Sucheta Dalal :No action
Sucheta Dalal

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No action  

Jan 24, 2005

The government may have declared its intention of going after the scamsters of 2000, but its enforcement machinery remains jammed. Take, for instance, the Ketan Parekh case. Sometime in early December, a trial court had cancelled Ketan Parekh’s bail (the Joint Parliamentary Committee considered him the prime accused in Scam 2000) granted in the Madhavpura Mercantile Cooperative Bank case, where Ketan and his cronies had siphoned out over Rs 1000 crore. Ketan promised to pay the money back in instalments but failed to do so. Although the trial court issued a non-bailable warrant against him, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) did nothing until he moved an appeal before the Gujarat High Court. On January 12, the High Court dismissed Ketan Parekh’s applications seeking a cancellation of the warrant and modification of his repayment terms. The court observed that ‘‘It is pertinent to note that CBI has not taken appropriate steps and not proceeded further under Section 70 and 82 CrPC of (declaring him absconding) even though he has not been available since August 23, 2004.’’ Most market people know where Ketan Parekh is, but although he is obliged to report to the CBI every day, it has yet to act on the court order. Is somebody in the political establishment protecting the scamster?

Women power

Although women remain scarce on the boards of India Inc their subtle but powerful role in family-owned businesses probably warrants an academic study. At the Aditya Birla and Manu Chhabria Groups, they stepped in to fill the void left by their husbands. At the M.P. Birla group, an extraordinary decision by his widow Priyamvada Birla has ensured that her name and action will forever be quoted in academic studies and litigation pertaining to inheritance and succession. Now it is the turn of Kokilaben Ambani, the cheerful but studiously low-profile widow of the late Dhirubhai, who has been reluctantly thrust into the limelight by her younger son in a sort of Hindi film play-off over which sibling she chooses to support. Mrs Ambani continues to avoid the limelight, but the media and its shutterbugs are watching her every move with great interest. Whether she is at the marathon cheering her family, out for a quiet dinner or attending a function — every outing is analysed for signals about whether she is veering towards one brother or another. And it is solely to her credit that both brothers and their spokespersons are at pains to ensure that nothing attributable to her is ever reported by the media.

Absence felt

At another Ambani-connected function last week (an Anand Jain family event), the absence of Kokilaben Ambani and her daughters Dipti Salgaonkar and Nina Kothari were noted by all the guests. But what gave the guests even more fodder for gossip was the presence of Amitabh Jhunjhunwala, the closest confidant of Anil Ambani today. Given the viciousness of the attack against Anand Jain in recent days, his presence was seen as the signal of a possible thaw, but Jhunjhunwala denies it. Further, Mukesh Ambani and his wife sent out clear signals that despite Anil’s drama at Indian Petrochemcial Corporation Ltd (IPCL; he resigned saying it was ‘‘beneath his dignity, self-respect and self-esteem’’ to be on the same board as Anand Jain), Jain remains a close buddy. Sources said Mukesh was a sort of co-host, standing by Jain for over an hour to receive guests.

Thumbs up

While on women power, take a look at what is happening to the stock price of Martha Stewart’s company. Stewart made the smart move of choosing to serve her five-month jail term (for allegedly lying to the authorities) instead of waiting for an appeal. And it won her a wave of sympathy. The New York Times reports that the shares which had hit a low of $8.50 just before her sentencing (when her television show was suspended, employees were laid off and sales declined and revenues slipped) have soared past $28 and almost seems over-priced, because there will be no miracles until Stewart is actually back. That has trebled Martha’s personal wealth to over $827 million. Not only that, she will host a new television show when she gets out on March 6, which is getting more advertising interest and better licensing fees than it has before her brush with the law. Stewart, it may be recalled, has been indicted for selling just 4000 shares of ImClone Systems, before the company announced bad results, in what I think is a case of bizarre justice where she paid a price for her fame rather than her deeds.

ailpiece: While on women power, two beautiful actresses — Juhi Chawla and Hema Malini — are enjoying a resurrection and have been roped in to endorse Dena Bank and Bank of Rajasthan, respectively. Considering that banks expect their celebrity endorsers to exude trust and confidence, their deal is a big boost for women in the celebrity endorsement business.

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-- Sucheta Dalal