‘Clean chit’: How Adani-owned NDTV reported on SC panel’s report on Hindenburg allegations

The SC formed an expert panel in March.

WrittenBy:Nikita Singh
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As the Supreme Court-appointed expert committee observed on Friday that there was “no coherent pattern of abusive trading” by the Adani group and that some of the charges were “still under investigation”, Adani-owned media house NDTV summed up the 173-page report with this catchphrase: “clean chit”.

The expert panel report pertains to the investigations against Adani group for alleged violation of minimum public share-holding, disclosure of related party transactions and stock price manipulations. The allegations were stirred by a report – titled “Adani Group: How the world’s 3rd richest man is pulling the largest con in corporate history” – published by US-based short-seller Hindenburg Research on January 24.

While the allegations were already being investigated by market regulator SEBI, the top court also formed an expert panel in March to probe the matter. The panel said it cannot, as of now, conclude “regulatory failure” on SEBI’s part. But it also spelt out three areas of investigation, as reported by LiveLaw.

In a barrage of reports and TV discussions on NDTV since the release of the expert panel report, the phrase “clean chit” appeared frequently. Most of the text reports and YouTube descriptions carried this disclosure: “New Delhi Television is a subsidiary of AMG Media Networks Limited, an Adani Group Company.” But the primetime broadcasts did not seem to carry such a disclosure.

Some of the headlines on the NDTV website read: “Supreme Court panel's clean chit to Adani group: prima facie no violation”; “What experts said on Supreme Court panel's clean chit to Adani group”; “Opinion: After expert panel's clean chit to Adani group, big questions for Congress”; “Supreme Court-appointed panel's clean chit to Adani group”; “Should calm ruffled feathers: Mukul Rohatgi on Supreme Court panel's clean chit to Adani group”.

In a TV report on the matter, BQ Prime executive editor Niraj Shah also emphasised that “now the Supreme Court committee has given a clean chit” and from the “equity watchers perspective…it is the biggest shot in the arm”.

This is not an exhaustive list. However, it is in stark contrast to the studied silence maintained by the news network early this year after Hindenburg Research published its report.

The reportage does leave out crucial information on the ongoing investigations in the matter, including the committee’s observation that SEBI “suspects wrongdoing” on the ownership of foreign portfolio investors, however, it has not been able to point out the violations.

The committee also said that it cannot express a view on the related party transactions in connection with 13 overseas entities, which have been on the SEBI radar since October 2020, as the market regulator is still investigating the transactions. The committee would be “unable to comment without further input”, except to say that the “investigations must be completed in a time bound manner” as per law. 

Update at 12 pm, May 22: This report initially indicated NDTV did not carry a disclosure on its connection to the Adani group. This has been corrected. The error is regretted. The report and its headline have also been updated with details of the findings of the expert committee.

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