Photo of Ankoosh Mehta

Partner in the Dispute Resolution Team at the Mumbai office of Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas. Ankoosh focuses on arbitrations (domestic and international),  corporate/commercial litigation, real estate disputes and private client pratice related litigation. He can be reached at ankoosh.mehta@cyrilshroff.com

Suits Against Foreign State Corporations – Is Sovereign Immunity Commercially Viable?

Background

In India, the concept of sovereign immunity or crown immunity as available to foreign states/rulers, is governed by Section 86 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (“CPC”). The legal doctrine essentially states that the sovereign or a foreign state cannot commit a legal wrong and is immune from a civil suit or criminal prosecution.

The doctrine is based on the legal maxim rex non potest peccare which means the king can do no wrong and is based on a common law governed by British jurisprudence. India also follows another principle which states, par in parem non habet imperium, which means one sovereign state is not subject to jurisdiction of another state.

Even while Indian law affords such protection to foreign state actors, Indian courts, in order to not let genuine claims be defeated, have been narrowing the scope of sovereign immunity, and have restricted the same. The principle of sovereign immunity covers the entire judicial process, from the institution of proceedings up to the stage of orders and decisions passed by a court as well as their execution.
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Epidemic Diseases Act 1897

In times of  Covid-19 pandemic, which has halted not just commercial transactions but also lifestyles[1], the Indian Government took relevant  steps to avoid mass spread of the virus, read out the preamble of the Epidemic Diseases Act and got to work.

The colonial era act, all of 123 years old, has once again come to our rescue. The Epidemic Diseases Act of 1897 (the “Act”) was put in place due to the mass spread of the bubonic plague outbreak in Mumbai (then Bombay)[2]. The plague, said to have spread through rats,[3] killed hundreds of people per week in Mumbai.

Albeit the British colonial Government was said to have cleverly used the Act to imprison freedom fighters, the Indian Government is using the Act as a weapon to fight the novel virus and rightly so. While the Central Government’s powers are limited under the Act, it is the unity of various states in the country that has brought the Act in the forefront. Among other states, Karnataka[4], Maharashtra[5], Delhi[6] and Kerala[7] have issued advisories on management and brought into place ‘Covid-19 Regulations, 2020’ (“Regulations”). Vide these Regulations, states have exercised their powers under the Act to force employees of private establishments/ industries/factories/shops etc. to stay at home in the present times, to treat them as ‘on duty’; to stop all construction work immediately; to shut night clubs and weekly bazaars etc.
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How did a virus extend limitation?

 Introduction

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has forced unprecedented measures on the movement of people across the country, thereby also bringing the functioning of courts and tribunals to a grinding halt. Considering the present scenario, where courts have become physically inaccessible, the Supreme Court of India (“Supreme Court”) on March 23, 2020 took suo-moto cognizance of a petition for extension of limitation and passed an order (“Order”)[1] extending the limitation prescribed either under general law or special laws, whether condonable or not, for filing any petitions, applications, suits, appeals and all other proceedings in all courts and tribunals from March 15, 2020, until passing of further orders.

The Supreme Court reasoned that the Order was being passed to “obviate such difficulties and to ensure that lawyers/litigants do not have to come physically to file such proceedings in respective Courts/Tribunals across the country”.
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Image credit: Scroll.in, September 26, 2017

This is the second piece in our series entitled “Those Were the Days”, which is published monthly. We hope you enjoy reading this as much as we have enjoyed putting this together.


This post deals with Securities Exchange Board of India’s (SEBI) interpretation of the term “Unpublished Price Sensitive Information” (UPSI) arising from the alleged insider trading by Hindustan Lever Limited (now Hindustan Unilever Limited) (HLL) in its purchase of shares of Brooke Bond Lipton India Limited (BBLIL).

While the subject SEBI order employed provisions of the SEBI (Prohibition of Insider Trading) Regulations, 1992 (1992 Regulations), this post also analyses the relevant provisions of the subsequently notified SEBI (Prohibition of Insider Trading) Regulations, 2015 (2015 Regulations) in relation the subject case.

Case Analysis: Hindustan Lever Limited v. SEBI[1]

The facts of the case concerned the purchase by HLL of 8 lakh shares of BBLIL from the Unit Trust of India (UTI) on March 25, 1996. This purchase was made barely two weeks prior to a public announcement for a proposed merger of HLL with BBLIL.


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The Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985 (SICA) was enacted to make special provisions for the timely detection of sick (and potentially sick) companies owning industrial undertakings. The Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction (BIFR) was formed under the SICA to determine the sickness of such industrial companies and to prescribe measures either for the revival of potentially viable units or the closure of unviable companies.

With effect from December 1, 2016, the SICA has been repealed by the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Repeal Act, 2003 (“Repeal Act”). This has resulted in the dissolution of the BIFR and other bodies formed under the SICA.[1]
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