Insolvency and Bankruptcy

Indian Insolvency Law responds to the COVID-19 Pandemic

With more than three lakh confirmed cases and 14 thousand deaths across 190 countries, the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has caused (and continues to cause) unprecedented disruptions in the global political, social and economic environment. India has not remained untouched from this. With almost 500 confirmed cases and the country in lock-down mode to prevent further outbreak, social and economic activities have come to a grinding halt.

The pandemic has forced governments across the world to impose restrictions on working and travel conditions as well as human movement. The severity of the situation requires quick and decisive action from the Government and all sections of the economy to prevent ‘deepening’ of the crisis.
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Coronavirus - COVID19- Faqs

The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared COVID-19 as a “pandemic” on March 11, 2020.

The outbreak and the rapid spread of COVID-19 has sent shock waves across global markets. It has disrupted supply chains, leading to the closure of several manufacturing facilities globally; serious disruption of air and sea traffic and closure of vital air routes, like the one between the US and Europe. This is turn has led to the collapse of stock markets around the world, leading to the loss of billions of dollars, which got wiped out in a matter of days. A combination of all these factors has led to a decline in the overall volume of global economic activity, forcing the world economy towards a possible recession. It is forcing Boards across the globe to confront a host of difficult questions on how business should be conducted during a global public health crisis.
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Jaypee Judgement – Assessing it’s impact on the Indian financing landscape

Background

On February 26, 2020, the Hon’ble Supreme Court delivered its judgment in the Jaypee matter, bringing to a close the long drawn litigation between two sets of competing creditor claims i.e. those advanced by certain creditors of Jaypee Infratech Limited (JIL) and those of its holding company, Jaiprakash Associates Limited (JAL).

In its ruling, the Supreme Court addressed two key issues:
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IBC Second Amendment Bill 2019

The edifice of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (“IBC”) was conceptualised on ideas such as promoting ‘maximisation of value of assets’, ‘a transparent and predictable insolvency law’,  ‘avoiding destruction of value of the debtor’ and recognising the difference between ‘malfeasance and business failure’.[1] In the three years since the enactment of the IBC, many areas in the insolvency resolution process  have required judicial and legislative interventions to enable the process to achieve the desired results.

Among others, the ongoing investigations against insolvent entities and the risk of cancellation of critical government contracts during the insolvency process, were identified as key impediments to strategic interest in the stressed market. The introduction of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Second Amendment) Bill, 2019 (“Bill”), by the Government, is a step that will help overcome such ‘critical gaps in the corporate insolvency framework’.[2]
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THE ROAD TO RESOLUTION OF FINANCIAL SERVICE PROVIDERS - IBC

 

The Imperative for a distinct framework for the resolution of financial firms

The financial sector is facing a combination of liquidity, governance and business issues, on account of which certain Non Banking Financial Companies (“NBFCs”) are facing solvency concerns.

The severe liquidity crunch for NBFCs was caused  as banks and other financial institutions have curtailed refinancing the loans of NBFCs on account of which several NBFCs and other financial institutions faced debt servicing and solvency issues. These have sought to be resolved through the Stressed Asset Directions issued by the Reserve Bank of India (“RBI”) on June 7, 2019. This was fraught with complexities given the diverse sets creditor, including market borrowings  each of whom were governed by different financial regulators.
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Essar Steel India Limited - Supreme Court reinforces primacy of Creditors Committee in insolvency resolution

Essar Steel judgement of the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT), which required that the secured financial creditors share recoveries in a resolution plan under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (IBC), inter se (irrespective of the ranking of their security positions) and with the trade creditors, on a pari passu basis, was considered a ”confusion in the different types of creditors” and a setback for the nascent but growing secondary debt market in India. The judgement perhaps was also opposed to the realities of credit risk assessments and pricing of the credit leading to an unsatisfactory resolution outcome for creditors in an insolvency situation.
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Put-option Holders - Financial Creditors Under the IBC

In its recent judgment in the case of Jignesh Shah v. Union of India[1] (Jignesh Shah), a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court set aside the NCLAT judgment in the case of Pushpa Shah v. IL&FS Financial Services Limited[2] (NCLAT Judgment) along with the original judgment of the NCLT[3] (NCLT Judgment and, together, La-Fin Judgments). The NCLT Judgment and the NCLAT Judgment had rejected the corporate debtor’s objection in relation to the claim being time barred and initiated corporate insolvency resolution process on the basis that a put option holder may be treated as a “financial creditor” under the Insolvency & Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (IBC).
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 Group Insolvency Norms

The recognition of a company’s separate juristic personality by the UK’s House of Lords in its landmark ruling in Salomon v. Salomon A Company Ltd.,[1] remains the basis for modern corporate law.[2] The ruling in effect drew a corporate veil around the legal personality of the company thereby establishing the separate legal identity of a corporate.

While India also follows the separate juristic personality of corporates as a general principle, exceptions have been incorporated over the years by way of legislative action[3] and juridical pronouncements.[4] In the context of insolvency law, the corporate veil is typically lifted in instances where a group company could be held liable for the debts of its associate and subsidiary companies, or if a group of companies functioned as a collective.
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 2019 IBC Amendment Bill - Insolvency and Bankruptcy

The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (IBC) has been widely considered a landmark legislation that has brought about a paradigm shift in the recovery and resolution process.

However, during the implementation of the IBC over the past two years and eight months, several challenges have emerged, including:

  1. The Supreme Court recognises the utmost

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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