Share transfer restrictions come in various shapes and sizes and in so far as they relate to shares of public companies, their validity has been a topic of hot debate. In several cases, Indian courts have considered and opined on the legality of contractual restrictions on the transfer of shares of public companies. The position in this regard now appears to be much clearer than before with changes also being introduced in the Companies Act, 2013 (CA 2013). However, one aspect of this debate that has hitherto gained lesser traction is the ability of a public company to refuse registration of share transfers pursuant to section 58(4) of the CA 2013.
Section 58(2) of CA 2013 states that the securities of any member in a public company are freely transferable, while under section 58(4) of CA 2013, it is open to the public company to refuse registration of the transfer of securities for a ‘sufficient cause’. To that extent, section 58(4) of CA 2013 can be read as a limited restriction on the free transfer permitted under section 58(2) of CA 2013. However, the statute does not provide any guidance on what would constitute ‘sufficient cause’ and leaves it open to the company itself to ascertain the same.