Photo of Bharat Vasani

Partner in the  General Corporate and TMT Practice at the Mumbai office of Cyril Amarchand Managaldas. Bharat has over 30 years of experience at senior management level. His areas of specialization includes company law, corporate and commercial laws, securities law, capital market, mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, media & entertainment law, competition law, employment law and property matters. He heads firm’s media and entertainment law practice.  He is highly regarded in Government circles and in various industry organizations for his proactive approach on public policy issues. Bharat was a member of the Expert Committee appointed by the Government of India to revise the Companies Act, 2013.

Prior to joining the Firm, Bharat was the Group General Counsel of the Tata Group.  He has been at the helm of and steered several large key M&A transactions pursued by the Tata Group in the last 17 years.

Bharat’s contribution to the legal fraternity has been recognized by the Harvard Law School’s Award for Professional Excellence in 2016. Bharat has won several other national and international awards for his various achievements. He had a brilliant academic record in law and first rank holder in all India company secretary examination. He can be reached at bharat.vasani@cyrilshroff.com

Surveillance in the Post-Puttaswamy Era - Right to Privacy

In 1997, the Supreme Court of India (Supreme Court) pronounced its judgment in the case of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) v. Union of India (SC, 1997) (PUCL Case), which laid the groundwork for the right to privacy in the context of telephonic surveillance (i.e. wiretaps) and constitutional freedoms.

This article analyses the Supreme Court’s stance on the right to privacy in the PUCL Case, which was upheld in the 2017 landmark judgment by the nine-judge bench in KS Puttaswamy v. Union of India (SC, 2017) (Puttaswamy Case) that declared privacy a fundamental right. The applicability of the right to privacy has recently received further validation in the context of wiretaps in the October 2019 judgment in Vinit Kumar v. Central Bureau of Investigations and Ors (Bom HC, 2019) (Vinit Kumar Case), wherein the Bombay High Court outlined the ambit of the State’s power to surveil its subjects particularly on matters that do not fall within the category of ‘public emergency’ or ‘in the interest of public safety’.
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New Significant Beneficial Owner (SBO) rules - Companies Act - Implementation Challenges

India is yet to hit its stride in dealing with Significant Beneficial Owner (SBO) rules introduced by the Companies (Amendment) Act, 2017. The SBO rules have its origin in the recommendations made by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to its member countries, to make suitable changes in the national legislation to find out individuals, who ultimately own significant beneficial shareholding in the reporting company. There remains a large degree of uncertainty and confusion around the new norms, and their practical impact, as explored below.

Sections 89(10) and 90 of the Companies Act, 2013 (Act) were introduced on the recommendations of the Company Law Committee (CLC) in its Report dated February 1, 2016. The CLC noted that complex structures and chains of corporate vehicles are used to hide the real owners behind the transactions made using those structures.
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To Bet or Not to Bet - Sports Betting Laws in India

As the society changes, the law cannot remain immutable”

– Justice D P Madon

They say cricket is not a game, it is a religion. In 2019, the India – Pakistan ICC World Cup match saw a viewership of 229 million within India itself[1]. The importance of cricket as a unifying force cannot be debated and needn’t be proved; what is rather interesting is the ancillary impact a simple match of cricket can have on an economy, such as India.

Economic exploitation of cricket is widespread globally: it includes broadcasting rights, sponsorship and merchandising, to name a few. However, another prevalent and illegal exploitation in the form of betting takes precedence over all of the above, for the simple reason that due to the nature of the transaction, the said consideration paid, is officially taken out of India’s financial system and put into a parallel industry, which remains untaxed and unregulated.
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Companies (Amendment) Act, 2019

Commitment to social causes is best done voluntarily. Accordingly, corporate social responsibility (CSR) was originally introduced in Section 135 of the Companies Act, 2013 (Companies Act), in keeping with global best practices, to provide a framework to encourage companies to meaningfully contribute to communities.

The framework was premised on the principle that companies would contribute the prescribed amount in good faith and the requirement ‘to explain’ any failure to contribute, in their board report, was considered a sufficient disincentive to ensure compliance.[1] 
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Corporate Criminal Liability - Directors

Criminal liability encompasses two elements: actus reus (guilty act) and mens rea (guilty mind). There is no dispute that a company is liable to be prosecuted for criminal offences. However, the company being an artificial person cannot have the requisite mens rea, hence the question whether a company could be prosecuted for an offence for which the mandatory sentence is imprisonment.

The law has evolved from the position that a company cannot be prosecuted for offences that require imposition of a mandatory imprisonment[1], to the position that the mens rea of the ‘alter ego’ of the company (i.e. the person or group of people that guide the business of the company) will be imputed to the company as laid down by the Supreme Court in Iridium case [2].
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Is Liquidation Irreversible - Schemes of Compromise in Liquidation

The 2005 Report of the Expert Committee on Company Law (JJ Irani Committee Report) had noted that an effective insolvency law:

should strike a balance between rehabilitation and liquidation. It should provide an opportunity for genuine effort to explore restructuring/ rehabilitation of potentially viable businesses with consensus of stakeholders reasonably arrived at. Where revival / rehabilitation is demonstrated as not being feasible, winding up should be resorted to.

Where circumstances justify, the process should allow for easy conversion of proceedings from one procedure to another. This will provide opportunity to businesses in liquidation to turnaround wherever possible. Similarly, conversion to liquidation might be appropriate even after a rehabilitation plan has been approved if such a plan was procured by fraud or the plan can no longer be implemented”.
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Ministry of Corporate Affairs circular - Legal Enforceability

The Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) has been entrusted with the responsibility of administering the Companies Act, 2013 (Act). The MCA, from time to time, issues circulars and clarifications to clarify the provisions of the Act and the rules made thereunder (Rules). For example, in the first year of operation of the Act, the MCA issued 89 clarificatory circulars. In 2015 and 2016 the number was 22 and 21 respectively. In this article, we assess whether such circulars and clarifications are legally enforceable and how far companies may rely on them.

Here, it is pertinent to note that unlike Section 119(1) of the Income Tax Act, 1961, which empowers the Central Board of Direct Taxes to issue orders, instructions and circulars, there is no corresponding provision in the Act that empowers the MCA to issue such circulars and clarifications. As explained in our earlier post, executive action reflects steps taken by the Government in its sovereign authority. Article 73 of the Indian Constitution states that, subject to the provisions of the Constitution, the executive power of the Union extends to matters on which the Parliament’s legislative power extends. However, this power cannot operate in matters of an ‘occupied fieldi.e., where prior legislation over the subject matter exists.
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Challenges and Opportunities in the Indian Media and Entertainment Industry - Film Industry

The media and entertainment industry in India enjoyed a stellar performance in 2018, with the film segment expanding by 12.2% to reach an annual revenue of INR 174.5 billion. Of this amount, the domestic film revenues crossed INR 100 billion with Net Box Office Collections for Hindi films at INR 32.5 billion – the highest ever.

The number of Hollywood films released in India fell from 105 in 2017 to 98 in 2018. Hollywood films (consolidated with Indian language dubbed versions) reached Net Box Office Collections of INR 9.21 billion. Thirteen Hindi films reached the INR 100 crore mark in 2018, the highest number the industry has ever seen. Multiplexes added to the total screen count to reach 9,601; however, the number of single screens declined.[1]
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what are Press Notes and legal status of press notes

Vital economic policy issues, such as Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Policy have been announced through various Press Notes issued by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), Ministry of Commerce and Industry. These Press Notes are not a product of legislative process, nor are they debated before Parliament, and yet they have far reaching consequences on economic policy.
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Prohibition of Insider Trading Regulations 2015 in India , Amendments

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) ended the year with a bang by issuing a number of notifications on December 31, including the SEBI (Prohibition of Insider Trading) (Amendment) Regulations, 2018 (PIT Amendment Regulations). The PIT Amendment Regulations come into force on April 1, 2019 and will have significant impact on the manner in which listed companies and intermediaries navigate the market conduct framework.
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