The provisions of the Companies Act, 2013 (the Act), and the rules framed thereunder, mandate companies to file requisite documents, including annual returns and financial statements, with the concerned Registrar of Companies (RoC) of their jurisdiction. Non-adherence to such provisions and non-filing of the requisite documents is an offence, exposing non-complaint companies and its directors to severe penal consequences, including fines and prosecution.

However, the records of the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) and the National Company Law Tribunals (NCLT) would clearly reveal that a lot of companies have been non-compliant with their filings. This non-compliance has been a menace to all the stakeholders involved, including, inter alia, (i) the companies and directors who have to face penal consequences for such non-compliances; (ii) the MCA and its administration who are engaged in the process of updating the records; (iii) the public/ shareholders who do not get access to the records of the companies; and (iv) the NCLT and the office of Regional Directors, which are burdened with compounding cases.


Continue Reading A Fresh Start for Companies

Overriding the IBC’s over-rider

Insolvency resolution regimes, globally, function as an exception to otherwise accepted norms of commercial law.[1] The Indian Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (“Code”), is no exception: a mere glance at the Code will display how it has a liberal sprinkling of non-obstante clauses.[2] From a specific dispute resolution mechanism, to an overarching carve out for insolvency resolution mechanism, the legislature has inserted non-obstante clauses in the Code as guidance of its intent. One would imagine that this would have ensured sufficient clarity for all stakeholders, avoided disputes and ensured timely insolvency resolution. Yet, as market participants try to understand the scope and intent of non-obstante clauses in the Code, such clauses continue to generate legal debate and litigation[3]. Perhaps, the stakes are too high for the parties to resist litigating. And some would argue not without good legal reason: after all, the Hon’ble Supreme Court has over the years identified exceptions[4] to the Latin maxim ‘leges posteriores priores contraries abrogant’ i.e. in the event two special statutes contain non obstante clauses, the non-obstante clause in the chronologically later special statute shall prevail[5].
Continue Reading Overriding the IBC’s Over-Rider?

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.
Continue Reading Indian Insolvency Law responds to the COVID-19 Pandemic

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

In the case of Wiki Kids Limited[1], the NCLAT upheld the order of the NCLT rejecting a scheme of amalgamation, as it resulted in undue advantage to the promoters of the amalgamating company.

Facts

Background

In the instant case, a non-listed company Wiki Kids Limited (Transferor Company), wished to amalgamate with Avantel Limited, a listed company (Transferee Company). For the aforesaid purpose, these entities (collectively referred to as Appellants) had proposed a scheme of amalgamation (Scheme) and approached the Andhra Pradesh High Court, seeking directions with respect to the meetings of the shareholders, and secured and unsecured creditors in the Scheme.

Pursuant to the directions of the High Court, the Scheme was approved by the shareholders of the Transferee Company. In the meantime, in view of a notification of the Ministry of Corporate Affairs dated December 7, 2016, the case was transferred to the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT). The Appellants, accordingly, filed a second motion before the Hyderabad Bench of the NCLT. The NCLT, on perusal of various documents including the share exchange ratio and the valuation report, rejected the Scheme on the ground that it was beneficial to the common promoters of the Appellants and no public interest was being served.


Continue Reading NCLT Can Reject a Scheme of Arrangement if it is not in Public Interest

India has long recognised the right of foreign creditors to participate in the winding up of Indian companies. As early as 1961, the Supreme Court of India, in Rajah of Vizianagaram (AIR 1962 SC 500), clarified that foreign creditors have the same right as Indian creditors in winding up proceedings under Indian law. Given the backlog of cases and resultant timelines for resolving disputes in the Indian judicial system, winding up has been the remedy of choice, albeit mostly as a pressure point, for unsecured creditors including foreign unsecured creditors of Indian companies. Such creditors have taken winding up actions despite the low return (an abysmal 28% as per one source) and pace of insolvency (almost 4.5 years) in the Indian market. At the same time, there have been instances where consensual restructuring of stressed Indian companies has been halted by such actions of unsecured creditors.

The Indian government from time to time provided a specific legal regime for Indian financial creditors to recover their money – for example, debt recovery tribunals (DRT) and the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002 (SARFAESI). But no additional measures were suggested for non-financial creditors.


Continue Reading IBC- Making “Doing Business in India” Easy for Foreign Trade Creditors?

On August 31st 2017, the Supreme Court of India in the case of Innoventive Industries Limited v. ICICI Bank Limited* delivered its first extensive ruling on the operation and functioning of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (Insolvency Code). The Court said that it is pronouncing its detailed judgment in the very first application under the Insolvency Code, so that all Courts and Tribunals may take notice of a paradigm shift in the law.

The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal filed on behalf of Innoventive Industries Limited and confirmed the decision of the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT), which in turn had affirmed the order passed by the National Company Law Tribunal Mumbai (NCLT) admitting the insolvency petition filed by ICICI Bank Limited against Innoventive Industries Limited.
Continue Reading Innoventive Industries Limited v. ICICI Bank Limited: Paradigm Shift in Insolvency Law in India

In a landmark judgment recently delivered by the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) in the case of Innoventive Industries Limited v. ICICI Bank Limited, the NCLAT has held that the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) is bound to issue only a limited notice to the corporate debtor before admitting a case under Section 7 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (Insolvency Code).

Whilst dismissing the appeal filed by Innoventive Industries Limited against an order passed by NCLT, Mumbai admitting the insolvency petition filed by ICICI Bank Limited, the NCLAT has clarified that adherence to principles of natural justice would not mean that in every situation the NCLT is required to afford reasonable opportunity of hearing to the corporate debtor before passing its order.


Continue Reading NCLAT Defines the Scope and Extent of the Corporate Debtor’s Right to Contest Admission of Insolvency Applications Filed by Financial Creditors