The Supreme Court Friday granted relief to the global audit firm Price Waterhouse, allowing it to carry out business in India till March 31, or till the disposal of its appeal by SAT, whichever is later.
It also granted liberty to the audit firm to raise contention for further extension of time before the Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT).
A bench of Justices R F Nariman and K M Joseph said that the only possible relief for the audit firm is that the interim order is extended till March 2019 or till the disposal of appeals by the tribunal, whichever is later.
“Having heard the parties, we are of the view that interim order to continue till March 31, 2019 or till the tribunal decides the appeal, whichever is later. It will be open to the petitioner to raise its contention before the tribunal for further extension of time,” the bench said.
At the outset, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the PW stated the tribunal has said that the audit firm cannot take any new clients and in the absence of an extension of the deadline, the existing clients would commence the process of changing their auditors.
The bench said that this is the only relief it can give and disposed of the application filed by the audit firm against the SAT order dated of October 17.
The Price Waterhouse has approached the apex court against the interim order of the tribunal by which it had refused to grant further extension of time beyond March 2019.
The SAT had upheld the Securities and Exchange Board of India’s (Sebi) two-year ban on the audit firm’s business in the country beyond March 2019.
Challenging the October 17 order of the SAT, Mumbai, the audit firm contended the decision was unsustainable in law and deserved to be set aside.
It said the tribunal erred in not extending the cut-off period from March 31, 2019 to March 31, 2020 as the tribunal itself had previously extended the period in favour of the PW.
The plea claimed that the tribunal has erred in appreciating that in the absence of extension of the interim relief, the existing clients of the firm would have to avail services of other auditors and it would lose its clients.
The tribunal had held that the audit firm was not entitled to extension of the interim reliefs because there was no fresh grounds mentioned in the application.
In January, Sebi had passed an order against PW alleging that the audit firm colluded with the management of the scam-tainted Satyam in fudging the accounts of the software firm.
The capital market regulator had passed an order against PW barring it from offering auditing services to any listed companies or Securities Market intermediaries for two years.
PW had filed two appeals against the Sebi order in February, including that it be allowed to continue its audit activity until March 2020.
SAT had then temporarily allowed PW to carry on its business until March 2019.