National Stock Exchange (NSE) is completing 25 years of its service to the nation this month. An event to launch the silver jubilee celebration is scheduled in New Delhi. The President Ram Nath Kovind is to be the chief guest but the Lutyens Delhi is rife with rumours that the President will skip the event. If it happens no surprise element should be searched. Although the Rashtrapati Bhavan communiqué will not disclose the true reason and may say something like ‘President could not come due to his busy schedule so he has no time.’ But the reason would be far from convincing.
The reason, without doubt, will be Ashok Chawla, the present NSE chairman. Chawla joined the NSE board in May 2016. He is chargesheeted by the CBI in the Aircel-Maxis bribery case – one of 12 individuals (including former FM P. Chidambaram and his son) and six firms. Chawla was the high profile finance secretary before retiring and considered to be close to P Chidambaram. He was well rewarded as immediately after retirement he was appointed chairman of the Competition Commission of India.
NSE’s operation right from the start was shrouded in heavy dose of mist. Just two three well-connected big names were known to run the show. The mist got its first shock three years back. The Sebi has been probing the alleged lapses in high-frequency trading offered through the NSE’s co-location facility. The facility allows low latency and fast execution to trading members. This setup of server gives a 10:1 speed advantage in comparison to other brokers. In its probe, Sebi has found serious lapses on the part of the exchange for allowing preferential access to select brokers. Also, it has found fault on part of former and existing top executives of the exchange. In May, CBI had registered a FIR against a stockbroker who allegedly manipulated the NSE system for two years to get first access to markets when they opened.
So nothing to cheer about!