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SAT may have to hear afresh many important cases

Feb 12, 2024

Synopsis
The Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, disposed of a petition filed by SAT advocates and noted that the government is taking steps for fresh appointments. Lawyers believe that the continued pendency of appeals in SAT creates legal uncertainty and does not present a healthy image internationally.

The Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT) may have to hear afresh cases involving Sahara India, Bombay Dyeing and Franklin Templeton among several others, as two of its three members including the presiding officer retired before the final orders could be delivered.

The two members retired last year, and the government has yet to appoint their replacements.

Lawyers expect potential delays in the appellate body pronouncing its orders in these cases, which will have to be heard again when the new members come in.

Six matters that were fully heard and reserved for orders last year by the earlier presiding officer Tarun Agarwala, including the Sahara India Commercial Corporation, Bombay Dyeing and Franklin Templeton cases, were listed on the SAT board recently to give dates for re-hearing, several lawyers told ET.

Justice Agarwala retired at the end of December, and the tenure of Justice MT Joshi, one of its members, ended in February last year.

"All the cases that have been heard and are awaiting orders will need to be heard afresh once replacements are appointed," said Tomu Francis, partner at law firm Khaitan & Co.

The bench currently has only a technical member, Meera Swarup. The SAT bench constitutes a presiding officer, who will be a retired judge, along with two members - one judicial and one technical.

"Before delivering judgement, if one of the members who had heard the said matter demits office, the matter as per general rule of law has to be relisted and re-heard," said Jitendra Motwani, partner, Economic Laws Practice. "To ensure that litigants are not made to suffer due to delay in conclusion of proceedings or relisting of matters, certain measures can be uniformly introduced by the legislature to ensure that once a matter is reserved for judgement, the same should be delivered within a reasonable period," he suggested.

In January first week, a three-member Supreme Court bench headed by chief justice DY Chandrachud, while disposing of a petition filed by a few advocates on the SAT bench, noted that the government had taken steps to facilitate a fresh appointment. The current situation was completely avoidable, said lawyers.

"Continued pendency with no final disposal or resolution of the appeals is not an appropriate situation, for both the litigant and the regulator, since the same creates unnecessary legal uncertainty," said Vinay Chauhan, practising counsel on corporate matters in SAT.

"Also, given the nature of appeals entertained by SAT against the decisions or orders passed by Sebi optically, it does not present a healthy picture to the business world internationally."

[The Economic Times]

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