Former NSE chairman Chawla had revealed yogi’s identity to Sebi in 2018

Chawla, in his letter, told Sebi that as the unknown person was Subramanian, he had access to financial, operational and HR-related information of the NSE.

The mysterious Himalayan ‘yogi’ who allegedly advised Chitra Ramkrishna, former managing director and chief executive officer of the National Stock Exchange (NSE), on important matters of the bourse could be none other than Anand Subramanian, according to a letter written by former NSE chairman Ashok Chawla to the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi).

Subramanian was group operating officer of the NSE and advisor to Ramkrishna during 2015-16.

He joined as chief strategic advisor in April 2013.

Chawla’s letter, dated July 6, 2018, and addressed to Madhabi Puri Buch, former whole-time member (WTM) of Sebi, provides evidence of why Subramanian was behind the email address [email protected], which the latest Sebi order says belongs to an “unknown person”.

“The Skype accounts in the name of ‘anand.subamanian9’ and ‘sironmani.10’, which were found on Mr Subramanian’s NSE desktop, were configured in the Skype application database and linked to the email ID [email protected] and the mobile number used by Mr Subramanian,” stated the letter, which has been reviewed by Business Standard.

Further, the word documents sent from the said email id show the author as Subramanian, and the difference between the time of creation of documents and the time of email attachments was only a few minutes.

Also, images sent from the email ID had a geo-tag of the address of Subramanian’s Chennai residence, it mentioned.

The email ID [email protected] showed a booking made at Umaid Bhawan Palace around the same time Subramanian’s bank statement showed payment of around Rs 2.4 lakh made to the hotel.

“The basis (of my letter) was an EY forensic audit. I have nothing to say,” Chawla replied to a query sent by Business Standard.

The Sebi order issued this month also stated that a forensic investigation by EY had concluded that the unknown person was Subramanian.

Interestingly, on June 20, 2018, NSE board members Dinesh Kanabar and Prakash Parthasarthy grilled Ramkrishna about the identity of the unknown person with whom she exchanged correspondence.

The former NSE CEO told them that “she believed the person was a siddha-purusha who had no physical persona and could materialise at will”.

According to the letter, Ramkrishna told the NSE board members that the confidential information shared by her wasn’t used for personal or monetary gains.

She further told them that while she took guidance from the spiritual person, all her decisions in the course of her work were her alone.

Sebi whole-time member Ananta Barua, however, has held that the report doesn’t provide conclusive finding that Subramanian was the unknown person.

Legal experts said Sebi orders are quasi-judicial in nature where the adjudicating officer has the liberty to conclude one way or the other based on the evidence.

“Probably, the Sebi officer didn’t buy EY’s argument to present a stronger case against Chitra,” said a lawyer.

Chawla, in his letter, told Sebi that as the unknown person was Subramanian, he had access to financial, operational and HR-related information of the NSE.

Herculean task before Sebi

After whistleblower complaints against Subramanian emerged in 2015, Sebi wrote to the NSE on three occasions between March 2016 and September 2016, seeking an explanation.

The NSE, which was then headed by Ramkrishna, was evasive.

This prompted Sebi to send three more reminders in October, November, and December.

Finally, in November 2017, the exchange’s nomination and remuneration committee (NRC) submitted a detailed report.

Sebi then embarked upon a tedious exercise of going through voluminous documents of the NSE’s board meetings, internal committee meetings, and HR records for a period between 2013 and 2016 to establish lapses and fix responsibility at the NSE.

Ramkrishna’s email correspondence to the unknown person came to Sebi’s notice only in 2018.

In 2019, Sebi composed a detailed examination report.

Within months, it issued show-cause notices to the NSE, Ramkrishna, Subramanian, and former MD & CEO Ravi Narain, and two others.

The regulator then had to provide hearing opportunities to all the individuals.

The process was further delayed by the outbreak of Covid-19.

The final order in the matter culminated in February 2022.

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