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Aircel-Maxis case: NSE chairman Ashok Chawla under SEBI scanner

PW Bureau

SEBI is evaluating Chawla’s eligibility to continue as NSE chairman after receiving multiple complaints in the wake of the CBI chargesheet

New Delhi: After the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) named National Stock Exchange (NSE) chairman Ashok Chawla in a chargesheet in the Aircel-Maxis case, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) is evaluating Chawla’s eligibility to continue on the position. Sources familiar with the development said that SEBI had received complaints in the first week of October, asking how it could permit a person facing a CBI investigation to chair a quasi-regulator like NSE, and had started looking into them this week.

CBI attempting to get govt nod to prosecute Chawla, others

The charges against Chawla relate to a CBI probe into suspected corruption in the Aircel-Maxis case. In a chargesheet filed on July 19, the CBI had named 18 people, including the NSE chairman. On October 1, October, Special CBI judge OP Saini told the Central investigative agency that they will have to secure the government’s nod by November 26 to prosecute Chawla and others. If CBI gets a green signal from the government, Chawla, who is also a former finance secretary, might have to step down as NSE chairman.

Individuals under prosecution and those who have been convicted of any offence involving moral turpitude or an economic offence or violation of securities laws cannot lead stock exchanges under SEBI’s stock exchanges and clearing corporations (SECC) norms.

Regulators to take final call

While speaking to a national daily, Chawla said that it is for the regulators (the Reserve Bank of India and SEBI) to decide on the so-called “fit and proper” criteria. “The chargesheet has not been put in motion or accepted by the court yet because before filing the chargesheet, CBI needs the government’s approval. The government approval is not in place yet,” he added.

He is also on the boards of Yes Bank Ltd and Jet Airways (India) Ltd.

One of the sources said that SEBI is going to continue its scrutiny even if the CBI fails to get a nod from the government to prosecute Chawla.