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Government trying to malign my reputation: CB Bhave, former Sebi chairman
November, 14th 2011

Sebi chairman is a man who measures his words. But a recent finance ministry affidavit in response to a PIL filed by a group of eminent persons appears to have provoked him into hitting out. In an interview to Shaji Vikraman at his residence on the outskirts of Pune, a combative Bhave responded to some of the issues raised in the affidavit saying that his reputation was being maligned and he had to defend his reputation. Excerpts:

In its affidavit filed in the Supreme Court on a PIL filed by eminent persons on the appointment procedure for Sebi's chief and members, the government says that the petitioners are looking for an indirect way to bring about your reinstatement and two other members. How valid is this observation?

I have not seen the petition. I have read the affidavit. It is a surmise in the affidavit. The petition in reality asks for individual relief. But to my mind, it is completely bizarre. Someone, who has handed over charge can not be brought back. When the government decided to find a replacement for me, I called on the finance minister and I wrote a letter to the government. The government should have it on record. If the government had attached the letter with the affidavit, then everyone would know where I stood on the issue. I have moved on in life.

The affidavit also mentions that the writ petition does not appear to be filed in public interest, but to espouse the cause of certain persons who themselves did not choose to file any proceedings. Some perceive this as attempts made on your part behind the scenes? Did the petitioners which include Julio Ribeiro and Air chief Marshal Krishnaswamy talk to you or approach you on this?

Nobody has approached me or talked to me. I got to know that there is such a PIL in the Supreme Court at the same time the general public came to know. Some newspapers contacted me, and I said I am not party to the petition.

In its reasoning behind the decision not to grant an extension to you in February 2011, the finance ministry says that the tables turned because of the manner in which Sebi handled a case against NSDL which you headed before taking over as Sebi chief.

Look, my tenure was three years. I served as Sebi chairman for three years. I leave it to the discretion of the government whether they wanted me to continue. I am not interested in the reasons why the government decided to find a successor for me. However, the consequence of the affidavit filed by the government in the highest court of the country is that I am being maligned in a proceeding to which I am not a party. I have no choice but to clarify matters as they relate to me. The NSDL issue referred to in the affidavit was decided by the Sebi board at the end of 2009 or the beginning of 2010. The affidavit clearly mentions that I did not participate in the proceedings. What is not mentioned is that the government nominees were party to the decision to declare those orders as non-est.

A stand on such matters is not taken by government nominees without a process of due approval from the government. For the government to suggest that this is a controversy that relates to me is astonishing and defamatory. How can such a conclusion be drawn when they themselves say I did not participate and the view of their own nominees was that the orders were non-est. The matter went to the Supreme Court as has been pointed out in the affidavit. The Supreme Court took a different view. This can happen. At times, the courts do not find government decisions legally sustainable. I see no controversy here except that the stand to which the government was a party was not acceptable to the court. To say that I am part of a controversy about something in which I took no part is astonishing.

The affidavit also says that in December 2009, the finance minister being fully aware of the controversy regarding CB Bhave noted on file that the question of extension need not proceed further and that the finance minister took a considered decision to keep the matter pending while at the same time not making any adverse noting against Bhave at that stage.

The point is that I had recused myself from NSDL proceeding , and for me that was the end of the matter. People kept raising controversies... when you work in a place like Sebi some vested interests will be hurt. Some people may have reasons for criticising you without basing it on facts... but you don't go around responding to everything that comes in the media. The reason why I am saying something today is because this is part of the government affidavit now. The government is not like any uninformed critic. This is filed before the highest court in the country, in a litigation to which I am not a party. So if my reputation is getting maligned in a litigation to which I am not a party, I need to place the facts before the public.

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