Exclusion of Time Spent in Pre-arbitration Negotiations

Complex commercial transactions and arrangements often contemplate a requirement to engage in good faith negotiations/discussions or mediation in order to resolve the dispute amicably before the parties can resort to arbitration[1]. It is also common in these arrangements that the parties are required to spell out their claim in writing and provide the other party with an opportunity to respond before good faith negotiations can commence. Given the complex nature of arrangements, stakes involved and multitude of relationships between the parties, often a considerable amount of time is spent in exploring ways to amicably resolve matters instead of “washing dirty linen in public”. It has been a matter of considerable debate whether the time spent in good faith negotiations/discussions/mediation can be excluded for the purpose of computing the period of limitation for reference to arbitration.

The recent Supreme Court judgement in the case of Geo Miller & Co. Pvt. Ltd. v. Rajasthan Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Ltd.[2] (Geo Miller Case) has explained the legal position on this aspect and paved the way for making a carve out for time spent in exhausting pre-arbitration procedures for the purpose of computing the period of limitation for reference to arbitration. Continue Reading Exclusion of Time Spent in Pre-arbitration Negotiations/Settlement Discussions: A Much Needed Carve Out

DECRIMINALIZING OUR COMPANY LAW

In line with the government’s stated goal of promoting Ease of Doing Business, the Company Law Committee (CLC), set up by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA), has recently submitted its report to the MCA, recommending decriminalisation of 46 compoundable offences under the Companies Act, 2013 (the Act). This list is in addition to the 16 compoundable offences already decriminalised by the Companies (Amendment) Act, 2019.

To put things into perspective, attempts to decriminalise business laws is not new to India. This process began with liberalisation of the Indian economy in 1991. The first commercial law that was decriminalised was the Imports and Exports (Control) Act, 1947. It was replaced by the Foreign Trade (Development and Regulation) Act, 1992, which decriminalised most of the offences relating to imports and exports. The most fundamental step in this direction was the replacement of draconian Foreign Exchange Regulation Act (FERA), 1973, by Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), 1999 which decriminalized offences relating to foreign exchange regulations. Continue Reading Decriminalizing our Company Law – Has the Pendulum Moved Too Far?

Electrosteel Steels Limited v. Securities and Exchange Board of India

On November 14, 2019, almost a decade after the initial public offering of Electrosteel Steels Limited (Electrosteel), the Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT) delivered its judgment in Electrosteel Steels Limited v. Securities and Exchange Board of India[1] (the SAT Order). It partially upheld the judgment dated March 31, 2016 (SEBI Order) of the adjudicating officer of the Securities and Exchange Board of India[2] (SEBI). The SAT Order has discussed the concept of ‘materiality’ in the context of disclosure in offer documents. Continue Reading To Disclose or Not to Disclose? An Analysis of the Order of the Securities Appellate Tribunal in Electrosteel Steels Limited v. Securities and Exchange Board of India

Applicability of the 2015 Amendments to the Arbitration and Conciliation Act

We have previously dealt with the Supreme Court’s decision in the case of BCCI v. Kochi[1] (see here and here) as well as the 2015 Amendments[2] to the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 (Act) and thereafter the 2019 Amendments[3] to the Act. Briefly recapped, the BCCI case read Section 26 to mean that the 2015 Amendments as a whole were to apply prospectively (meaning thereby that they would apply to arbitral proceedings commencing after October 23, 2015). However, as far as Section 36 (enforcement of a domestic award) of the principal Act was concerned, the 2015 Amendments applied retrospectively since the right to an “automatic stay” under Section 36 was not a vested one.

This meant that both in pending Section 34 petitions (filed prior to October 23, 2015) and in fresh Section 34 petitions, there would be no automatic stay of an award unless a separate application was made for such a stay, which the Court would have the discretion to grant or refuse and would also be premised on the posting of security. Continue Reading End Game – The Supreme Court Settles the Applicability of the 2015 Amendments

Good Faith Negotiations and Mediation 

It has become increasingly common for parties to adopt multi-tiered dispute resolution clauses in agreements. A typical multi-tiered dispute-resolution clause requires parties to first attempt to resolve a dispute amicably – for instance, by engaging in friendly discussions, submitting to mediation or undertaking good faith negotiations – before the commencement of arbitration proceedings. There has been much ado about the enforceability of such clauses and whether they should be considered void due to vagueness: how does one engage in “friendly discussions”, and what exactly are “good faith negotiations”, when a presumably acrimonious dispute has already arisen between parties?

Despite this ambiguity, courts have increasingly found tiered dispute-resolution clauses to be enforceable. In fact, with a view to combat rising pendency in courts, these principles have been extended to the initiation of litigation as well. The Commercial Courts Act, 2015 (CCA) was amended last year to state that any suit that does not contemplate urgent interim relief cannot be instituted without the plaintiff having exhausted the remedy of pre-institution mediation and settlement.[1] A similar model is also followed in a number of other countries, including the UK, Italy, Greece and Turkey, where it has been successful in encouraging dispute resolution through mediation.[2] Continue Reading Good Faith Negotiations and Mediation: A Missed Opportunity So Far

 Regulation 22(2A) of SEBI Takeover Regulations

A question that comes up regularly in the context of an underlying secondary transaction that triggers an open offer is whether such a transaction can be closed on the stock exchange? This is due to reservations expressed by the Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI) in relation to the interpretation of certain provisions of the SEBI (Substantial Acquisition of Shares and Takeovers) Regulations, 2011 (Takeover Regulations).

This has led to unintended consequences, which cast a doubt on the legality of the on-market closure of underlying share purchase transactions. The shadow of this doubt unfortunately extends to on-market closures even if the on-market closure follows the completion of the open-offer process. In this blog post[1] we would like to clarify that the on-market closure of underlying transactions is not contrary to Takeover Regulations and the provisions of Takeover Regulations are not subject to multiple interpretations on this aspect.[2] Continue Reading Regulation 22(2A) of SEBI Takeover Regulations : Is On-Market Closure of Underlying Transactions Prohibited?

Non-Debt Instruments -The New Rules for Foreign Flows

In a quiet mid-October surprise, nearly four and a half years after the passage of the Finance Act 2015 (20 of 2015), the Government notified the effective date for implementation of the clauses that amended Section 6 of the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 (FEMA). The notification defining debt and non-debt instruments followed suit and then of course the Non Debt Instrument Rules (NDI Rules) under FEMA, which superseded the extant FEMA 20R and 21R. Continue Reading Non-Debt Instruments -The New Rules for Foreign Flows

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. Continue Reading The Road to Resolution of Financial Service Providers: A Firm First Step

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. Continue Reading Essar Steel India Limited: Supreme Court Reinforces Primacy of Creditors Committee in Insolvency Resolution

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). Continue Reading Put-option Holders: Financial Creditors Under the IBC?