Jairam Ramesh / Photo: PTI
New Delhi: The Congress on Thursday said a thorough investigation into the Adani issue is necessary, holding that any committee other than a JPC will be nothing but an "exercise in legitimisation and exoneration".
Congress general secretary (communications) Jairam Ramesh said the proposal before the Supreme Court for setting up of a committee by the government can hardly ensure transparency.
The party also asked a set of three questions to the government as part of the 'Hum Adani Ke Hain Kaun' series, questioning why it was not initiating investigation into the alleged shell companies linked to the group.
As part of the series against the Adani group, the Congress would be holding press conferences in 23 major cities across the country on Friday to highlight the alleged scam involving the group in the wake of a meltdown in the stocks of its group companies on stock markets in the country following the Hindenburg report charges.
In a statement, Ramesh said a Supreme Court bench on February 13, while hearing petitions on the Adani-Hindenburg matter, discussed the setting up of a committee of experts to examine the regulatory regime post the allegations made by the US-based short-seller.
He said it had directed the government to give its submissions in this regard by February 17.
"Where the allegations are of close, intertwined proximity between the ruling dispensation, the government of India and the Adani Group, the setting up of a committee with terms of reference proposed by the Government of India can hardly carry any insignia or reassurance of independence or transparency," he said.
"It is an exercise initiated by the two principal actors - the government and the Adani Group - to cover up, avoid, evade and bury all genuine scrutiny. It is becoming clear that the proposed Committee is part of a carefully orchestrated exercise by these vested interests to prevent any real investigation into the Adani Group's relationship with the ruling regime," the Congress leader alleged.
"If the prime minister and his government are to be held accountable, any committee other than a JPC will be nothing but an exercise in legitimisation and exoneration," he claimed.
Ramesh said given the nature of the allegations, it is imperative that the "link" between Adani and the ruling regime is examined in the full light of day by elected officials accountable to the public.
"An evaluation of the regulatory and statutory regime by experts is in no manner equivalent to an investigation by a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC). Such a committee, however competently staffed, cannot be a substitute for a thorough investigation into the political-corporate nexus that has come to light in the last two weeks. It simply does not have the authority, resources, or jurisdiction to examine the issues that the Opposition has raised," he said asserting that a JPC probe on Adani issue is necessary.
He claimed several JPCs have been constituted in the past to inquire into matters of public importance such as irregularities in securities and banking transactions as well as the stock-market scam of 2001.
These reports have been crucial to prosecutions that have followed and have provided the bedrock for legislative changes to prevent similar manipulative practices, he claimed.
The Congress has been demanding a JPC probe into the allegations against the Adani Group by US-based short-seller Hindenburg Research.
The Adani Group has dismissed the allegations as baseless.
"Dear PM Modi, We have all heard your calls 'to eliminate safe havens for economic offenders' and to 'break down the web of complex international regulations and excessive banking secrecy that hide the corrupt and their deeds'. Yet shell companies located in offshore tax havens appear to have played a central role in your friend Gautam Adani's business operations with no serious consequences," Ramesh said as part of the questions posed to the prime minister.
He alleged that there are at least 38 shell entities in Mauritius, many of which have done huge business with the Adani Group despite no evident sources of income or even any activities.
"The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), India's premier anti-smuggling agency, found in 2014 that three Adani Group companies - Maharashtra eastern Grid Power Transmission, Adani Power Maharashtra, and Adani Power Rajasthan - had paid the Dubai-based Electrogen Infra FZE Rs 9,048 crore for power equipment imported from China and South Korea worth Rs 3,580 crore, with the balance syphoned out of the country," he asked.
He alleged that the CBI that had taken over from DRI in 2014 appealed, but the case has gone nowhere.
"Are you not concerned that consumers and taxpayers ultimately foot the bill when capital costs are over-inflated by shady promoters," Ramesh asked.
The Congress leader also alleged that in 2015, the Customs, Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal set aside the Commissioner's order and dismissed the findings of the years-long investigation. "This is part of a disturbing pattern in which detailed investigations into wrongdoing by the Adani Group disappear...," he asked.
Alleging that shell companies have also poured huge funds into Adani Group companies, he asked, "Is this not worthy of investigation by the army of investigative agencies at your disposal?"