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SC notice to Centre, RBI and CBDT on PIL against PricewaterhouseCoopers
December, 24th 2013

The Supreme Court on Friday sought responses of the Union finance ministry, Reserve Bank of India, Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) and Registrar of Companies on a PIL seeking a thorough probe into the operations of leading accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

A bench of Chief Justice P Sathasivam and Justices Ranjana P Desai and Ranjan Gogoi issued notices to the respondents and asked them to file their responses in four weeks on a PIL filed by 'Centre for Public Interest Litigation' (CPIL).

CPIL, through advocate Prashant Bhushan, complained that PwC and its sister concerns in India were "apparently indulging in various activities in violation of various statutes and policies like evasion of income tax, violation of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) policy, RBI Act, Foreign Exchange Management Act and other relevant laws".

The petitioner gave three instances:

* Inflow of approximately Rs 240 crore, apparently from overseas, in various PwC India entities in the financial year 2010 and 2011 without disclosing sources thereof.

* Unexplained credit of approximately Rs 41 crore in the audit firm, Price Waterhouse & Co, Kolkata, apparently to acquire another audit firm Dalal and Shah, Mumbai through a circuitous route by giving interest free loans of the exact amount to four partners and further allowing them to invest the said exact amount in Dalal and Shah in violation of FDI policy, RBI guidelines, Fema etc.

* Wrong accounting on account of payment of the insurance premium by only three firms of PwC India while the benefit of the said policy was enjoyed even by other member firms who did not pay any premium in violation of Companies Act.

The PIL said, "Reluctance of the regulators to investigate or take any action against PwC India could be due to international clout and financial strength of PwC, which is one of the world's leading auditing and advisory firms. Every year, payments worth hundreds of lakh crores -- be in the way of subsidies, export incentives, grants, share of government revenue and taxed, sharing costs and profits in public-private-partnership contracts - are done based on the certification of the auditors and it is therefore imperative that their certification is absolutely correct and sacrosanct," the petition said.

Some of the important clients of PwC India include the ministry of defence, ministry of environment and forests, IndianOil Corporation and Delhi Jal Board, entailing payments of large amounts of public money to PwC, it said.

"In light of the above, it is frightening to even visualize the deceit and loss that they could be causing to the public interest and exchequer," the PIL said.

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