SAT | Mode of service prescribed under R. 7 of SEBI Rules, 1995 not exhaustive; not serving show cause notice violative of principles of natural justice

Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT): Coram of Justice Tarun Agarwala (Presiding Officer), Dr C.K.G. Nair (Member), and Justice M.T. Joshi (Judicial Member) set aside the impugned order in this case. The appellant challenged an ex-parte order passed against him alleging that he was not served properly and therefore the impugned order was against the principles of natural justice as under Article 14 of the Constitution. The appellant, being the Managing Director of Sigrun Holdings Ltd. (SHL) sold 45,000 shares of the company on 24-05-2010, while having knowledge/possession of the adverse quarterly result of SHL based on sensitive information which had not yet been made public, without the authorization of the board.  The adjudicating officer imposed heavy penalties on the appellant in an order citing the various SEBI regulations which had been violated.

The appellant, being aggrieved by the said order, filed an appeal on the ground that the impugned order is an ex-parte order and that he had no knowledge of the proceedings initiated by the Adjudicating Officer. The Appellant has alleged that he did not receive the show cause notice for the proceedings by the Adjudicating Officer and the proper procedure for service of the same has not been followed as under Rule 7 of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Procedure for Holding Inquiry and Imposing Penalties by Adjudicating Officer) Rules, 1995.

The Court held that the respondent was in violation of Rule 7 as stated above as they had not tried to personally serve the appellant at the place where he carried on business or had worked for gain and had instead directly moved on to affixation which does not comply with the procedure laid down in Rule 7. The Court further said that “mode of service prescribed under Rule 7 is not exhaustive and other modes of service was always available in addition to the modes of service prescribed under Rule 7 i.e. for example publication of the notice in an appropriate newspaper or service through email.”

Thus, the Court set aside the impugned order in the interest of natural justice and in violation of the principles of natural justice as embodied under Article 14 of the Constitution of India and ordered the Adjudicating Officer to comply with the proper procedure.[C.R. Rajesh Nair v. Securities & Exchange Board of India, 2019 SCC OnLine SAT 71, decided on 18-07-2019]

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