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Delhi High Court Denies Interim Relief in NFRA Penalties on Reliance Capital Audit

Delhi High Court Denies Interim Relief in NFRA Penalties on Reliance Capital Audit


The Delhi High Court recently denied interim relief in a high-profile case involving the National Financial Reporting Authority (NFRA) penalties imposed on auditors associated with the statutory audit of Reliance Capital Limited (RCL) for the Financial Year (FY) 2018-19. This case, involving M/s Pathak H.D. & Associates (PHD), CA Parimal Kumar Jha, and CA Vishal D. Shah, highlights significant issues related to auditor responsibilities and the stringent measures enforced by the NFRA.


The case revolves around the statutory audit of Reliance Capital Limited, which was jointly conducted by PHD and M/s Price Waterhouse & Co LLP (PW) for FY 2018-19. During the audit, PW reported suspected fraud related to loans and investments amounting to approximately INR 12,571 crore, which were portrayed as recoverable. Following this, PW resigned from the audit and filed a report with the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA).

PHD, however, issued an audit report stating no irregularities. This discrepancy led to a suo moto examination by the NFRA, resulting in severe penalties against the auditors involved. The penalties included a 10-year and 5-year debarment for CA Parimal Kumar Jha and CA Vishal D. Shah, respectively, along with substantial monetary fines.

Key Details from Reliance Capital Audit Case

Joint Audit and Subsequent Actions

RCL appointed PHD and PW as joint statutory auditors for five consecutive years, starting from 2017. Despite PW’s resignation and subsequent report of suspected fraud, PHD issued an audit report declaring no irregularities. This conflict led the NFRA to scrutinize PHD’s audit practices, culminating in the issuance of a show-cause notice and eventual penalties.

Allegations and Penalties

The NFRA’s investigation revealed that despite significant red flags raised by PW, PHD failed to conduct appropriate audit procedures. Specifically, the NFRA noted:

– PHD did not carry out independent procedures to verify the significant observations raised by PW.

The audit files lacked evidence of disagreement with PW’s findings, as mandated by statutory audit standards.

– PHD’s conclusions were based on inadequate rigor and self-review, which compromised the integrity of the audit.

These failures led to the imposition of penalties: a debarment from audit-related roles for 10 and 5 years for CA Parimal Kumar Jha and CA Vishal D. Shah, respectively, and financial penalties amounting to INR 3 crores for PHD and additional fines for the individual auditors.

Court Proceedings

The auditors challenged the NFRA’s order in the Delhi High Court, seeking interim relief. However, the court, noting the gravity of the NFRA’s findings, refused to grant interim relief. The court emphasized the necessity of stringent auditing standards and the role of NFRA in maintaining financial integrity.

Court’s Observations on the Reliance Capital Audit

In its decision, the court made several critical observations in Reliance Capital Audit case:

– The auditors’ failure to address significant issues raised by PW indicated gross negligence.

– The reliance on inadequate audit procedures and the subsequent self-review violated established auditing standards.

– The NFRA’s findings were well-supported by evidence, and there was no ground for granting interim relief.

The court also highlighted that the audit conducted by PHD was marred by serious deficiencies, reflecting a lack of due diligence and professional skepticism required in such high-stakes audits.

Legal Precedents and Implications

Cited Judgments

The court referred to several key judgments to support its decision:

– Ram Lal vs. State of Rajasthan (2023): This case emphasized the necessity of following due process and ensuring that procedural lapses do not compromise legal outcomes.

– Ghanshyam Mishra & Sons Pvt. Ltd. vs. Edelweiss Asset Reconstruction Company Ltd. (2021): This Supreme Court judgment underscored the importance of adhering to statutory requirements and the repercussions of failing to do so.

Court’s Observations on the Reliance Capital Audit

This case sets a precedent for strict enforcement of auditing standards and underscores the NFRA’s role in ensuring the accuracy and reliability of financial statements. Auditors must conduct thorough and independent verifications, especially when red flags are raised by co-auditors.

Concluding remark on the Reliance Capital Audit case

The Delhi High Court’s decision to deny interim relief in this case reinforces the critical importance of stringent auditing practices and the NFRA’s oversight role. Auditors must adhere to the highest standards of professional conduct, ensuring that financial statements accurately reflect the financial health of the companies they audit. This case serves as a stark reminder of the severe consequences of failing to meet these standards, both in terms of professional reputation and legal penalties.



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