Regulators Should Not Depend On Government Grant, Says Ex-SEBI Chief UK Sinha
UK Sinha, former chairman of the Securities & Exchange Board of India (SEBI). (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

Regulators Should Not Depend On Government Grant, Says Ex-SEBI Chief UK Sinha

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Regulators in the country must have their own sources of income so that they do not have to depend on grants provided by the government, capital markets watchdog Securities and Exchange Board of India's former Chairman UK Sinha said.

In his new book 'Going Public: My Time at SEBI', Sinha has said that financial independence is the basic requirement for the functioning of an independent regulator.

A regulator should have its own source of income and flexibility to utilise it without looking up to the government for funds, he has written.

"There have been some recent developments to take away this freedom and ask SEBI to park its income in the Consolidated Fund of India or in the Public Account, and to seek prior approval of government before incurring any capital expenditure. Such efforts are not conducive in creating a strong and independent regulatory environment," he said.

The Sebi Act provides for the regulator to levy fees and charges and create its own fund. The board of SEBI prepares its annual budget, where it can revise the rates of fees upwards and downwards based on its estimate of money required for its activities during the year. The SEBI board also has representation from the government.

The former IAS officer said all other regulators also must have their own sources of income and not survive on the receipt of grants from the government.

There have been reports that the government was pushing SEBI to transfer 75 percent of its surplus to the Consolidated Fund of India, but SEBI is believed to have opposed the proposal on concerns about loss of autonomy.

In the book published by Penguin India, Sinha said the independence of a regulator should not be defined only with regard to independence from the government and its officials.

It should also be seen in the context of independence from any outside influences, including those from market participants and business corporations, he said.

Sinha said there have been concerns about market capture of regulators in other parts of the world and the senior leadership and the boards of the regulators have to remain extra cautious on this account.

"Another dimension of independence is internal independence. Although the law permits this, the quasi-judicial function of SEBI needs to be separated from executive supervision," he said. With regard to accountability, Sinha said independence and accountability go hand in hand.

"Today, there is no satisfactory arrangement for a performance appraisal of a regulator like SEBI. The media does it. The government does it through the presence of their representatives in the SEBI board or while answering questions in Parliament," he said.

According to Sinha, Parliamentary supervision over the regulators is a superior option to ensure accountability. The standing committee of Parliament for different ministries may have to take up this responsibility in a regular and structured way.

Regulations formulated by SEBI are required to be placed before Parliament at the earliest. The Parliament has the right to reject or modify, but the same never happens. Hardly any subordinate legislation gets modified or rejected, Sinha has mentioned in his book.

The Parliamentary committee on subordinate legislation has a huge task of reviewing not only the regulation framed by the multiple regulators but also the rules framed by various ministries under different laws.

"In order to help them perform this task on structured and continuous basis, substantial capacity has to be created in this committee and in other committees of Parliament, " he noted.

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