and other information against him with Sebi,but his request has been rejected.
The information sought by Lokeshwar Dev,who is said to have used different names,including that of Ulhas Khaire,for different fraudulent schemes,included copies of complaints against him,and also other details including Sebi’s opinion and clarifications on matters concerning the case.
Not satisfied with Sebi’s response to his RTI (Right to Information) query,Ulhas approached the regulator’s Appellate Authority in April this year,but his appeal was dismissed through an order passed yesterday.
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Lokeshwar Dev and his wife Priyanka Dev,both of whom have used numerous names and were arrested by Delhi Police’s Economic Offences Wing in November last year,are facing a multi-agency probe for allegedly duping lakhs of investors of more than Rs 1,500 crore.
The agencies probing the matter include CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED),while Sebi passed an order in January this year against the couple and other entities
associated with them,wherein they were barred from the capital markets for ten years and were asked to refund the money collected fraudulently from the gullible investors.
The entities floated by the two for their dubious schemes included Stock Guru India (SGI),SGI Research and Analysis and StockGuru.com.
Subsequently,Sebi in March this year received an RTI application from Ulhas or Lokeshwar Dev,seeking replies to his 27 queries related to his company,SGI Research and Analysis Ltd.
Sebi replied to the RTI query on April 3,but the appellate filed an appeal with the Appellate Authority on April 15 against Sebi’s response and said that the information given by the regulator was “incomplete and incorrect” and not what he was seeking for.
“I feel they (Sebi) are deliberately and intentionally hiding the information so that justice is denied to me,” he said in his appeal.
Hearing his petition,the Appellate Authority said that Sebi had told Ulhas that “the information sought by him was in the nature of seeking opinion/clarification/explanation from Sebi and did not fall within the definition of ‘information’ as defined under the RTI Act”.
The Appellate Authority also concurred with Sebi’s view that said that the information sought in 19 out of the total 27 queries were indeed “in the nature of seeking clarification,opinion,explanation,etc from Sebi” and therefore the regulator cannot be obliged to provide a response to such request for information through RTI. With regard to one of the queries,the Authority said that Sebi had refused to provide the appellant with copies of complaints against him,as Sebi had received them in its fiduciary capacity and they were treated as ‘confidential’.
“In his response,I note that the respondent (Sebi) had informed the appellant that information relating to complaints,etc,which were received by Sebi in its fiduciary capacity,were treated by it as confidential and may contain personal details of complainants,the disclosure of which may result in revealing the complainant’s identity and endanger his/her safety.
“Further,I note that it was informed that such information,if disclosed may also reveal the source of Sebi’s information about the alleged violators.
“In this regard,I note that Sebi,being a public authority under the RTI Act as well as the regulatory authority for the securities market,receives information/complaints,etc from third parties in fiduciary relationship,” the Appellate Authority said in its order.
It observed that “such information may contain personal information relating to details such as name,address,etc of the third party,the disclosure of which,may cause unwarranted invasion of privacy”.
Disclosure of such details “may also result in endangering the life/physical safety of such third party cannot be disclosed unless larger public interest warrants disclosure,it added.
About some of the queries,the Authority said that Sebi is “not obliged to provide a response where the information sought is vague and not specific.
“However,if the appellant still wishes to get information,he may prefer a fresh application before the respondent specifying clearly the exact information he wants from Sebi,” it said,while dismissing the appeal.