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Interim Report of The Bankruptcy Law Reform Committee
February, 16th 2015
__________________________________________________


                  Interim Report of
        The Bankruptcy Law Reform Committee




                   February 2015
                         1
Contents
1.        INTRODUCTION ................................................................................................................................ 5
     1.1.        MANDATE................................................................................................................................ 5
     1.2.        WORKING PROCESS OF THE COMMITTEE ................................................................................ 7
     1.3.        STRUCTURE OF THE REPORT ................................................................................................... 7
2.        EXECUTIVE SUMMARY .................................................................................................................... 8
     2.1.        THE LEGAL LANDSCAPE ......................................................................................................... 8
     A.      LEGISLATIVE COMPETENCE ........................................................................................................ 8
     B.      REVIVAL AND REHABILITATION OF SICK COMPANIES ............................................................... 8
     C.      DEBT RESTRUCTURING UNDER SCHEMES OF ARRANGEMENT .................................................... 9
     D.      LIQUIDATION/WINDING-UP OF COMPANIES................................................................................ 9
     E.      INSOLVENCY RESOLUTION OF INDIVIDUALS AND PARTNERSHIPS.............................................. 9
     F.      INSOLVENCY RESOLUTION OF CO-OPERATIVE SOCIETIES ........................................................ 10
     G.      ASSET RECONSTRUCTION UNDER THE SARFAESI ACT ........................................................... 10
     H.      DEBT ENFORCEMENT/ RECOVERY ............................................................................................ 10
     I.      THE NON-STATUTORY FRAMEWORK PRESCRIBED BY THE RBI ................................................ 11
     J.      STATE RELIEF UNDERTAKING ACTS ......................................................................................... 12
     K.      THE INDUSTRIES DEVELOPMENT AND REGULATION ACT, 1951 .............................................. 12
     2.2.        POLICY OBJECTIVES AND INGREDIENTS OF AN EFFECTIVE SYSTEM .................................... 12
     2.3.        FAILURE OF THE INDIAN CORPORATE INSOLVENCY REGIME ............................................... 12
     2.4.        SUMMARY OF ISSUES AND RECOMMENDATIONS .................................................................. 14
     A.      CORPORATE RESCUE ................................................................................................................. 14
     B.      LIQUIDATION OF COMPANIES ON THE GROUND OF INSOLVENCY ............................................. 25
     C.      ISSUES RELEVANT FOR BOTH RESCUE AND LIQUIDATION ....................................................... 28
     D.      SAFE HARBOURS ....................................................................................................................... 31
     E.      INSOLVENCY RESOLUTION OF MSMES .................................................................................... 31
3.        POLICY OBJECTIVES AND INGREDIENTS OF AN EFFICIENT SYSTEM ............................................. 32
     3.1.        POLICY OBJECTIVES .............................................................................................................. 32
     A.      CREDITOR PROTECTION ............................................................................................................ 33
     B.      PROMOTING ECONOMIC GROWTH ............................................................................................ 33
     C.      PROMOTING CORPORATE BOND MARKETS .............................................................................. 34
     D.      PROMOTING CREDIT MARKETS IN GENERAL ............................................................................. 34
     E.      PROTECTING OTHER STAKEHOLDERS ....................................................................................... 36
     A.      PROMOTERS/SHAREHOLDERS ................................................................................................... 36
     B.      EMPLOYEES ............................................................................................................................... 36
     F.      ENHANCING INVESTOR CONFIDENCE........................................................................................ 37
     3.2.        INGREDIENTS OF AN EFFECTIVE SYSTEM.............................................................................. 37


                                                                             2
4.        CORPORATE RESCUE ..................................................................................................................... 39
     4.1.         SICK INDUSTRIAL COMPANIES (SPECIAL PROVISIONS) ACT, 1985 ....................................... 39
     A.        THE FAILURE OF THE SICA REGIME ......................................................................................... 39
     B.        NEW EVIDENCE ON FAILURE .................................................................................................... 42
     4.2. SCHEMES OF ARRANGEMENT FOR DEBT RESTRUCTURING UNDER THE COMPANIES ACT,
     1956 .............................................................................................................................................. 44
     4.3. COMPANIES ACT, 2013 - RECOMMENDATIONS FOR REFORM AND QUESTIONS FOR
     CONSIDERATION................................................................................................................................ 46
     A.        DETERMINING WHEN CORPORATE REVIVAL AND REHABILITATION IS TO BE INITIATED BY
     THE SECURED CREDITORS OR THE DEBTOR COMPANY .................................................................... 47

     B.        ALLOWING UNSECURED CREDITORS TO INITIATE RESCUE PROCEEDINGS ............................... 50
     C. RELEVANCE OF VIABILITY AND REDUCTION OF TIME-LINES FOR DETERMINING WHETHER TO
     RESCUE OR LIQUIDATE ..................................................................................................................... 51
     D.        MORATORIUM ........................................................................................................................... 53
     E.        DIRECT APPOINTMENT OF THE COMPANY ADMINISTRATOR BY SECURED CREDITORS ......... 57
     F.        TAKEOVER OF MANAGEMENT OR ASSETS BY THE ADMINISTRATOR ....................................... 60
     G.        POWERS AND FUNCTIONS OF THE COMPANY ADMINISTRATOR ................................................ 66
     H.        SCHEME OF REHABILITATION .................................................................................................... 68

     I.        RESCUE FINANCING AND GRANT OF SUPER-PRIORITY ............................................................. 70
     J.        INTERACTION WITH DEBT ENFORCEMENT UNDER THE SARFAESI ACT.................................. 76
     K.        DEBT RESTRUCTURING UNDER SCHEMES OF ARRANGEMENT.................................................. 77
5.        LIQUIDATION OF COMPANIES ON THE GROUND OF INSOLVENCY ................................................. 80
     5.1.         COMPANIES ACT, 1956.......................................................................................................... 80
     A.        THE LAW IN PRACTICE .............................................................................................................. 80
     B.        NEW EVIDENCE ON FAILURE .................................................................................................... 81
     5.2. COMPANIES ACT, 2013 - RECOMMENDATIONS FOR REFORM AND QUESTIONS FOR
     CONSIDERATION................................................................................................................................ 84
     A. DEVELOPING APPROPRIATE CRITERIA FOR DETERMINING WHEN A COMPANY IS `UNABLE TO
     PAY DEBTS' FOR THE PURPOSES OF WINDING UP ........................................................................... 84
     B.        PRIORITY OF PAYMENTS ............................................................................................................ 93
          A.      PRIORITY RIGHTS OF SECURED CREDITORS .......................................................................... 93
          B.      PRIORITY FOR GOVERNMENT DEBTS (CROWN DEBTS) OVER UNSECURED CREDITORS ....... 96
     C.        STRENGTHENING PROVISIONS ON AVOIDANCE OF CERTAIN TRANSACTIONS IN WINDING UP...
               .................................................................................................................................................. 97
          A.      AVOIDANCE OF TRANSFERS NOT IN GOOD FAITH .................................................................. 98
          B.      INCLUSION OF A PROVISION VOIDING TRANSACTIONS DEFRAUDING CREDITORS ................. 98
          C.      TRANSACTIONS WITH RELATED PARTIES .............................................................................. 99
          D.      IMPROVING THE EFFECTIVENESS OF THE AVOIDANCE PROVISIONS ...................................... 99
     D.        STRENGTHENING MANAGERIAL ACCOUNTABILITY PROVISIONS IN WINDING UP................... 100


                                                                                  3
          A.      INTRODUCING THE WRONGFUL TRADING PROVISION ........................................................ 101
6.        ISSUES RELEVANT FOR BOTH RESCUE AND LIQUIDATION ......................................................... 105
     6.1.         FORUM ................................................................................................................................ 105
     A.        IMPACT OF THE SUPREME COURT RULINGS ON THE NATIONAL COMPANY LAW TRIBUNAL AND
     THE NATIONAL TAX TRIBUNAL ...................................................................................................... 105

     6.2.         PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE ................................................................................................ 111
     6.3.         REGULATION OF INSOLVENCY PRACTITIONERS.................................................................. 114
     A.        SAFEGUARDS AS REGARDS QUALIFICATION ........................................................................... 114
     B.        REGULATION OF CONFLICT OF INTERESTS ............................................................................. 115
     C.        CODE OF CONDUCT/ETHICS .................................................................................................... 115
     D.        REMUNERATION ...................................................................................................................... 116
7.        SAFE HARBOURS IN INSOLVENCY ............................................................................................... 118
     7.1.         INTRODUCTION .................................................................................................................... 118
     7.2.         RATIONALE AND CRITIQUES OF SAFE HARBOUR PROVISIONS ........................................... 118
     7.3.         POST-2008 RESPONSES TO SAFE HARBOUR PROVISIONS .................................................... 120
     7.4.         THE SEBI PROPOSAL .......................................................................................................... 121
8.        INSOLVENCY RESOLUTION OF MSMES ...................................................................................... 125
     8.1.         PERSONAL INSOLVENCY LAWS ........................................................................................... 125
     8.2.         THE RBI'S EXISTING FRAMEWORK .................................................................................... 127
     8.3.         A STATUTORY ADMINISTRATIVE MECHANISM FOR RESTRUCTURING OF MSME DEBTS .. 128
     8.4.         VOLUNTARY AUCTIONS FOR SMALL BUSINESSES .............................................................. 129




                                                                              4
1. INTRODUCTION

1.1. MANDATE

The Bankruptcy Law Reform Committee ("BLRC" or the "Committee") was set up by the Department
of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, under the Chairmanship of Mr. T.K. Vishwanathan (former
Secretary General, Lok Sabha and former Union Law Secretary) by an office order dated August 22,
2014 to study the "corporate bankruptcy legal framework in India" and submit a report to the
Government for reforming the system.1 During the course of its deliberations, the Committee decided
to divide the project into two parts: (i) to examine the present legal framework for corporate insolvency
and suggest immediate reforms, and (ii) to develop an `Insolvency Code' for India covering all aspects
of personal and business insolvency. Given the multiplicity of laws and adjudicatory forums governing
insolvency matters in India, the BLRC is of the opinion that developing an Insolvency Code and its
operationalisation will require more time. However, there are several measures for insolvency
resolution of companies under financial distress that can be implemented sooner without undermining
the long-term project of developing and implementing the Insolvency Code. Although one of the main
purposes of this interim report ("Interim Report" or "Report") is to suggest certain immediate reforms
for improving the corporate insolvency regime in India, given that the provisions of the new Companies
Act, 2013 ("CA 2013") on rescue and liquidation of companies (or at least the principles therein) may
be subsumed into the Insolvency Code with suitable modifications, the issues related to CA 2013
covered in this Report will be relevant for framing the Insolvency Code as well.2 To that extent, this
Interim Report is also intended to serve as an `Approach Paper' for the Insolvency Code.

During the course of its deliberations, the BLRC also realised that since most Micro, Small and Medium
enterprises in India ("MSMEs") are established as sole proprietorships whose legal status is inseparable
from that of the individuals who own them, issues relating to their insolvency resolution cannot be
addressed completely by introducing changes to the corporate insolvency regime alone. While the
Insolvency Code will cover all forms of businesses (irrespective of the nature of the entity), given that
developing and implementing such a code will require more time, it was decided to include a separate
section for MSMEs in this Report and suggest some measures for addressing their immediate concerns.


1
 Other members of the Committee include Mr. Ajay Tyagi, Additional Secretary (Investment), Department of
Economic Affairs, Mr. Ajai Mehrotra (Representative of the Ministry of Corporate Affairs), Dr. Shashank Saksena
(Representative of the Department of Financial Services), Dr. M.Vijaywargiya (Representative of the Ministry of
Law, Legislative Department), Mr. Sudarshan Sen (Representative of the Reserve Bank of India), Mr. Amit
Pradhan (Representative of the Securities and Exchange Board of India), Dr. Ajay Shah (National Institute of
Public Finance and Policy), Prof. Susan Thomas (Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research), Mr.
M.R.Umarji (Alliance Corporate Lawyers), Mr. Bahram Vakil (AZB & Partners), Mr. P. Ravi Prasad (Tempus
Law Associates), Mr. B.S. Saluja (The International Centre for Alternative Dispute Resolution), Ms. Aparna Ravi
(Centre for Law and Policy Research) and permanent invitee, Mr. Malay Mukherjee (CEO & MD, Industrial
Finance Corporation of India).
2
  It may be noted that the Ministry of Corporate Affairs representative on the Committee was of the view that
given that the provisions relating to winding up of a company as envisaged in Chapter XX of CA 2013 also apply
to liquidation of companies on grounds other than insolvency, such provisions may be retained in CA 2013 (and
not subsumed in the Insolvency Code). Although the BLRC has not taken a final decision on this issue yet, it notes
that in order to prevent the development of a fragmented regime on the law of liquidation, the Insolvency Code
can contain provisions on liquidation of solvent companies as well. It may be noted that the Insolvency Act, 1986,
the comprehensive insolvency code of the United Kingdom provides for liquidation on non-insolvency related
grounds as well.

                                                        5
We also wish to clarify that this Report does not address issues relating to insolvency resolution of
banks and other financial institutions. Recent experience and research have shown that financial
institutions require a special insolvency regime that is faster than any traditional insolvency procedure,
where rights of the creditors and the shareholders can be overridden in the interest of the financial
system and the economy. The Financial Sector Legislative Reforms Commission ("FSLRC")
constituted by the Government of India has already recommended a separate resolution mechanism for
financial institutions. However, in view of a specific proposal made by the Securities and Exchange
Board of India ("SEBI") for urgent consideration of the BLRC that proposes exemptions for certain
financial contracts from several crucial features of general insolvency law in the interest of efficient
functioning of the capital markets, we have examined that proposal in a separate section and made use
of the opportunity to raise some questions about the nature and content of such `safe harbor provisions'
for the purpose of the Insolvency Code.

Given the increase in foreign investments into India in the recent past, the impact of Indian laws that
affect businesses ought to be viewed in conjunction with the laws of other jurisdictions. In this context,
the BLRC realises the importance of developing an efficient system for addressing cross-border
insolvencies in India. In this regard, some of the previous law reform committees have recommended
that the UNCITRAL Model Law on Cross-Border Insolvency should be adopted in India. The
UNCITRAL Model Law provides a legal framework to coordinate cross-border insolvency proceedings
so as to protect the interests of all stakeholders. The Model Law achieves this object by first, mandating
judicial cooperation, secondly, by conferring on a foreign insolvency administrator (or a similar
representative) standing in local proceedings and finally, by ensuring equal treatment to foreign and
local claims. The Model Law is applicable in cases where the foreign creditor seeks to initiate
insolvency proceedings before a local court or when a local court seeks the assistance of a foreign court
or foreign representative and finally, in situations where there are parallel insolvency proceedings of
the same debtor company in different jurisdictions. The BLRC is of the opinion that further thought and
consideration is required before implementing the UNCITRAL Model Law.3 Such adoption should
ideally take place only after the adoption of the Insolvency Code. This is because the effectiveness of a
cross-border insolvency system is predicated on the effectiveness of the domestic insolvency regime.
The issues relating to cross-border insolvency shall be addressed as part of the final report of the BLRC
("Final Report").

Lastly, this Interim Report does not cover issues relating to debt recovery legislations. It may be noted
that the commencement of corporate insolvency procedures may entail significant costs. For solvent
debtor companies, it will usually be far less costly to provide mechanisms outside corporate insolvency
law for the resolution of disputes over debts and for the enforcement of undisputed debts on default.
The Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act,
2002 ("SARFAESI Act") and the Debt Recovery Tribunals under the Recovery of Debts Due to Banks
and Financial Institutions Act, 1993 ("RDDBI Act") were designed to perform this function. Although
the former has been fairly successful, several challenges remain to be addressed for both the legislations.
We intend to cover issues relating to those legislations in the Final Report.


3
 It may be noted that in addition to the UNCITRAL Model Law on Cross-Border Insolvency, other international
approaches may also need to be considered. Such approaches include the EC Regulation on Insolvency
Proceedings (Council regulation (EC) No 1346/2000 of 29 May 2000 on insolvency proceedings), American Law
Institute's NAFTA Transnational Insolvency Project and the International Bar Association Cross -Border
Insolvency Concordat.


                                                    6
1.2. WORKING PROCESS OF THE COMMITTEE

The BLRC had its first meeting on September 4, 2014. The Committee had five subsequent meetings
between September 26, 2014 and January 28, 2015. The Committee received and deliberated on
research papers submitted by `Finance Research Group, Indira Gandhi Institute of Development
Research, Mumbai' and the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, New Delhi. The Committee also received
written submissions from its members, the Securities and Exchange Board of India, the Ministry of
Corporate Affairs ("MCA"), and the Ministry of Micro Small and Medium Enterprises on various
issues relating to its mandate. The Committee also invited and received comments from members of
the public through a notification dated October 20, 2014. It is expected that this Interim Report will
serve as a catalyst for a wider and more extensive consultation with all the stakeholders.

The Committee is thankful to Dr. Raghuram Rajan, the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India ("RBI")
who addressed the BLRC on September 26, 2014 and underscored the outcomes that need to be
considered for a project of this nature.

Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, New Delhi assisted the Committee with legal research and drafting of
this Report.4

1.3. STRUCTURE OF THE REPORT

This Report is divided into eight parts. `Section 3' of the Report attempts to spell out the broad policy
objectives for a well-functioning corporate insolvency system and outlines the minimum requirements
for the system to be effective. `Section 4' discusses the law applicable to corporate rescue in India and
makes recommendations for reforms. In addition to providing an overview of the law on the books, this
Section also examines the law in practice, underscoring the failures of the system. The last part of this
Section identifies key issues relating to the law on corporate rescue as proposed in CA 2013 and
suggests reforms for making the system more effective. `Section 5' of the Report carries out a similar
analysis for the law on liquidation of companies. In `Section 6', we examine issues relevant for both
rescue and liquidation of companies. This section covers issues relating to (i) the operationalisation of
National Company Law Tribunal ("NCLT"), (ii) practice and procedure in rescue and liquidation
proceedings and (iii) regulation of insolvency practitioners. `Section 7' discusses the concept of safe
harbours that exempt certain financial contracts from several features of general insolvency law. Lastly,
in `Section 8', we examine issues relating to insolvency resolution of MSMEs. `Section 2' provides an
overview of the legal landscape and contains an executive summary of all the issues and
recommendations discussed in this Report.




4
 The Vidhi team that assisted the Committee included Debanshu Mukherjee, Arghya Sengupta, Alok Prasanna
Kumar, Subramanian Natarajan, Anjali Anchayil, Shreya Garg, Krishnaprasad K.V., Yashaswini Mittal, Jeet
Shroff, Faiza Rahman, Chintan Chandrachud and Shubhangi Bhadada. Dr. Kristin van Zwieten, Associate
Professor of Law and Finance at the University of Oxford acted as a consultant to the Vidhi team.

                                                   7
2. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

2.1. THE LEGAL LANDSCAPE

A. LEGISLATIVE COMPETENCE

       The Parliament has the power to make laws with respect to any of the matters listed in List I (Union
       List) and List III (Concurrent List) of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India, 1950
       ("Constitution"). States also have the power to enact laws on matters listed in List III, besides List
       II (State List). In case of repugnancy, or conflict between laws made by the Parliament and State
       Legislature on a matter relatable to List III, the parliamentary law prevails.5 This is unless the State
       has sought presidential assent for its law, in which case it prevails in that state only.6 `Bankruptcy
       and Insolvency' is an item specified in Entry 9 of List III. Entry 43 of List I deals with
       `incorporation, regulation and winding up of trading corporations, including banking, insurance
       and financial corporations, but not including co-operative societies' whereas Entry 44 of List I deals
       with `incorporation, regulation and winding up of corporations, whether trading or not, with objects
       not confined to one State, but not including universities.' Further, Entry 32 of List II deals with
       `incorporation, regulation and winding up of corporations, other than those specified in List I...'
       While the entries in List I do not raise any issues regarding the Parliament's competence to pass a
       law on such entries, the power of the State Legislatures to enact a law on a matter under Entry 32
       of List II does not, in any matter whatsoever, affect the Parliament's power to enact a law under
       Entry 9 of list III.

B. REVIVAL AND REHABILITATION OF SICK COMPANIES

       The Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985 ("SICA") remains to date the only
       central corporate rescue law in force (although, it applies to industrial companies only). This is
       because other legislative attempts to overhaul the corporate rescue regime in India have not been
       made operational yet. Chapter XIX of CA 2013 which provides for a broader and more balanced
       corporate rescue procedure, applicable to all companies, has not been notified for commencement.
       The changes made in the older companies legislation, the Companies Act, 1956 ("CA 1956") have
       also not entered into force: Chapter VIA of the CA 1956, inserted by the Companies (Second
       Amendment) Act, 2002, which provided for the National Company Law Tribunal ("NCLT") to
       exercise powers in relation to sick industrial companies could not be notified for commencement
       because the operationalization of the NCLT remained entangled in litigation. Consequently, the
       accompanying repealing legislation, the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Repeal
       Act, 2003 could also not be notified. Therefore, as of today, all aspects of rehabilitation of
       sick/potentially sick industrial companies continue to be governed by SICA and there is no similar
       statutory rescue mechanism for other categories of companies (other than mechanisms under certain
       statutes applicable to banking companies and some State Relief Undertaking Acts).




5
    Article 254(1), Constitution of India 1950.
6
    Article 254(2), Constitution of India 1950.


                                                        8
C. DEBT RESTRUCTURING UNDER SCHEMES OF ARRANGEMENT

      Chapter V of the CA 1956 (or Chapter XV of CA 2013) provides for a mechanism by which
      corporate revival and rehabilitation may be undertaken (at least in theory). Section 391of CA 1956
      provides for a court-supervised process by which a company can enter into a scheme of arrangement
      or a compromise with its creditors and/or members. The nature of the scheme or compromise that
      can be proposed under this provision is very wide: it includes schemes or compromises that may be
      proposed to restore the company to profitability. Further, such a scheme may be proposed at any
      stage, including during the pendency of insolvency proceedings against the company. There is no
      requirement of proof of insolvency or impending insolvency. Thus, the company's management
      can act at the early signs of financial distress and collaborate with the creditors to rescue the
      company. Further, unlike the SICA, all companies, and not just industrial companies, are covered
      within the ambit of Section 391. However, unlike SICA, provisions for debt restructuring under
      Chapter V of CA 1956 or Chapter XV of CA 2013 do not provide for an automatic moratorium (see
      Section 4.3 (K) of this Report for an overview of the mechanism envisaged under CA 2013). It may
      be noted that schemes of arrangement for companies governed under certain special Acts (like the
      Banking Regulation Act, 1949 for banking companies) are governed by such Acts.

D. LIQUIDATION/WINDING-UP OF COMPANIES

      The current legal framework governing the winding-up of companies is contained in the CA 1956.
      The provisions contained in Chapter XX of the CA 2013 relating to winding up of companies have
      not been notified yet. The winding up proceedings under the CA 1956 are carried out voluntarily
      (members' voluntary liquidation, which is a liquidation procedure for solvent companies, and
      creditors' voluntary liquidation), or compulsorily by the High Court. It may be noted that
      insolvency of a company is only one of the grounds for compulsory winding up a company.7

E. INSOLVENCY RESOLUTION OF INDIVIDUALS AND PARTNERSHIPS

      (i)Personal insolvency is primarily governed under two Acts in India: the Presidency Towns
      Insolvency Act, 1909 (for the erstwhile Presidency towns, i.e. Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai) and
      the Provincial Insolvency Act, 1920 (for the rest of India). Though these are central laws, it should
      be noted that both these Acts have a number of state specific amendments. The substantive
      provisions under the two Acts are largely similar. There have not been any substantial changes to
      this regime over the years and it has proved to be largely ineffective in practice. (ii)The Limited
      Liability Partnership Act, 2008 ("LLP Act") includes provisions not only related to winding up and
      dissolution of a limited liability partnership8 ("LLP") but also for compromise, arrangement or
      reconstruction of an LLP9. These provisions are similar to the ones in the CA 2013. In addition, the
      Limited Liability Partnership (Winding up and Dissolution) Rules, 2012 contain detailed provisions
      regarding the procedure of winding up and dissolution of an LLP in various circumstances,
      including insolvency.10 However, unlike the CA 2013, there are no provisions for the rehabilitation

7
 It may be noted that winding of certain statutory corporations are governed as per the provisions of the special
acts applicable to such corporations.
8
    See Sections 63-65, LLP Act, 2008.
9
    See Sections 60-62, LLP Act, 2008.
10
  Please note that there is also a `Notification regarding Certain Provisions of the Companies Act, 1956 which
shall be Applicable to a Limited Liability Partnership', dated 6 January 2010 that has made a number of provisions
of the Companies Act 1956 relating to winding up of companies applicable to limited liability partnerships.


                                                        9
       or revival of sick LLPs. Most aspects of insolvency resolution of other partnerships (established
       under the Indian Partnership Act, 1932) are governed under the personal insolvency law.

F. INSOLVENCY RESOLUTION OF CO-OPERATIVE SOCIETIES

       Co-operative societies fall under the State List in the Constitution and there are State specific
       legislations for co-operative societies which often include provisions relating to winding up. In
       addition, the Co-operative Societies Act, 191211 and the Multi-State Co-operative Societies Act,
       200212, which are both central acts, also include provisions for the dissolution and winding up of
       co-operative societies registered under them. However, these Acts do not provide for the
       rehabilitation or revival of sick co-operative societies.

G. ASSET RECONSTRUCTION UNDER THE SARFAESI ACT

       The SARFAESI Act envisages specialised resolution agencies in the form of Asset Reconstruction
       Companies ("ARCs") to resolve Non-performing Assets ("NPAs")13 and other specified bank loans
       under distress. ARCs are seen as vehicles to increase the liquidity of banks which can divest
       themselves of bad loans by transferring them to the ARCs. But given their powers to resort to
       several measures (which includes taking over the management and conversion of debt into equity
       among others) for recovering the value underlying those loans, ARCs can (at least in theory) also
       help in insolvency resolution of a company. The banks are required to hold exposure in the sold
       loans through subscription to security receipts issued by the special purpose vehicle holding the
       assets under consideration. Such offloaded assets are generally held in trusts that issue security
       receipts and are managed by the ARCs in their capacity as trustees. It may be noted that an ARC
       can takeover the management of the borrower only for the purpose of `realization of dues' . The
       management of the company has to be restored back to the borrower after realisation of the dues.
       Therefore, this mechanism is largely seen as a debt recovery tool and not an insolvency resolution
       tool (i.e., it does not facilitate rescue in practice).

H. DEBT ENFORCEMENT/ RECOVERY

       a. The RDDBI Act set up the framework for the establishment of Debt Recovery Tribunals
          ("DRTs") and the Debt Recovery Appellate Tribunals ("DRATs") in India. The primary
          objective of RDDBFI Act was to ensure speedy adjudication of cases concerning recovery of
          debts due to banks and notified financial institutions. Cases pending before the civil courts
          where the debt amount exceeded Rs 10,00,000 were automatically transferred to DRTs. There
          are some key differences between DRTs and ordinary civil courts. First, differences in
          procedure: ordinary civil courts are bound to follow the procedural rules set out in the Code of
          Civil Procedure, 1908 ("CPC"), whereas DRTs adopt a summary procedure based on the rules
          of natural justice.14 Second, in DRTs, there is a more restricted scope for hearing arguments




11
     See Sections 39-42, Co-operative Societies Act, 1912.
12
     See Sections 86-93, Multi-State Co-operative Societies Act, 2002.
13
  Among other grounds, a loan account is classified as a NPA if "interest and/ or instalment of principal remain
overdue for a period of more than 90 days in respect of a term loan" on the basis of guidelines and conditions
prescribed by the RBI.
14
     Section 22(1), RDDBFI Act.


                                                        10
         over the procedural lapses of the creditor.15 Third, DRTs fall within the purview of the Ministry
         of Finance, unlike civil courts, which are part of the judicial hierarchy under the supervision of
         the respective High Court. Appeals from orders of the DRT lie to the relevant DRAT.

     b. In terms of Section 13 of the SARFAESI Act, after a secured debt has been classified as an
        NPA and the borrower fails to repay the amount within sixty days of being called upon to do
        so, the secured creditors can enforce their security interests without the intervention of any
        court or tribunal. Such enforcement proceedings can also be initiated by the ARCs where the
        debt has been assigned to them. Section 17 of the SARFAESI Act allows borrowers to file an
        appeal against such enforcement actions before the DRT (provided certain conditions are
        satisfied).

     c. Both secured and unsecured creditors can also initiate recovery proceedings by filing a civil
        suit before a civil court of competent jurisdiction.

     d. Certain State financial institutions can also initiate recovery proceedings under the State
        Financial Corporation Act, 1951.

I. THE NON-STATUTORY FRAMEWORK PRESCRIBED BY THE RBI

     a. Corporate Debt Restructuring ("CDR") Mechanism: The Corporate Debt Restructuring
        mechanism, as envisaged in the RBI circulars on the subject, aims to provide a forum for
        corporate debt restructuring for viable businesses in financial distress outside the court/tribunal
        driven legal processes. Whereas the court-supervised scheme of arrangement procedure
        provides a formal route to the restructuring of any or all of a company's debts through a court,
        the CDR tool aims to facilitate the restructuring of debts owed to a class of creditors
        (institutional creditors) using essentially contractual means. Only debtors availing credit
        facilities from more than one bank with an outstanding total debt of INR 10 crore or more are
        eligible for such restructuring.

     b. Joint Lender's Forum: The RBI has recently laid down guidelines for early recognition of
        financial distress, taking prompt steps for resolution, and ensuring fair recovery for lending
        institutions. Before a loan account turns into a NPA, banks are required to identify incipient
        stress in the account by creating three sub-categories under the Special Mention Account
        ("SMA") category. Banks are also required to report certain credit information pertaining to a
        class of borrowers to the `Central Repository of Information on Large Credits' (" CRILC").
        These guidelines envisage the mandatory setting up of a Joint Lenders' Forum ("JLF") by the
        lending institutions if the principal or interest payment on the loan account is overdue for more
        than 60 days and the aggregate exposure of lenders in that account is INR 1000 million and
        above (see Section 4.3 (A) of this Report for an overview of other features of this mechanism).
        The JLF mechanism allows lenders to explore various options to resolve the stress in the
        account with the intention of arriving at an early and feasible solution to preserve the economic
        value of the underlying assets as well as the lenders' loans. Such options include restructuring
        of the account if it is prima facie viable and the borrower is not a wilful defaulter, and recovery
        if the restructuring procedure does not appear feasible to the participating lenders.




15
   H Jayesh, Fraser M Alexander, Rashmi Grover, Ashish Banga, `Multi -Jurisdictional Survey: India:
Enforcement of Security Interests in Banking Transactions'.


                                                    11
      c. RBI Guidelines for Rehabilitation of Sick Micro and Small Enterprises ("MSEs"): The RBI
         issued new Guidelines for Rehabilitation of Sick Micro and Small Enterprises in 2012, which
         provides for the process of identification of a sick unit, early detection of incipient sickness,
         and lays down a procedure to be adopted by banks for resolution of distress (see Section 8.2 of
         this Report for an overview of other features).

J. STATE RELIEF UNDERTAKING ACTS

      Several State governments have their own Relief Undertaking legislations that seek to provide for
      rehabilitation of sick undertakings established or funded by the government. Many such legislations
      were specifically enacted for the purpose of preventing unemployment (and thus allowed many
      unviable businesses to continue operating even at the cost of creditors).

K. THE INDUSTRIES DEVELOPMENT AND REGULATION ACT, 1951

      It may be noted that the Central Government is authorised to take-over the management of a
      scheduled industrial company under the Industries Development and Regulation Act, 1951 several
      grounds and provide relief similar to those available under insolvency laws (suspension of claims
      etc.)
___
*It may be noted that this Interim Report focuses on suggesting immediate reforms to the legal regimes
discussed in items B., C. and D. above.

2.2. POLICY OBJECTIVES AND INGREDIENTS OF AN EFFECTIVE SYSTEM

The incidence of corporate failure has adverse implications for various stakeholders including the
shareholders, creditors, employees, suppliers and customers. Corporate failure can also have a ripple
effect on the economy, affecting the solvency of many other businesses. Therefore, it is necessary that
there be a highly efficient corporate insolvency regime that (i) separates viable companies from the
unviable ones, and (ii) reorganises the former to the extent feasible and liquidates the latter (before any
significant depletion in the value of the business), minimising losses for all stakeholders in the process.
A well-designed insolvency system must address the following policy objectives: (i) the protection of
creditor interests by maximising returns to creditors; (ii) the promotion of economic growth through
efficient reallocation of resources; (iii) the development of credit markets; (iv) the protection of other
stakeholders such as employees and shareholders; and (iv) enhancement of investor confidence. An
ideal insolvency regime needs to strike the right balance between the interests of all the stakeholders by
a reasonable allocation of risks among them. However, the law on the statute book cannot be the sole
basis for an effective corporate insolvency regime. For any law to be effective, the institutional context
within which it operates plays as significant a role as the substantive law itself. This Report makes a
case for reforming the corporate insolvency regime in India through a combination of substantive and
institutional changes.


2.3. FAILURE OF THE INDIAN CORPORATE INSOLVENCY REGIME

The Doing Business reports, a joint project of the World Bank and the International Finance
Corporation, attempt to shed light on how easy or difficult it is for a local entrepreneur to open and run
a small to medium-size business while complying with relevant regulations in a given economy. The
project aims to track changes in regulations in 11 areas in the life cycle of a business. One among these

                                                    12
is the ease of resolving insolvencies. The most recent Doing Business Report ranks India 137 out of the
189 economies for resolving insolvencies. It notes, "According to data collected by Doing Business,
resolving insolvency takes 4.3 years on average and costs 9.0% of the debtor's estate, with the most
likely outcome being that the company will be sold as piecemeal sale. The average recovery rate is 25.7
cents on the dollar".16 In spite of being structurally similar to some efficiently functioning insolvency
regimes of the world (especially for winding up or liquidation), the Indian regime has not proved to be
very effective in practice.

It is seen that delays both at level of the insolvency officials or at the courts/tribunals are primarily
responsible for the failure of the Indian corporate insolvency regime. The delays in the proceedings are
attributable to several factors including : (i) managerial delaying tactics (which may be at least in part
a function of how the existing laws operate), (ii) requirement of court approvals and the discretion
available with the courts to intervene at every stage, (iii) lack of institutional capacity (in terms of
resources, number of judges and well-trained officials) (iv) complicated priority regime for distribution
(in liquidation), (v) abuse by the debtors of the moratorium on debt enforcement (during rescue); (vi)
pro-rehabilitation approach of the courts and adjudicatory bodies (even in case of unviable businesses),
which appears to have led to practice and procedural rules that result in delays, (vii) holdouts by certain
creditors in rescue through schemes of arrangement and compromises with creditors (which again may
be a function at least in part of how the existing procedures operate, (viii) delayed decision-making by
state-owned creditors (arguably attributable to their institutional structure) and (ix) multiple forums
spread across different legislations leading to multiplicity of legal actions on the same cause of action
and related conflicts. Recent research indicates that several procedure and practice related issues have
contributed to the failure of the corporate insolvency regime in India, indicating that unless such issues
are also countered effectively, there may be no substantial improvement in the actual outcomes (see
Sections 4.1 (B) and 5.1 (B) of the Report for a discussion on the recent findings).

The inefficiency of the corporate rescue and winding up/liquidation regime in India has led to a situation
where most creditors prefer to initiate separate recovery proceedings (often involving the same assets)
irrespective of the viability of the company. This leads to conflicts, disorderly distribution, delays and
depletion in value of the company, which could have otherwise been rescued. Although the debt
enforcement legislations are meant to provide a crucial support function for the corporate insolvency
regime, creditors should not be resorting to piecemeal debt enforcement for insolvent/distressed but
viable companies. Such companies should be referred to a `court/tribunal driven' or `out-of-court'
collective rescue process to maximise the value for all the stakeholders. However, in the absence of an
efficient corporate rescue and liquidation regime in India, it is difficult to prevent creditors from
initiating separate debt enforcement actions even for viable businesses. This problem is compounded
further where the creditors are over collateralized (where the value of collateral is higher than the debt).
These issues underscore the importance of having a well-functioning, collective corporate rescue and
liquidation regime in India that creates the right incentives for all the stakeholders to be involved in the
process.




16
   It may be noted that the Doing Business "data for the resolving insolvency indicators are derived from
questionnaire responses by local insolvency practitioners and verified through a study of laws and regulations as
well as public information on bankruptcy systems" . Further, it may also be noted that the Doing Business data is
based on information collected from two cities only (Delhi and Mumbai). Therefore this data may not necessarily
be representative of the actual situation in India. Anecdotal accounts suggest that the time taken to resolve
insolvencies through the formal procedures in India may be much longer in many cases.

                                                       13
2.4. SUMMARY OF ISSUES AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Although the rescue and liquidation related provisions of the new CA 2013 make several improvements
over the old regime, there are many areas where its provisions need further changes to ensure that the
new regime works efficiently and produces the desired outcomes. This not only requires some
substantive changes to CA 2013, but also certain institutional and practice related changes. It may be
noted that this Report also identifies the amendments required to comply with the judgments of the
Supreme Court in relation to the NCLT. The BLRC is hopeful that most of the changes proposed in this
Report will help in development of an effective corporate insolvency regime in India and may also help
in improving India's ranking in the `Resolving Insolvency' indicator of the Doing Business reports.
Moreover, since many of the CA 2013 concepts on rescue and liquidation are also relevant for the
proposed Insolvency Code, the issues raised in this Report and the rationale provided for the proposed
amendments will be useful for initiating a wider public consultation on all such concepts.

A. CORPORATE RESCUE

a. DETERMINING WHEN CORPORATE REVIVAL AND REHABILITATION IS TO BE INITIATED BY
   SECURED CREDITORS OR THE DEBTOR COMPANY:


            Section 253(1) of CA 2013 should be amended to specify that any secured creditor may
            initiate rescue proceedings if the debtor company fails to pay a single undisputed debt owed
            to such secured creditor exceeding a prescribed value within thirty days of the service of
            the notice of demand or fails to secure or compound such debt to the reasonable satisfaction
            of such creditor.
            Section 253(4) should be amended to specify that the debtor company itself may initiate
            rescue proceedings on the ground of inability or likely inability to pay any undisputed debt
            of a prescribed value owed to any creditor whether secured or unsecured.
            The prescribed value for making a reference can be provided by rules and may be amended
            from time to time.
            The NCLT should be empowered to impose sanctions/costs/damages on a petitioner and
            disallow re-applications on the same grounds if it finds that a petition has been filed to
            abuse the process of law.


    Reasons: CA 2013 permits a secured creditor or a debtor company to make a reference to the NCLT
    for declaring the company to be a `sick company' if it is unable to pay/secure/compound the debt
    when a demand for payment has been made by secured creditors representing 50% or more of the
    outstanding amount of debt within thirty days of the service of notice of demand. The BLRC is of
    the opinion that the present criteria for initiating rescue proceedings by creditors and the debtor
    company may not facilitate early intervention and timely rescue. If a company has already defaulted
    on 50% of its outstanding debt, it is very likely that it has reached a stage where it would be very
    difficult to recue it effectively. Secured creditors or the management of the debtor company with
    superior information about the company's financial status and prospects should be able to file an
    application for rescue of the company at a sufficiently early stage so as to allow early intervention
    for resolving financial distress on the basis of a simple test. Early recognition of financial distress
    and timely intervention are recognised as key features of efficient rescue regimes. As per the present
    wording of the relevant provisions on rescue and winding up, while any creditor may file a winding
    up petition if the company is unable to repay a single undisputed debt exceeding one lakh rupees
    on a demand having been made, an application for rescue can be made by a secured creditor or the

                                                    14
   concerned company only after the company has defaulted on majority of its debt. This appears to
   be counterintuitive.

   (i) Secured creditors: The chances of abusive filing by secured creditors are minimal as they would
   prefer individual enforcement over the collective rescue procedure. Moreover, the costs and the
   time taken in rescue are likely to make it less attractive to such creditors in comparison to other
   means of debt enforcement. Nevertheless, the NCLT should be able to impose
   sanctions/costs/damages on a petitioning creditor and disallow reapplications on the same grounds
   if a petition has been filed to abuse the process of law. The BLRC has also proposed that CA 2013
   should lay down the criteria for determining whether a debt is disputed or not ­ please see the
   recommendations under point B. (a) below. (ii) Debtor company: the debtor company should be
   able to initiate rescue proceedings even before a default takes place (i.e., on the ground of
   `likelihood of inability to pay debt'). It is important to note that CA 2013 provides for takeover of
   the management of a debtor company as part of the rescue process (after it has been declared sick),
   which can even be permanent if the creditors decide to remove the management permanently under
   a scheme of revival, subject to approval of the NCLT . Given the possibility of such permanent
   displacement of management, it is unlikely that debtor companies will initiate the rescue
   proceedings too early in order to abuse the process for extraneous considerations. However, if
   creditors are allowed to initiate the rescue process on the ground of likelihood of insolvency (as is
   allowed in some other jurisdictions), it could in certain situations aggravate the financial position
   of the company. Given the public nature of the rescue proceedings contemplated under CA 2013,
   further consultation with the stakeholders is required before permitting creditors to initiate rescue
   proceedings on the ground of likelihood of insolvency.

b. ALLOWING UNSECURED CREDITORS TO INITIATE RESCUE PROCEEDINGS

           Section 253 of CA 2013 should be amended to allow unsecured creditors representing 25%
           of the value of the debt owed by the debtor company to all its unsecured creditors to initiate
           rescue proceedings if the debtor company fails to pay a single undisputed debt owed to any
           such unsecured creditor exceeding a prescribed value within 30 days of the service of the
           notice of demand or fails to secure or compound it to the reasonable satisfaction of such
           unsecured creditor.
           The prescribed value for making a reference can be provided by rules and may be amended
           from time to time.
           Further, the NCLT should be able to impose sanctions/costs/damages on a petitioning
           creditor and disallow reapplications on the same grounds if it finds that a petition has been
           filed to abuse the process of law.
   Reasons: Unsecured creditors are not permitted to initiate rescue proceedings under the CA
   2013.This may reduce their incentives to provide credit. The recent Global Financial Crisis has
   shown that a market for secured credit may not be available at all times and alternative sources of
   finance need to be put in place to prevent widespread liquidity crunch when banks are under
   distress. A right to initiate rescue proceedings is particularly important for unsecured bond
   investors, who expose themselves to a high risk in such investments. Moreover, there may be
   companies which have unsecured creditors only. In order to prevent any frivolous applications
   which may cause damage to the goodwill of the company, the eligibility criteria for making such
   reference should have value related threshold. It may be noted that Section 262 of CA 2013 requires
   the consent of 25% of the unsecured creditors by value for a scheme of revival to be sanctioned.
   Therefore, it is only fair that such percentage of unsecured creditors should be able to initiate rescue
   proceedings.


                                                   15
c. RELEVANCE OF VIABILITY AND REDUCTION OF TIME-LINES FOR DETERMINING WHETHER TO
   RESCUE OR LIQUIDATE:


             Sections 253 to 258 of CA 2013 should be redrafted to ensure that the viability of a
             company is taken into account while determining its sickness and enabling the creditors to
             have a say in such determination. If an interim administrator is appointed by the NCLT
             sooner (within seven days of the first application for rescue being filed)17 for the limited
             purpose of convening a meeting of a committee of creditors (that will include
             representatives of all classes of creditors) and submitting a report to the NCLT on the
             viability of the business, the NCLT will be able to use such report to examine the viability
             of the business at the time of determining whether a company is sick or not. This allows
             creditors to have a say in determining the viability of a company at an early stage and
             significantly reduces the time-period for arriving at a final decision on whether to rescue a
             company or initiate liquidation proceedings. By way of such an amendment, a decision on
             whether the sick company should be rescued or whether winding up proceedings should be
             initiated can be taken within two months of filing of the initial application as against the
             presently contemplated five months or longer (in case of an appeal against the first order)
             - up to sixty days for determination of sickness and another ninety days or longer for a final
             decision on whether to go for rescue or liquidation.
             The terms and conditions of the appointment of the interim administrator and its powers
             shall be determined by the NCLT at the time of his or her appointment (as is currently
             envisaged).
             A decision of the committee of creditors on whether the company should be rescued or
             liquidated should be supported by 75 % secured creditors by value (or 75% of all the
             creditors by value, if there is no secured debt in the company). As 75% of the secured
             creditors by value can initiate action under the SARFAESI Act (under the proviso to
             Section 254 of CA 2013) and defeat the rescue proceedings at any stage, giving them a
             larger say in assessing the viability of the company will incentivise them to actively
             participate in the rescue proceedings and not initiate separate security enforcement action.

     Reasons: The CA 2013 uses `sickness' as the preliminary criterion for determining whether a
     company should be rescued or not. However, it does not prescribe any statutory test for determining
     `sickness' and leaves much to the discretion of the NCLT. The BLRC notes that if some of the
     procedural steps envisaged in Chapter XIX are collapsed, the viability of a business can be
     considered at the time of determination of sickness at a very early stage of the proceedings, which
     will also make the process of making that determination objective. The NCLT is required to decide
     whether a company is sick or not within sixty days of the receipt of the initial application under
     Section 253. Such an order can also be subjected to an appeal before the National Company Law
     Appellate Tribunal ("NCLAT"). The viability of the business can be considered by a committee of
     creditors (in a meeting convened by an interim administrator) only after a company has been
     declared sick. A decision on the initial question of whether a company should be rescued or
     liquidated on the basis of such assessment (of the creditors and the interim administrator) can be
     taken at a hearing, which is to be held as late as five months from the date of the initial application
     (or longer in case of an appeal on the order declaring that a company is sick) ­ it is important to


17
  It may be noted that the time-lines indicated in the recommendations for completion of different processes are
indicative and may be streamlined at the time of drafting the amendment bill.

                                                      16
   note that the Doing Business report suggests that some of the better functioning insolvency regimes
   of the world are able to resolve insolvencies within such period. The BLRC is of the opinion that
   viability should be the most important (if not the only) consideration for allowing a company to be
   rescued. Unviable insolvent companies should not be allowed to continue functioning for
   extraneous considerations. Liquidation should not be seen as a measure of last resort for unviable
   businesses that have become insolvent ­ they should be liquidated as soon as possible to minimize
   the losses for all the stakeholders.

d. MORATORIUM: The NCLT's discretion to grant, refuse or lift a moratorium under Section 253 (2)
   should be guided by a non-exhaustive list of grounds specified in a separate statutory provision.
   Such grounds may include:

           The moratorium may ordinarily be granted if the business seems prima facie viable (and
           needs to be protected from piecemeal sale or liquidation).
           The moratorium may not be granted if 75% of the secured creditors by value (or 75% of all
           the creditors by value where there is no secured debt in the company) dissent to the grant
           of a moratorium.
           The moratorium may not be granted where there is any evidence of fraud, diversion of
           funds, etc.
           Once a moratorium has been granted, the NCLT may terminate or modify the same or
           impose terms on the application of the moratorium, for cause.
           The NCLT may terminate/modify or impose terms on the application of the moratorium on
           the following grounds: (a) if the creditor applying to the NCLT for leave to take debt
           enforcement action is able to prove that the grant of leave is unlikely to hinder the purpose
           of the rescue proceedings from being achieved; (b) on the application of the creditor
           applying for the same if the debtor company has not `adequately protected' the interests of
           the such creditor; (c) if the creditor is able to show that the property in question is not
           necessary for the effective reorganization of the debtor company.
           In exercising its discretion on whether to grant leave to a creditor to take enforcement
           action, the NCLT may balance the legitimate interests of such creditor against the
           legitimate interests of other creditors of the debtor company. If significant loss (financial
           or non-financial, direct or indirect) will be caused to the creditor applying for leave to take
           enforcement action if such leave is refused, the NCLT may normally grant leave. However,
           if the loss caused to the other creditors in granting such leave is greater, then the NCLT
           may not grant leave. In conducting the balancing exercise, the NCLT may consider factors
           such as the financial position of the debtor company, its ability to pay arrears due to the
           creditor as well as continuing payments, the proposals put forth by the interim administrator
           or the company administrator, the time for which the rescue proceedings has already been
           in place and the time for which such proceedings will continue, the effect on the rescue
           proceedings if the NCLT were to grant leave, the effect of refusal of leave on the creditor
           applying for leave, the end result to be achieved by the rescue proceeding, the prospects of
           such a result being achieved. In considering the various factors listed above, if loss to the
           creditor applying for leave is certain if leave is refused, but loss to the others only a remote
           possibility if leave is granted, then the NCLT may grant such leave to the creditor.
           Lastly, the moratorium shall automatically stand revoked if the NCLT makes determination
           under Section 253 (7) that the company cannot be rescued.




                                                   17
       In order to prevent a precipitous break-up of a viable company before the NCLT decides on an
       application for a moratorium, there should be an automatic interim moratorium in place till such
       determination (or for a maximum/non-extendable period of thirty days, whichever is earlier).


       Reasons: The CA 2013 provides for a moratorium on enforcement proceedings to be granted on an
       application to the NCLT, and for a fixed duration of 120 days. The purpose of a moratorium is to
       (a) keep a debtor company's assets together during the rescue proceedings by providing relief from
       debt enforcement in certain circumstances and (b) avoid multiple legal actions without undermining
       the interest of the creditors. However, the provision on the grant of moratorium in CA 2013 suffers
       from the following problems: (i) wide discretion to the NCLT to determine whether a moratorium
       should be granted or not; (ii) no provision for lifting the moratorium or modifying its terms once it
       has been granted; (iii) no consideration of creditor interests in granting the moratorium; (iv) no
       express requirement for consideration by the NCLT of creditor interests in making the decision to
       granting the moratorium. In relation to the interim moratorium, given the possibility of takeover of
       management (which can even be permanent) under the rescue mechanism under CA 2013, it is
       unlikely that debtor companies will initiate rescue proceedings only with the intention of taking
       advantage of such limited and interim automatic moratorium.

e. DIRECT APPOINTMENT OF THE COMPANY ADMINISTRATOR BY THE SECURED CREDITORS:

               75% of the secured creditors in value (or 75% of all creditors by value, if there is no secured
               debt in the company) should be able to appoint a company administrator directly (after a
               company has been declared sick) and determine the terms and conditions for such
               appointment (including the fee), subject to post facto confirmation by the NCLT. Such
               creditors may appoint the interim administrator as the company administrator.
               The CA 2013 should be amended to empower the Government to issue separate rules to
               prescribe standard terms and conditions for such appointment.
               The NCLT may confirm such appointment in the absence of a manifest violation of the
               prescribed terms and conditions or a challenge by the company or the other creditors. The
               process for appointment of the company administrator should be completed within fifteen
               days from the date of the order of the NCLT determining that the debtor company can be
               rescued.
               The company and/or other creditors should be permitted to petition the NCLT for the
               removal or replacement of the company administrator on grounds as may be prescribed by
               rules. Further, a provision similar to the UK's provision for "unfair harm" (which entitles
               a creditor to petition the court for relief where the administrator is acting so as to harm the
               interests of the applicant, with the available relief including the removal of the
               administrator) may be appropriate.18 The NCLT should be able to impose
               sanctions/costs/damages on a petitioner if it finds that a petition challenging such
               appointment has been filed to abuse the process of law.
               The NCLT shall dispose of any application for removal or replacement of the company
               administrator within thirty days of the application.

       Reasons: The current scheme of the CA 2013 does not provide for the participation of creditors in
       the appointment of the company administrator (who is appointed at a later stage for the purpose of
       preparing/implementing a scheme of revival and/or taking over the management or assets). He is to
       be appointed by the NCLT. There is a strong case to be made for creditor involvement in the process
       of appointment of the company administrator. Creditors are likely to be most incentivised to select

18
     Schedule B1 para. 74 of the Insolvency Act 1986.

                                                        18
     the person who is best suited for the task - as the fees payable to the company administrator may be
     taken out of the company's assets, the creditors will often choose a person who is familiar with the
     company's business, its activities or assets or has skills, knowledge or experience in handling the
     particular circumstances of the case. Permitting such direct appointment of company administrators
     may also help in the development of a market for turnaround specialists in India. The possibility of
     abuse can be minimised by incorporating safeguards and allowing such a right to a large majority
     of secured creditors. Giving such right to the secured creditors will incentivise such creditors to
     participate in the rescue process and not initiate separate recovery proceedings which may lead to
     breaking up of viable businesses. Further, the debtor company and other creditors may be given the
     right to file a petition before the NCLT to remove or replace the administrator on specified grounds.
     Such a measure, when combined with the administrators ability to takeover the management of a
     company (discussed below) could also help in overcoming the limitations of SARFAESI Act for
     using this tool of `management acquisition' for resolution of insolvency. The SARFAESI Act (read
     along with the RBI guidelines) permits takeover of management only for the purpose of recovery,
     and does not help in the revival process. Providing appropriate level of protection for directors
     nominated by an administrator is important for incentivising suitable experts to come forward and
     offer their services for turning viable companies around.

f.   TAKEOVER OF MANAGEMENT OR ASSETS BY THE ADMINISTRATOR: Chapter XIX of CA 2013
     should have a separate provision on takeover of management or assets by the company
     administrator, which should provide for the following:

             The NCLT may direct the company administrator to takeover the management or assets of
             the debtor company suo motu (on its own motion) or on an application made by 75% of the
             secured creditors in value (or 75% of all the creditors by value if there is no secured debt
             in the company). Such an application may be made within seven days of confirmation of
             the administrator's appointment.
             The NCLT shall decide on such application of the secured creditors within thirty days. The
             suo motu order may be made during any stage of the rescue proceedings.
             There should be a separate provision to guide the NCLT's discretion for directing takeover
             of management or assets by the company administrator and the scope of such order.
             Such provision should provide for a non-exhaustive list of grounds to guide the NCLT's
             discretion in determining whether such takeover should be ordered or not. It may be noted
             that the NCLT will be required to allow the debtor company to be heard before such an
             order is passed. Such grounds may include:

                 o   Fraud or impropriety;
                 o   Mismanagement of the affairs of the company;
                 o   The debtor company has defaulted in meeting its undisputed payment or repayment
                     obligations to any creditor who is eligible to make a reference under Chapter XIX
                     and where any of the following conditions are satisfied: (a) where the debtor
                     company has defaulted on such obligations despite having the capacity to honour
                     them; or (b) where the debtor company has not utilised the finance from the
                     creditors for the specific purposes for which finance was availed of but has diverted
                     the funds for other purposes; or (c) where the debtor company has siphoned off the
                     funds such that the funds have not been utilised for the specific purpose for which
                     finance was availed of, nor are the funds available with the debtor company in the
                     form of other assets; or (d) where the debtor company has disposed off or removed
                     the movable fixed assets or immovable property given by it for the purpose of
                     securing a loan from any creditor without the knowledge of such creditor; provided


                                                    19
                 that a solitary or isolated instance should not form the basis for such takeover unless
                 the NCLT is of the view that such an intervention is required for protecting the
                 interest of the business and the stakeholders.
            o    The debtor company does not engage constructively with the creditors by
                 defaulting in timely repayment of undisputed dues while having ability to pay,
                 thwarting the creditors' efforts for recovery of such dues by not providing
                 necessary information sought, denying access to assets financed or collateral
                 securities, obstructing sale of such securities and in effect, deliberately obstructing
                 the legitimate efforts of the creditors to recover their undisputed dues; provided
                 that a solitary or isolated instance should not form the basis for such takeover unless
                 the NCLT is of the view that such an intervention is required for protecting the
                 interest of the business and the stakeholders.
            o    Unauthorized transfers of the debtor company's cash or assets during the course of
                 rescue proceedings or anytime before the commencement of the proceedings if the
                 NCLT is satisfied that such transfers were carried out for the purpose of putting
                 such cash or assets beyond the reach of the creditors who have a claim on such cash
                 or assets;
            o    Where an application for rescue has been filed by the debtor company without a
                 draft scheme for revival or rehabilitation and there is a declaration to that effect by
                 its board of directors (as presently envisaged under the proviso to Section 256(b)).

        The NCLT's order for takeover of the management may also provide for the following:

            o    Empower the administrator to appoint or dismiss managerial personnel (subject to
                 applicable labour laws) including directors as part of taking over the management;
                 any directors nominated on the board of the company by the administrator as part
                 of an attempt to rescue a company shall have similar level of protections as
                 envisaged for directors appointed in terms of Section 35A of the State Bank of
                 India Act, 1955 and hold office for such period as directed by the administrator or
                 the NCLT (as the order may prescribe). Such a director will not incur any liability
                 `by reason of only being a director or for anything done or omitted to be done in
                 good faith in the discharge of his duties as a director or anything in relation thereto.'
            o    Further, in cases where the financial distress of the company is not attributable to
                 managerial actions and where the presence of such management (or senior
                 employees) is in the opinion of the administrator crucial for a successful turnaround
                 of the business, the administrator should be allowed to enter into agreements (on
                 behalf of the company) with such managerial personnel that incentivise them to
                 stay on for turning the company around.
            o    Require the other directors or employees to (a) extend all assistance and co-
                 operation to the company administrator and (b) not carry out any act that materially
                 affects the business or property of the company without the prior permission of the
                 administrator.
            o    Such an order may also specify the powers of shareholders after the administrator
                 takes over the management and define the rights of the administrator vis-à-vis the
                 shareholders.
            o    The NCLT may also be guided by Section 15 of the SARFAESI Act to determine
                 the manner and effect of such takeover of management.

Reasons: One of the main drawbacks of the SICA regime was that it allowed the existing
management of the debtor company to remain in control of the company during the course of rescue
proceedings (which facilitated practices involving siphoning of assets, etc.). In order to address this

                                                 20
   concern, the CA 2013 provides that an interim administrator or the company administrator can take-
   over the management of the debtor company, but only on being directed to do so by the NCLT.
   Once again, it leaves too much to the discretion of the NCLT without providing any criteria to guide
   the exercise of such discretion. Given that an NCLT order for takeover of management can be
   appealed before the NCLAT (and subsequently before the Supreme Court), the law should specify
   a non-exhaustive list of grounds on which the NCLT may direct that the management may or may
   not be taken over to avoid the possibility of protracted disputes on the question of takeover of
   management. It may be noted that Section 420 of CA 2013 requires that the NCLT give the
   concerned parties a reasonable opportunity of being heard before passing any order. In the absence
   of clear grounds on which such orders may be passed, matters can easily get entangled in long-
   drawn-out litigation. Further, unlike SARFAESI Act that includes a detailed provision on the
   manner and effect of such takeover, CA 2013 is silent on these aspects (including the question of
   the interrelationship between the company administrator and the existing directors/management),
   which is also problematic.

g. POWERS AND FUNCTIONS OF THE COMPANY ADMINISTRATOR: Section 260 should be amended to
   provide the following powers to the company administrator:
   General powers in relation to takeover of management (which will include takeover of the
   company's assets):

           Without prejudice to the powers of the NCLT to direct the company administrator to
           perform any function, the company administrator shall have the following powers after he
           has been directed by the NCLT to take over the management of the company:

               o   do anything necessary or expedient for the management of the affairs, business and
                   property of the company;
               o   enforce, modify or terminate any contract or agreement entered into by the
                   company depending on whether such contract is beneficial or detrimental for
                   effectively rescuing the company;
               o   take possession of and collect the property of the company;
               o   appoint a lawyer or accountant or other professionally qualified person or expert
                   to assist him in the performance of his functions;
               o   bring or defend any action or other legal proceedings in the name and on behalf of
                   the company;
               o   power to raise or borrow money and grant security therefor over the property of
                   the company as part of a scheme of revival, subject to the terms of the scheme;
               o   use the company's seal;
               o   do all acts and to execute in the name and on behalf of the company any deed,
                   receipt or other document;
               o   effect and maintain insurances in respect of the business and property of the
                   company;
               o   do all such things as may be necessary for the realisation of the company's
                   property;
               o   carry on the company's business;
               o   make any payment which is necessary or incidental to the performance of his
                   functions;
               o   do all things incidental to the exercise of the above powers.
       General powers in relation to takeover of assets (the management need not be displaced in cases
       where an administrator is directed to take over a particular asset or assets):


                                                 21
        Without prejudice to the powers of the NCLT to direct the company administrator to
        perform any function, the company administrator shall have the following powers after he
        has been directed by the NCLT to take over any asset or assets of the company:

            o    take possession of such assets;
            o    do anything necessary or expedient for the management of such assets;
            o    enforce, modify or terminate any contract or agreement entered into by the
                 company in relation to such assets depending on whether such contract is beneficial
                 or detrimental for the protection of such assets;
            o    appoint a lawyer or accountant or other professionally qualified person or expert
                 to assist him in the performance of his functions in relation to such assets;
            o    bring or defend any action or other legal proceedings in the name and on behalf of
                 the company in relation to such assets;
            o    do all acts and to execute in the name and on behalf of the company any deed,
                 receipt or other document in relation to such assets;
            o    effect and maintain insurances in respect of such assets;
            o    make any payment which is necessary or incidental to the performance of his
                 functions in relation to such assets;
            o    do all things incidental to the exercise of the above powers.
    Common principles applicable to the above powers:

        Any action of the company administrator that may adversely affect the rights of the existing
        creditors or the shareholders will require prior authorisation from the NCLT.
        Any action of the company administrator relating to transfer of assets or property of the
        company other than in the ordinary course of business will also require prior authorisation
        from the NCLT.
        The company administrator should also have the power to apply to the NCLT for seeking
        directions and clarifications in relation to the above functions.
        The NCLT shall have the power to modify any of the powers of the company administrator
        at the time of directing such administrator to takeover the management or assets.
        After a scheme of revival has been sanctioned by the NCLT, the company administrator
        shall have such powers and perform such functions as may be specified in the scheme or as
        directed by the NCLT for the proper implementation of the scheme.
Reasons: Chapter XIX of CA 2013 envisages an important role for the company administrator (who
can be selected from a panel of specified professionals) in the revival and rehabilitation of
financially distressed companies. However, despite having such a prominent role in the rescue
proceedings, the CA 2013 does not specifically set out the powers and functions of the administrator
in detail. Section 260 (1), CA 2013 states that the company administrator shall perform "such
functions as the Tribunal may direct", thereby leaving much to the discretion of the NCLT. Unless
the statute specifies some basic powers of the administrator in line with international best practices
after it has been directed to takeover the management or the assets, there will be a lot of uncertainty
on this issue which may lead to delays and undermine the very purpose of involving independent
insolvency practitioners in the rescue process. There may be a considerable time gap between an
administrator's taking over the management or assets and the final order of the NCLT sanctioning
the scheme. The proposed powers will ensure that company administrator is able to preserve the
value of the company and protect its business and/or assets till the scheme is sanctioned. This is
important for addressing issues faced under the SICA regime wherein the management often
engaged in practices like siphoning of assets, etc after filing a reference for rehabilitation.
Appropriate safeguards have also been proposed to prevent any unilateral action of the company
administrator that could harm the interest of the stakeholders.

                                                22
h. SCHEME OF REHABILITATION:

            Section 262 should be amended to provide for the following principles to be applicable at
            the time of sanctioning a scheme of revival: (i) the creditors within the same class should
            be treated equally; (ii) dissenting creditors should get as much in scheme as they would in
            liquidation; (iii) consent of creditors who are not affected by a scheme should not be
            required (for instance, secured creditors who have realised their security interests outside
            the rescue proceedings); (iv) related parties should be excluded from the unsecured
            creditors entitled to vote on a scheme.
            Identifying `creditors who are unaffected by a scheme' and `unsecured creditors who are
            related parties of the company' should be a specified function of the company administrator
            under Section 260. The process of identification should be completed before the scheme is
            put to vote.
            Section 261 (2) should be amended to specify that a scheme of revival may include
            `measures imposing obligations on the debtor company to provide periodic reports to the
            company administrator, creditors and the NCLT on cash flow status of the company
            including utilisation statements'. The NCLT will be able to monitor this under its general
            powers to monitor the implementation of the scheme under Section 264 and order
            corrective action if required.

        Reasons: In order for the scheme for the rehabilitation of the company to be sanctioned, CA
        2013 requires such scheme to be approved by (i) secured creditors representing 75% in value
        of the debts owed by the company to such creditors and (ii) unsecured creditors representing
        25% in value of the amount of debt owed to such creditors. While allowing unsecured creditors
        to vote on a plan of rehabilitation allows them to be part of the process, their involvement is
        also in the interests of the debtor in the long run. However, the BLRC is of the view that this
        provision needs further thought and consideration to prevent hold-outs by non-consenting
        creditors. Accordingly, appropriate level of thresholds will be devised at a later stage (during
        the formulation of the Insolvency Code). However, the CA 2013 provision on creditor consent
        for a scheme of revival seems underdeveloped in several other aspects, which need to be
        addressed now. The above recommendations are designed to (a) provide for a predictable and
        fair mechanism for sanctioning of a scheme of revival, (b) avoid hold-outs by debtor companies
        through their related parties and (c) prevent diversion of cash flow generated by the business
        after approval of a scheme of revival.

i.   RESCUE FINANCING AND GRANT OF SUPER-PRIORITY:

            Section 261 should be amended to include `raising secured and unsecured loans from any
            creditor (whether existing or external) as part of a scheme of revival'. The scheme may also
            provide for `super priority' being granted to creditors who provide such finance ­ i.e., the
            rescue finance providers will rank ahead of all existing creditors subject to such safeguards
            for the existing creditors as may be provided in the scheme. Given that a scheme of revival
            will have to be approved by the requisite majority of creditors as specified in Section 262,
            the terms of such rescue finance (including super-priority rights, if any) will also be subject
            to approval by such creditors.
            Section 290 (1) (e) should also be amended to allow company liquidators the power to raise
            both secured and unsecured loan during liquidation proceedings (presently, they are
            empowered to raise secured loans only).



                                                   23
     Reasons: If a financially distressed company is to be able to successfully pull itself out of rescue
     proceedings, continued trading during the course of rescue proceedings is to be facilitated. For this
     purpose, such a company often needs access to external finance. However, once a company enters
     the rescue proceedings, it would find it extremely difficult to obtain credit, as few lenders would be
     willing to lend to a troubled company. One of the primary issues which lead to the breakup of
     economically valuable businesses in financial distress is the debt overhang problem which entails
     that any fresh capital (which is needed to bolster the working capital needs of the distressed
     company and kick start its recovery) is not forthcoming as it will almost entirely be siphoned off in
     debt payments to the existing creditors. In order to address this issue, the laws of certain countries
     provide "super priority" to creditors who provide finance to companies in distress. The US
     Bankruptcy Code provides for this through a court driven process known as debtor-in-possession
     financing (discussed in detail in Section 4.3 (I) of this Report). The BLRC is of the opinion that
     rescue financing can be a very effective way of preserving going-concern value for viable
     companies under financial distress and the law should provide for an enabling provisions for the
     company administrator and the creditors to provide for such financing as part of a scheme of revival.

j.   INTERACTION WITH DEBT ENFORCEMENT UNDER THE SARFAESI ACT: CA 2013 allows secured
     creditors representing 75% of the value of the debt to not only escape the application of the
     moratorium but also cause the abatement of rescue proceedings altogether (if such secured creditors
     initiate the debt enforcement process under the SARFAESI Act). This escape route was initially
     provided by an amendment to SICA, which might perhaps be best understood as a reaction to the
     widespread opinion that SICA was dysfunctional and not being used for legitimate rescue purposes.
     But the same carve-outs for secured creditors have been reproduced in the corporate rescue
     provisions of the CA 2013. However, in stark contrast to SICA which has proved to be
     dysfunctional in practice, the SARFAESI Act has been fairly successful in enabling secured
     creditors to enforce their debt against defaulting debtors. Moreover, as discussed above, a scheme
     of revival needs to be approved by 75% of the secured creditors for it to be approved. If 75% of
     secured creditors intend to initiate debt recovery proceedings, it is unlikely that they will
     subsequently approve a rehabilitation plan for the debtor company. Therefore, the BLRC is of the
     opinion that until there is some evidence to suggest that the rescue proceedings under CA 2013
     cannot function effectively (i.e., save viable businesses from piece-meal sale or liquidation) in the
     face of the secured creditors' enforcement rights under the SARFAESI Act, such rights should not
     be disturbed at this stage. This issue will be re-examined at the time of framing the Insolvency
     Code.

k. DEBT RESTRUCTURING UNDER SCHEMES OF ARRANGEMENT: The BLRC notes that schemes of
   arrangements for debt restructuring (under the CA 1956) have not had many takers in India. This
   may be partially attributable to the perception that court driven processes necessarily involve delays
   and significant costs. Additionally, there have been problems of holdouts by creditors.
   Notwithstanding these factors, the BLRC notes that schemes of arrangement in India have been
   relatively successful for schemes between shareholders (especially those involving mergers and
   acquisitions). Such schemes are typically driven by the advisors of the parties, and involve minimal
   intervention from the courts (other than when there is evidence of abuse of the process for achieving
   extraneous objectives). The BLRC is of the opinion that schemes of arrangement can become a very
   effective tool for debt restructuring, acknowledging however that such restructurings can also be
   achieved less formally (and often less expensively) through a workout outside the court. Given that
   the proceedings for schemes of arrangement can be initiated without any proof of default or
   insolvency, they can facilitate early intervention and finality. Schemes of arrangement can also
   facilitate the use of hybrid-rescue mechanisms like `pre-packaged rescues'. Pre-packaged rescue is
   a practice evolved in the UK and the US by which the debtor company and its creditors conclude
   an agreement for the sale of the company's business prior to the initiation of formal insolvency

                                                    24
  proceedings. The actual sale is then executed on the date of commencement of the proceedings/date
  of appointment of insolvency practitioner, or shortly thereafter (and the proceeds distributed among
  the stakeholders in the order of priority). Until the Indian market for insolvency practitioners
  becomes sufficiently developed and sophisticated, it may not be advisable to allow such sales
  without the involvement of the court or the NCLT. However, such sales could be allowed as part
  of an NCLT supervised scheme of arrangement and operationalised through rules at an appropriate
  stage after wider consultation with the stakeholders (see Section 4.3 (K) of this Report).

B. LIQUIDATION OF COMPANIES ON THE GROUND OF INSOLVENCY


  a. DEVELOPING APPROPRIATE CRITERIA FOR DETERMINING WHEN A COMPANY IS `UNABLE TO
     PAY DEBTS' FOR THE PURPOSES OF WINDING UP:

          In order to re-instate the debt enforcement function of the statutory demand test for winding
          up, if a company fails to pay an undisputed debt of a prescribed value as per Section 271(2)
          (a), the creditor should be entitled to a winding up order irrespective of whether it is
          insolvent (in commercial or balance sheet terms) or not. Further, the NCLT should have
          the discretion to refer the company for rehabilitation under Chapter XIX before making a
          winding up order on such ground, if the company appears to be prima facie viable. Further,
          in order to prevent abuse of the provision by creditors and ensure that it is not used to force
          debtor companies to settle disputed debts, the provision should specify the factors that the
          NCLT may take into account to determine whether the debt under consideration is disputed
          or not. As laid down by the courts, a petition may be dismissed if the debt in question is
          bona fide disputed, i.e., where the following conditions are satisfied: (i) the defence of the
          debtor company is genuine, substantial and in good faith; (ii) the defence is likely to
          succeed on a point of law; and (iii) the debtor company adduces prima facie proof of the
          facts on which the defence depends. Further, as with initiation of rescue proceedings, the
          NCLT should also have the power to impose sanctions/costs/damages on a petitioning
          creditor and disallow reapplications on the same grounds if it finds that a petition has been
          filed to abuse the process of law.
          The Government may also consider revising the present value for triggering the statutory
          demand test under Section 271 (2) (a) from `one lakh rupees' to a higher amount or revise
          the provision to state `one lakh rupees or such amount as may be prescribed'.
          `Balance sheet insolvency' and `commercial insolvency' should be identified as separate
          grounds indicating a company's `inability to pay debt' in order to avoid conflicts/confusion
          with the statutory demand test (as is the case of the UK Insolvency Act, 1986 or "IA 1986"
          where the statutory demand test, the commercial insolvency test and the balance sheet
          insolvency test are alternate grounds for determining a company's inability to pay debts
          under Sections 123(1) (a) ,123 (1) (e) and 123(2), respectively).

      Reasons: These amendments are required to prevent recalcitrant solvent debtors from abusing
      the process of law for avoiding repayment of debt.The process of winding up / liquidation of a
      company may be initiated on a number of grounds as prescribed in the CA 2013 (previously
      under the CA 1956). One of the common grounds for filing a winding up petition is "if the
      company is unable to pay its debts". Although, the law prescribes that a company would be
      deemed to be "unable to pay its debts" if it fails to repay a single undisputed debt on demand
      (known as the `statutory demand test'), Indian courts have been inclined to view non-payment
      of such debt as an insufficient basis to prove a company's `inability to pay debts'. Courts require
      the evidence of such non-payment (even on formal demand) to be supplemented with additional
      evidence demonstrating the company's omission to pay without reasonable excuse and the

                                                 25
         existence of insolvency in the commercial sense. Section 5.2 (A) of this Report contains a
         detailed analysis of such cases and compares the position with UK law. For the creditor to be
         able to use the threat of winding up procedures ­ with their attendant costs for debtors ­ to
         encourage repayment, there must also be a real possibility of the imminent commencement of
         such proceedings, and attendant publicity. However, the judicial practice (in many cases) of
         requiring the non-payment of a single undisputed debt to be supplemented with evidence of the
         company's commercial insolvency has meant that the threat of imminent liquidation is not
         necessarily ­ at least in the present state of the law ­ a credible one. Debtors are not compelled
         to negotiate with the creditors to restructure their debt or take other measures to resolve their
         financial distress. The potential for misuse can be minimised by providing safeguards
         mentioned above.

     b. PRIORITY OF PAYMENTS:

         (i)        Priority rights of secured creditors:

                Subject to the pari passu charge in favour of the workmen as envisaged in Section 325 of
                CA 2013 or rights of the employees under employee welfare legislation like the Employee
                Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 195219, there should be a separate
                declaratory provision that upholds the priority rights of secured creditors on their security
                interests notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in any state or central law that
                imposes a tax or revenue payable to the Government by virtue of a specific statutory
                provision made as a first charge on the assets of the assesse; provided that such first charge
                may be allowed for claims that existed on the date when such security interest was created.20

         Reasons: This amendment is required for protecting the interest of secured creditors. While in
         general, dues of the Government get priority over debts owed to unsecured creditors only,
         where the tax or revenue payable to the Government is by virtue of a specific statutory provision
         made as a first charge on the assets of the assesse, such tax or revenue gets priority over secured
         creditors as well. There are several judgments which strike at the preferential status of the
         security creditors (See Section 5.2 (B)(a) for a discussion on such judgments). The dues payable
         to the Government in such circumstances are unlikely to be significant when compared to total
         government receipts, whereas the impact of non-payment on commercial creditors (including
         public sector banks) is likely to be substantial and may even lead to their insolvency and
         systemic issues for the economy.

         (ii)       Priority for Crown Debt over Unsecured Creditors:
         The origins of the preference for Crown debt can be traced back to UK, where the Crown was
         entitled to an absolute priority for revenue-related debts in the event of the insolvency of a
         subject. This common law doctrine was later exported to other countries, including India, to

19
  In Employees Provident Fund Commissioner v. O.L. of Esskay Pharmaceuticals Limited (AIR 2012 SC 11)
where there was a conflict between two central legislations (the Employee Provident Funds and Miscellaneous
Provisions Act, 1952 and the CA1956), the Supreme Court observed that the EPF Act being a social legislation
formulated for the welfare of employees will prevail over the inconsistent provisions on priority of claims in CA
1956, a subsequent legislation.
20
   The statute for Goods and Service Tax that will replace state specific sales tax statutes could also provide for
this in line with Section 11E of the Central Excise Act, 1944 with appropriate modifications. For avoidance of
doubt, it is clarified that the exception for claims existing on the date of creation of the security interest will not
disturb the priority rights of the secured creditors under statutes that recognise such rights of secured creditors
without any such exception.

                                                          26
    grant preferential status over other debts to the government in the absence of a monarch. In the
    UK, after the enactment of the Enterprise Act 2002, Crown preference has been abolished- the
    Crown debt is now ranked at par with ordinary unsecured creditors. This doctrine has been
    abolished in several other jurisdictions as well (See Section 5.2 (B)(b) of this Report). Having
    said that, the BLRC also notes that if the preferential status of the Crown over unsecured
    creditors is removed without qualifications, the possibility of misuse of such a benefit cannot
    be ruled out. Consequently, further consultations with the stakeholders will be required before
    introducing such a change.
c. STRENGTHENING PROVISIONS ON AVOIDANCE OF CERTAIN TRANSACTIONS IN WINDING UP:

        Section 329, CA 2013 should be suitably amended in line with Section 238 of IA 1986 to
        lay down clear criteria for challenging undervalue transactions in the lead-up to the
        insolvency.
        A provision invalidating transactions defrauding creditors similar to Section 423 of the IA
        1986 should be inserted in CA 2013. Such provision would apply without any time limits
        and should be available in and outside formal insolvency proceedings.
        The avoidance provisions under the CA 2013 (Sections 328 and 329) should be
        strengthened by providing for a longer vulnerability period (up to two years) for avoiding
        transactions entered into with related parties of the company.
Reasons: The law on avoidance of transactions seeks to invalidate certain transactions which result
in dispositions of the company's property in the lead up to insolvency other than for full value, or
payments that unduly benefit certain creditors at the expense of others. The CA 2013 contains
several provisions which invalidate transactions entered into within specific periods prior to the
company's insolvency, such as provisions invalidating fraudulent preferences, late floating charges
other than for new value and provisions preventing transfers prior to and during the winding up
process. These provisions contain very few departures from the provisions under the CA 1956. In
spite of their potential to strike at transactions aimed at siphoning of assets and defrauding the
creditors, such provisions have been very ineffective in practice. Moreover, these provisions suffer
from several substantive limitations and are not in consonance with international best practices -
there is no provision that (i) defines the scope of undervalue transactions specifically; or (ii) strikes
at transactions intended to put the debtor's assets beyond the reach of creditors (which can be
resorted to even before a winding up petition is initiated); or (iii) provides for longer time periods
for applying such provisions to transactions with related parties. The BLRC notes that provisions
relating to avoidance of transactions can be a very effective tool against `wilful defaulters' engaging
in siphoning of assets to defraud the creditors. Accordingly, these provisions must be brought in
line with international best practices.


d. STRENGTHENING MANAGERIAL ACCOUNTABILITY PROVISIONS IN INSOLVENCY:

        All efforts must be made to ensure that the liquidators and their counsels are sufficiently
        equipped and have all necessary resources to: (a) discharge their duties efficiently; (b) bring
        cases against the management for committing offences contemplated in the law during the
        course of liquidation; and (c) effectively manage the costs associated with achieving these
        functions. Further, appropriate institutional capacity needs to be built to address issues
        relating to informational and financial constraints faced by the liquidators in brining cases
        against the delinquent management. The `advisory committee' consisting of creditors (as
        envisaged under Section 287 of CA 2013) should be utilised for bridging this gap.



                                                27
               CA 2013 should be amended to introduce a provision for a civil remedy for `wrongful
               trading' similar to Section 214, IA 1986 with appropriate carve-outs for independent and
               non-executive directors in line with Section 149 (12) of CA 2013.




           Reasons: The CA 2013 contains a number of provisions which provide for the initiation of
           criminal proceedings against delinquent officers of the company or the imposition of personal
           liability on such officers to contribute to the company's assets. However, there are a number of
           issues which need to be resolved if the CA 2013 is to provide an effective regime for deterrence
           of managerial misconduct and punishment of offenders. Anecdotal evidence concerning the
           corresponding provisions on managerial liability under the CA 1956 suggests that the
           provisions have not been very effective in practice. The provisions relating to the prosecution
           of directors have been rendered ineffective due to funding constraints and lack of institutional
           capacity. The BLRC notes that the Official Liquidators face several informational constraints
           in bringing cases against managerial misconduct - the financial information relating to the
           company is often unreliable or incomplete. The Registrars of Companies, on whom the Official
           Liquidators have to rely for obtaining data relating to the company are overburdened, and
           consequently unable to provide the required assistance efficiently. Therefore, a large number
           of cases seeking to impose liability on the delinquent directors of the insolvent company are
           dismissed on account of lack of sufficient supporting evidence in the form of financial data.
           This indicates that unless issues relating to institutional capacity and informational constraints
           are addressed, CA 2013 provisions on managerial accountability in the run up to insolvency
           will not achieve the desired outcomes. Moreover, CA 2013 does not contain any provision
           similar to the `wrongful trading' provision under the UK Insolvency law that imposes personal
           liability on the directors if they fail to take reasonable steps to minimize the potential loss to
           the creditors when there is no possibility of avoiding insolvent liquidation (see Section 5.3
           (D)(a) of this Report for a detailed overview).The BLRC recommends that a civil remedy for
           wrongful trading should be introduced under Indian law as well ­ this would prevent directors
           from taking a gamble on the company's fortunes at the creditors' expense.


C. ISSUES RELEVANT FOR BOTH RESCUE AND LIQUIDATION


       a. FORUM: The BLRC notes that in spite of having been first proposed more than twelve years
          ago, the NCLT has not been operationalised yet on account of multiple challenges before courts.
          Although, the Supreme Court in Union of India v Madras Bar Association21 ("the NCLT case")
          had held certain provisions of CA 1956 relating to the NCLT and the NCLAT to be
          unconstitutional, the NCLT and NCLAT (as envisaged under CA 1956) were themselves held
          to be constitutional. However, CA 2013 does not comply with all the observations of the
          Supreme Court in the NCLT case. Moreover, in light of a recent ruling by a Constitution Bench
          of the Supreme Court on the 25th of September, 2014, in Madras Bar Association v. Union of
          India22 (the "NTT case") which struck down the National Tax Tribunals Act, 2005, several
          other amendments may be required to the CA 2013 provisions to ensure compliance with the
          Constitution. Although most cases before the NCLT will be between private parties, there are


21
     (2010) 11 SCC 1.
22
     Writ Petition 150 of 2006 reported in 2014 SCC Online SC 771.


                                                       28
    several provisions under CA 2013 in relation to which the Government will be the primary
    litigant before the NCLT. Section 6.1 (A) of this Report analyses the impact of these judgments
    on the NCLT and the NCLAT and identifies the CA 2013 provisions that need to be amended
    to comply with the two decisions. Given that a writ petition challenging the operationalisation
    of the NCLT and the NCLAT is presently pending before the Supreme Court, the Government
    may consider making an appropriate representation to the court stating that it will carry out
    amendments to CA 2013 in line with the rulings of the Supreme Court in the two cases. The
    following amendments are required:

                Section 419(2) should be amended to provide for at least one bench of the NCLT
                in every State with a High Court.
                Section 410 should be amended to provide for setting up a bench of the NCLAT in
                every State with an NCLT bench.
                A new clause should be inserted giving the President of the NCLT exclusive power
                to determine the constitution of benches of the NCLT and the jurisdiction of such
                benches.
                A new clause should be inserted giving the Chairman of the NCLAT exclusive
                power to determine the constitution of benches of the NCLAT and the jurisdiction
                of such benches.
                The words "who has been a judge for five years" should be deleted from Section
                409.
                Section 409 should be amended to make it clear that only officers who have held a
                post at Additional Secretary level or higher will be eligible for appointment.
                A separate clause should be inserted, in pari materia with Section 419 indicating
                that at least one member of each NCLAT bench will be a judicial member.
                A clause should be introduced to indicate that in all appeals not involving technical
                issues, the NCLAT bench hearing such appeals should only comprise judicial
                members or technical members with legal training, as may be prescribed.
                The Ministry of Corporate Affairs cannot have representation on the committee to
                appoint members to the NCLT or the NCLAT. The clauses should be replaced with
                a provision which gives the Chief Justice of India the final say in the appointment
                of members to the NCLT and NCLAT, with the relevant inputs being obtained
                from the concerned ministry.
                The nodal ministry for the administration of CA 2013 should be different from the
                Ministry of Corporate Affairs.




b. PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE: Recent research indicates that several practice and procedure
   related innovations may have contributed to the failure of the corporate insolvency regime in
   India (See sections 4.1 (B) and 5.1(B) of this Report) for a detailed discussion on the new
   findings). Such practices include (i) the judicial practice of hearing a matter on merits of the
   case even before admission of a winding up petition ­ which allowed recalcitrant debtor
   companies to cause delays even before admission; (ii) judicial practice of affording a corporate
   debtor time to repay all or part of the debt owed to a petitioning creditor (including by
   instalments) over a potentially long period of time, prior to the admission of a winding up
   petition or its advertisement ­ and the debtor company not repaying in spite of such time having
   being given (in most cases);(iii) a change in the interpretation of the SICA that diluted the
   power of the Board of Industrial and Financial Reconstruction ("BIFR") to direct companies
   found incapable of rescue into liquidation, and expanded the power of the High Courts to
   reconsider a company's rescue prospects on the merits even after the BIFR had issued a
   liquidation opinion; and (iv) relatedly, the development of a judicial practice in the High Courts
   of permitting the SICA companies to explore rehabilitation after the issuance of a liquidation

                                               29
    opinion by the BIFR. CA 2013 contains several provisions, which may cause similar procedural
    problems and attendant delays (see Section 6.2 of this Report). The rules for operationalization
    of the NCLT should specify that (i) whenever a company is given an opportunity to file a reply
    before admission of a petition, the NCLT should not hear the matter on merits at that stage, (ii)
    whenever a company has been given the opportunity to repay the debts before admission, such
    repayment should be as per a prescribed schedule (as specified in the order), which shall not be
    extendable under any circumstances and such a repayment related order should take into
    account the interests of all (or substantially all) the creditors and not just the petitioning creditor
    and (iii) an order that stays a winding up order should only be made in exceptional situations
    (for instance, where there is evidence to suggest that creditors have abused the process of law
    to obtain a winding up order) ­ unviable companies should not be allowed to take the benefit
    of such stays for extraneous considerations. It would be extremely important to develop a
    system for on-going training of the NCLT members and insolvency practitioners to ensure that
    they have complete understanding of (i) the reasons for the failure of the present system and
    (ii) technical issues in liquidation and rescue cases. Further, the relationship between the NCLT
    and the superior courts should be closely monitored and subject to ongoing review. The
    judiciary should be sensitised about (i) the economic costs of delays in liquidation and rescue
    proceedings, (ii) benefits of insulating the NCLT and the NCLAT from a review on merits.
    Lastly, the NCLT and the NCLAT should be required to record annual statistical data on matters
    such as the number of pending cases, the number of cases disposed, and the time taken for
    disposal of cases. This data may be passed on to the Government and the Supreme Court on a
    regular basis, who can evaluate the data based on standard efficiency parameters and
    recommend corrective action for tightening of procedural rules as and when required.

c. REGULATION OF INSOLVENCY PRACTITIONERS: CA 2013 provides for appointment of
   liquidators and administrator from a Government approved pool of private professionals.
   Although CA 2013 provides for a fairly comprehensive regime for the liquidators, some issues
   relating to the appointment, qualification and regulation remain to be addressed. Moreover, CA
   2013 provisions in relation to regulation of administrators seem fairly underdeveloped and
   leave much to the discretion of the NCLT. The MCA informed the BLRC that it is already in
   the process of developing rules that will provide for a detailed criteria for qualification
   (including experience in insolvency matters), disqualification and regulation of insolvency
   practitioners. In view of that representation, a specific amendment may not be required at this
   stage. However, the BLRC recommends that such rules should also provide for a code of ethics
   and address issues relating to conflict of interests (for liquidators, administrators, including any
   directors nominated by the administrators and experts/professionals engaged by such
   liquidators or administrators). Further, Section 259 (1) should be amended to include `turn-
   around specialists' or `business consultants' specialising in insolvency matters as professionals
   who may be appointed as `interim administrators' or `company administrators', subject to any
   additional qualification criteria that may be laid down by the Government. Lastly, firms or
   bodies corporate consisting of professionals envisaged in Section 259 (1) should also be eligible
   to be appointed as `interim administrators' or `company administrators. Sections 275 should be
   amended to specify that the remuneration payable to the company liquidator shall be
   determined by the creditors as per the rules prescribed by the Central Government (see 6.3(D)
   of this Report for a discussion on factors which may be taken into consideration for fixing such
   fee).




                                                 30
D. SAFE HARBOURS

`Safe Harbour' provisions (such as provisions on settlement and netting of transactions in stock
exchanges and clearing corporations) exist in the laws of several jurisdictions which exempt certain
financial contracts from the normal operation of insolvency laws. Safe Harbour provisions provide
exemption from several crucial features of general insolvency law to financial contracts within their
scope including exemption from:(i) the mandatory stays on enforcement upon the contractual
counterparty's entry into formal insolvency proceedings (for instance, the provision for moratorium
under Section 253 (2) of CA 2013 or stay of suits on a winding up order under Section 279 of CA 2013);
(ii) the prohibition on the exercise of termination provisions exercisable upon the entry of the
contractual counterparty into formal insolvency proceedings; and (iii) liquidator or other relevant office
holder's rights to challenge and avoid transactions entered into at an undervalue or prefer select classes
of creditors (Sections 328, 329 of CA 2013 ). Section 7 of this Report contains a detailed analysis of
Safe Harbour provisions in response to a submission received from SEBI. The BLRC agrees with the
SEBI proposal to amend the Securities Contracts Regulation Act, 1956 ("SCRA") to provide for such
safe harbours for clearing corporations and stock exchanges in the event of the insolvency of the
clearing members and trading members in the interest of settlement finality in the markets. The
proposed amendment is also in line with Section 23 (4) of the Payment and Settlement Systems Act,
2007 that provides similar protection for settlement finality in the payment and settlement systems.

E. INSOLVENCY RESOLUTION OF MSMES

The BLRC notes that sole proprietorship is the most commonly adopted ownership structure for
MSMEs in India. The legal personality of a sole proprietorship is inseparable from the individual who
owns the proprietorship. Consequently, the insolvency resolution of most MSMEs is largely dependent
on personal insolvency laws (which have proved to be very ineffective in practice). Although the RBI
has also issued separate instructions to banks for revival of sick micro and small enterprises or MSEs,
the said guidelines do not apply to medium enterprises. In order to effectively address issues relating to
insolvency of all MSMEs, the personal insolvency regime needs be substantively reformed. The
proposed Insolvency Code will be a comprehensive law that will not only cover companies and other
forms of business enterprises, but also provide a detailed and modern framework (and institutions) for
resolution of personal insolvencies. However, it is important to note that rescue mechanisms involving
courts/tribunals or administrators and liquidators can be very costly. Most MSMEs typically have very
few assets (especially the service enterprises). In many cases involving small businesses, the cost of
such court/tribunal driven proceedings can be disproportionate to the size of the assets under
consideration. The BLRC notes that a key concern among MSMEs under financial distress is that the
banks are too quick to initiate recovery proceedings against MSMEs in the event of a default
(irrespective of the viability of the entity). In view thereof, the BLRC proposes an administrative
mechanism for rehabilitation of viable MSMEs under financial distress and recommends that it be given
statutory status. The proposed mechanism, if implemented effectively, will provide much needed relief
to viable MSMEs under financial distress without involving the crippling costs associated with formal
rescue mechanisms involving administrators and courts/tribunals. Such administrative framework will
be useful even after the Insolvency Code is operationalised.




                                                   31
3. POLICY OBJECTIVES AND INGREDIENTS OF AN EFFICIENT SYSTEM

3.1. POLICY OBJECTIVES

An essential feature of the market economy is the birth and death of firms. While some firms will be
economically viable: they will generate more cash than is required to pay the liabilities incurred to run
the enterprise, some firms will fail.23 In the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis, business failure is
becoming increasingly common in India (as in other parts of the world). The earnings of several Indian
businesses have been adversely affected in many sectors. Moreover, financial distress faced by the
parent companies of multinational groups in other parts of the world can quickly spread to their affiliates
in India. Many prominent Indian and foreign businesses `went under' during the crisis and several
others could still be facing the risk of insolvency.

When a business fails, it has adverse implications for various stakeholders including the shareholders,
creditors, employees, suppliers and customers. Insolvency of large businesses could also have a ripple
effect on the economy, affecting the solvency of many other businesses. It is widely believed that in
order to address such extensive financial distress, the economy requires a highly efficient corporate
insolvency regime that (i) separates viable companies from the unviable ones, and (ii) reorganises the
former to the extent feasible and liquidates the latter (before any significant depletion in the value of
the business), minimising losses for all stakeholders in the process. A well designed insolvency
framework will give certainty to the company and all the economic actors that enter into contractual
relationships with it regarding the outcomes that can be reasonably expected in case of failure.

Insolvency of a company may be defined in terms of economic distress or financial distress. While the
former relates to its ability to efficiently produce and sell goods and services, the latter signifies its
capacity to service debts. It is widely recognized that as long as a failing company remains economically
viable it should be first subject to a reorganization or rescue process (and not liquidation). Unlike
liquidation, where the company is closed down, reorganisation is a process of "organizational rebirth"
where the "debts are renegotiated, costs are cut and the firm may be shrunk, in order to return to
profitable operations".24 Such reorganisation could also involve change of owners or management. It is
important to point out that although a company's economic viability differs from its financial health
(which is primarily related to its level of indebtedness), there could be a strong link between the two,
i.e. a company's financial health could be a strong indicator of its economic viability. It may be noted
that reorganization is not the only efficient rescue mechanism for saving a financially distressed
company. The business could also be sold on a going concern basis (and proceeds distributed to the
creditors) followed by liquidation of the residual entity (especially, when there is a ready market for
that business). Some scholars argue that such approaches afford the possibility of avoiding protracted
negotiations with various stakeholders and other costs associated with the reorganization process.25

Resolving insolvencies efficiently can help in meeting several policy objectives. Some such objectives
are analysed below:


23
  Finance Research Group, Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, "Economic thinking for bankruptcy
reform" (hereinafter referred to as "IGIDR")
24
     Bruce G. Carruthers and Jeong-Chul Kim, The Sociology of Finance, The Annual Review of Sociology (2011)
25
     Douglas G. Baird & Robert K. Rasmussen, The End of Bankruptcy, Stanford Law Review (2002-2003)

                                                      32
A. CREDITOR PROTECTION

Protection of creditors is widely recognized as one of the main goals of corporate insolvency law. Such
protection is required for efficient functioning of capital markets and availability of capital for
investment.26 In the absence of a collective procedure in the form of a corporate insolvency regime, the
creditors may have incentives to run on the company's assets in the event of insolvency or even a doubt
thereof. In other words, each creditor may want to initiate separate recovery proceedings for the same
assets, leading to conflicts, disorderly distribution, delays and depletion in value of the company.
According to a commonly held view, the main purpose of corporate insolvency law is to support the
collection efforts of the creditors (who have property rights in the assets of the firm outside of the
insolvency regime) by providing a mandatory and collective procedure where the assets are distributed
among the stakeholders in an orderly manner.

Most insolvency regimes allow creditors some degree of control over such collective procedure. By
providing adequate protection to creditors in insolvency, the law incentivizes them to continue
providing capital to the businesses and lowers the cost of debt capital for the companies in general.
Further, by promising secured creditors some control in the process (for initiation, etc.), they may be
incentivized to monitor the company better, which could in turn encourage managers "t o follow more
conservative investment policies that reduce the chance of bankruptcy".27

B. PROMOTING ECONOMIC GROWTH

Allocative efficiency requires that the resources in an economy be put to their most efficient use. The
economic goal of allocative efficiency is maximization of social welfare.28 An effective corporate
insolvency law can help this process by enabling reallocation of `inefficiently utilized resources' and
`ousting of inefficient participants' from the market.29 A robust corporate insolvency regime can help
foster growth and innovation by enabling efficient allocation of resources (from failing or failed
companies to efficient companies). Empirical research on this issue has shown that this continuous
process of reallocation of resources (which is enabled by insolvency law) plays an important role for
aggregate productivity and output growth in an economy.30




26
  World Bank, Resolution of Financial Distress : An International Perspective on the Design of Bankruptcy Laws
(2001) "Bankruptcy Laws: Basic Economic Principles", Joseph E. Stiglitz (hereinafter referred to as "Stiglitz")
27
  Sefa Franken, Creditor- and Debtor-Oriented Corporate Bankruptcy Regimes Revisited, European Business
Organization Law Review (2005) (hereinafter referred to as "Franken").
28
     A Ogus, Regulation: Legal Form and Economic Theory (1994).
29
   A.V. Pavlova, The Organizational and Legal Mechanism of Control of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy
Institution as an Economic Growth Factor, Studies on Russian Economic Development, Pleiades Publishing Ltd.
(2008) (hereinafter referred to as "Pavlova").
30
  Elena Cirmizi, Leora Klapper & Mahesh Uttamchandani, The Challenges of Bankruptcy Reform, The World
Bank Research Observer, Oxford University Press (2011) (hereinafter referred to as "Cirmizi, Klapper &
Uttamchandani).

                                                      33
C. PROMOTING CORPORATE BOND MARKETS

Corporate bonds (transferable debt instruments) are seen as a reliable and efficient source of raising
finance in many countries. Studies show that bonds can lower the cost of raising finance for companies
by competing with other sources of finance like bank loans, equity finance, etc. The recent Global
Financial Crisis has shown that a market for bank loans may not be available at all times and alternative
sources of finance need to be put in place to prevent widespread liquidity crunch when the banks are
under distress. Moreover, since bonds have a fixed term of maturity, companies issuing bonds have
more time (and associated flexibility) to repay. Nevertheless, bonds are generally perceived as risky
instruments by the investors in India, given India's weak creditor protection infrastructure (which
includes an ineffective corporate insolvency regime). At present, in India, bond investors plan for near-
zero recovery on default. This drives up the required rate of return in the eyes of the bond holder to the
point where very few companies find it practical to issue bonds.31

Theory predicts that improved creditor rights could assist with the development of bond markets.32
There is also some empirical evidence to support that better enforcement of creditor rights helps in the
development of bond markets.33 Burger and Warnock, in their analysis of bond markets in 49 countries,
find that for those countries that have also issued foreign currency bonds, the size of local debt markets
are larger when countries have better rule of law and better creditor rights.34 Although the corporate
insolvency system is only one part of the credit infrastructure, it may be argued that if the rights of the
creditors (bond holders) are better protected in the event of insolvency, it could go a long way in
developing a robust bond market in India.

D. PROMOTING CREDIT MARKETS IN GENERAL35

The patterns of firm financing over the last two decades (as indicated by the data in the table below)
shows that: (i) Indian firms use equity financing more than debt financing; (ii) banks are still the largest
source of credit, even though bank-led credit has remained stagnant; (iii) there has always been much
more secured than unsecured credit; and (iv) borrowings from bond markets have become even smaller.
All these features are symptomatic of under-developed credit markets, and many of these features derive
from the lack of an effective bankruptcy process.

31
     IGIDR.
32
  Rafael La Porta et al, Legal Determinants of External Finance, The Journal of Finance (1997). The theory
predicts: (a) in general, improvements in creditor protection (particularly protection in insolvency) should
facilitate the availability of external finance: "Rules and regulations that protect creditors and are properly and
efficiently enforced lead to larger credit market and lower interest margins. This idea has been formalized by
Townsend (1979), Aghion and Bolton (1992), and Hart and Moore (1994, 1998)" (A Galindo and A Micco,
"Creditor Protection and Credit Volatility" (Working Paper), summaris ing some of this theory); and (b) the
availability of capital in the form of securities (bonds, stock) rather than in the form of bank debt will also be
sensitive to the quality of investor protection: see for example F Modigliani and E Perotti, "Security Markets
versus Bank Finance: Legal Enforcement and Investors' Protection".
33
  Narjess Boubakri & Hatem Ghouma, Control/ownership structure, creditor rights protection, and the cost of
debt financing: International evidence, Journal of Banking & Finance (2010); JD Burger & FE Warnock, Local
Currency Bond Markets, IMF Staff Papers (2006) as cited in IGIDR (hereinafter referred to as "Burger &
Warnock")
34
     IGIDR.
35
     IGIDR.

                                                        34
Table 1: Sources of funds for non-financial firms

                                                      Three year averages around
                                                      1991-1992                           2009-2010
             Equity                                   22.60                                34.87
 Retained Earning                                     10.56                                21.05
 Fresh Issuance                                       12.04                                13.82
          Depreciation                                17.64                                 9.69
           Borrowing                                  35.32                                29.48
 Banks                                                17.14                                17.83
 Bonds                                                 7.87                                 3.94
 Inter-corporate                                       1.28                                 2.28
 Foreign                                               5.51                                 3.22
       Current Liabilities                            24.42                                24.19
     Structure of Borrowing

 Secured                                              25.40                                19.31
 Unsecured                                            19.50                                12.69

Source: CMIE Prowess

While the reforms process of the 1990s transformed the equity markets of India, there has been little
change in the debt markets. The role of debt in firm financing has dropped significantly: the debt to
equity ratio of Indian firms dropped from more than 2 in the pre-reforms period to under 0.5 in the
decade after the reforms. This may not be a problem if equity and debt are substitutes, but this may not
be so since the nature of each varies and would suit different project characteristics differently. For a
certain class of projects, it is optimal for firm financing using debt as it more readily solves problems
of adverse selection and information asymmetry that is particularly prevalent in developing
economies.36 One reason for this is the lack of clarity on bankruptcy processes and outcomes in India.

Further, where debt financing has been utilised, secured lending exceeds unsecured lending. Despite
most lending being collateral-based, banks37 have been vulnerable to poor recovery against loans in
case of firm failure. Between 2002 and 2013, non-performing and restructured loans in the banking
sector accumulated from INR 0.7 trillion to INR 5.3 trillion. This was the period following the
enactment of the SARFAESI Act, but recovery rates remained between 23% and 24%.

Poor recovery rates, coupled with pressure on asset quality can lead to decreased lending by banks. The
Reserve Bank of India's Financial Stability Report (December 2014) reports that the consolidated
balance sheets of scheduled commercial banks for 2013-14 show a decline in the growth of credit for
the fourth consecutive year. The Report cites "persistent pressure on asset quality leading to increased
risk aversion among banks" as one of the factors for the decline in growth of credit.

36
  S. Banerji et al, New thinking on corporate bond market in India, Paper produced under the NIPFP-DEA
Research Program (2012) as cited in IGIDR.
37
  Banks constitute the largest source of credit in India. Out of total borrowing of 29.48% in 2009-2010, banks are
the source for 17.83%.

                                                       35
A properly functioning insolvency system could resolve these issues to a large extent by facilitating the
rehabilitation of companies where viable, thereby relieving the pressure on assets held by lenders.
Where corporate rehabilitation proves to be unviable, by providing for swift liquidation of unviable
companies, an effective insolvency system will maximise returns to lenders. This shall, in turn,
contribute to the development of a robust market for credit.

E. PROTECTING OTHER STAKEHOLDERS

Creditors are not the only stakeholders in a company. Its shareholders (promoters and other investors),
employees, suppliers and customers also have significant economic interests in the company and need
to be adequately protected in the event of insolvency. The protection of shareholders and employees
assumes special importance in this regard.

       a. PROMOTERS/SHAREHOLDERS

While it is widely believed that shareholders are residual claimants and do not need to be protected in
an insolvency, the importance of protecting their interests has been recognized in certain situations ­
particularly in a reorganization. Insolvency defines the risk that the promoters and investors subject
themselves to when they decide to promote a business. A robust corporate insolvency regime promotes
entrepreneurship by providing a reasonably certain indication of the maximum downside risks and costs
that the promoters and investors expose themselves to at the time of starting a venture.38 The costs of
insolvency proceedings (which are directly proportional to the time required for resolving insolvencies)
also assume importance in this regard. It has been observed that "firms are more likely to enter and
receive start-up financing if bankruptcy proceedings are less costly..."39 Further, the reorganization or
rescue provisions of an insolvency regime are often designed to limit losses for all the stakeholders. In
a reorganization or rescue procedure, making payouts to the promoters or the shareholders, or giving
them some control over the process, may incentivize them to initiate the process in time and co-operate
with the other stakeholders.

       b. EMPLOYEES

Suppliers of labour also need to be adequately protected in insolvency. This is particularly true for
businesses deriving their value from the goodwill created by the skills and services of employees.
Moreover, most employees are not in a position to ask for higher wages at the time of entering into their
employment contracts in exchange for the risk of not being paid in the event of insolvency. Job losses
associated with insolvency, if not dealt with adequately, can have many adverse implications for the
economy. Protecting employees effectively should thus be one of the objectives of any corporate
insolvency regime, at least in relation to accrued wage claims. However, it is important to point out that
the interests of employees are arguably better addressed through labour laws and social security
measures and that companies should not be allowed to remain alive for the only purpose of preventing
unemployment.



38
     Cirmizi, Klapper & Uttamchandani.
39
  Leora Klapper, Luc Laeven & Raghuram Rajan, Entry regulation as a barrier to entrepreneurship, Journal of
Financial Economics (2006).

                                                    36
F. ENHANCING INVESTOR CONFIDENCE

Reforming the insolvency system will have some benefits for liquidation of solvent companies as well.
Many shareholder-agreements for investment transactions (involving foreign and domestic investors)
in Indian companies provide for voluntary liquidation of the company as one of the exit alternatives for
the investors or as a consequence of a termination event (termination events are grounds on the basis of
which a shareholder agreement can be terminated by all or any of the parties). The ability of
shareholders to cause the liquidation of a company in the event of breach of obligations by the other
shareholders can serve as a disciplining mechanism for all the shareholders (and the management).
However, the effectiveness of such a remedy depends on the efficacy of the liquidation regime. If the
liquidation regime is efficient, it can go a long way in promoting investor confidence by giving strength
to such liquidation provisions in shareholder-agreements. Such efficiency could also help commercial
certainty on the occurrence of a liquidation event (by enabling parties to weigh legal risks in advance
and price them into contracts accordingly).

3.2. INGREDIENTS OF AN EFFECTIVE SYSTEM

The corporate insolvency laws of most legal systems are widely categorized as either debtor-friendly
or creditor-friendly. The regimes of United States ("US"), France and Italy are perceived as benefiting
the debtors more than the creditors, whereas those of United Kingdom ("UK"), Sweden and Germany
are seen as favouring the creditors.40 Reorganization or rescue provisions of an insolvency regime are
generally considered to favour the debtors. Liquidation on the other hand is largely assumed to be a
process that primarily protects the creditors. Nevertheless, studies have shown that the success or failure
of an insolvency regime is not a function of which side of the `friendliness spectrum' a given systems
falls in, but is rather dependent on the legal institutions within which the system operates, as well as the
nature of the firms that the law services and their capital structure. The Indian reorganization and
liquidation regime, as proposed in Chapters XIX and XX of CA 2013 subscribes to the philosophy of
giving primacy (at least in the law `on the books') to the interests of the creditors over that of the
shareholders and other stakeholders.

A regime that provides excessive protection to the creditors reduces their incentives to conduct proper
screening of the debtors, encourages predatory lending and insufficient monitoring.41 Undue protection
for the debtors on the other hand could encourage them to take excessive risks and avoid paying debts,
thereby harming the creditors and affecting the availability of credit in the market. An ideal insolvency
regime needs to strike the right balance between the interests of all the stakeholders by a reasonable
allocation of risks among them. An efficient corporate insolvency system should (i) have clear hierarchy
of payments upon insolvency, (ii) have an efficient system for transferring failed reorganizations to
liquidation, and (iii) allow sufficient control to the creditors without giving them the leeway to
manipulate.42 The hierarchy of payments should be specific so as to enable a swift disposal of cases. If
a company cannot be reorganized or the business rescued (by a sale) within a stipulated period, the
company should be transferred to a liquidation process swiftly. Further, in order to incentivize creditors
to participate in the reorganization/liquidation process, the insolvency system should allow the creditors

40
     Pavlova.
41
     Stiglitz.
42
     Cirmizi, Klapper & Uttamchandani.


                                                    37
sufficient control over the process. The court or the administrator should be required only to oversee
the proceedings to ensure that there is no manipulation by the creditors. It should be acknowledged that
(as noted above), allowing too much protection for creditors may have some trade-offs with pre-filing
efficiencies by enticing firms to delay their bankruptcy filings.43

The law on the statute book cannot be the sole basis for an effective corporate insolvency regime. It
also requires an effective institutional structure for it to be successful. In spite of being similar (in
substance) to the corporate insolvency laws of certain western countries, Indian law does not compare
well with those countries on the effectiveness scale. This indicates that a well-designed system in itself
may not lead to the desired outcomes. The decision-making institutions of an insolvency system (courts,
liquidators and administrators) play a vital role in the success or failure of a system.44

Moreover, for the insolvency law to be useful, it must be applied in tandem with other laws such as the
debt recovery laws, tax laws and labour law. The debt recovery laws, if effective, can discourage solvent
debtors from abusing the reorganization process. Threat of seizure (for both forms of debt) may
encourage debtors to pay their debts in time and not file for insolvency when they are not facing any
serious financial distress. Tax incentives for outside buyers can be used as an effective tool for saving
businesses and facilitating reorganizations. Labour law can enable entrepreneurs to efficiently
restructure viable businesses while providing due protection for employees.

Lastly, an effective insolvency regime promotes early initiation of proceedings so that the viable
businesses can be separated from the unviable ones at the earliest opportunity and the maximum value
of a given business can be preserved.




43
     Franken.
44
  World Bank, Resolution of Financial Distress : An International Perspective on the Design of Bankruptcy Laws
(2001) "Systemic Corporate Distress: A Legal Perspective", Jay Lawrence Westbrook.

                                                     38
4. CORPORATE RESCUE

4.1. SICK INDUSTRIAL COMPANIES (SPECIAL PROVISIONS) ACT, 1985

A. THE FAILURE OF THE SICA REGIME

The SICA provisions were meant to provide a timely rescue mechanism for reviving sick industrial
companies. This was to be achieved through the establishment of a separate statutory body, the BIFR,
which administered the provisions under the SICA, and through the limitation of judicial interference
in the rehabilitation process. The BIFR, a body required to be staffed with members having experience
in a variety of areas had discretionary powers to take measures relating to a sick industrial company.
Further, judicial oversight over the proceedings before the BIFR was limited by giving appellate
jurisdiction to the Appellate Authority for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction ("AAIFR"). Under
the SICA, the formal involvement of the Courts has been limited to two specific circumstances - (i)
judicial review of the decisions of the BIFR or AAIFR by the High Courts and the Supreme Court; 45
and (ii) issuance of winding up orders by the High Court on the basis of a liquidation opinion from the
BIFR.46 In the first circumstance, the power of the Courts was circumscribed by the limited scope of
enquiry in a judicial review process. In the second instance, the literal import of the SICA provision on
issuance of winding up orders was that the decision to wind up was primarily to be made by the BIFR. 47

However, previous committee reports and studies which have examined the operation of the SICA
provisions have almost unanimously condemned the SICA as failing in its mandate to provide a timely
rescue mechanism for sick industrial companies. It has been suggested that delays were a routine matter
with BIFR proceedings. It has been estimated that it takes about 5-7 years for a sick industrial company
to be revived after BIFR proceedings.48 These delays are augmented by the routine challenges to BIFR
decisions before the AAIFR and High Courts. Consequently, although the SICA was originally meant
to limit judicial oversight to the minimum required, there has been a significant degree of court
involvement in the rescue process.49 Other criticisms relate to the involuntary nature of SICA
rehabilitation packages, the inability of the BIFR to distinguish between cases suitable for rehabilitation
and for winding up, the pro-debtor and anti-creditor nature of BIFR proceedings, the provision of an
automatic moratorium on enforcement proceedings and the debtor-in-possession regime.50



45
  This refers to the exercise of the writ jurisdiction of the High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution of
India and the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court under Article 136.
46
   Section 20, SICA 1985; see also K van Zwieten, `Corporate Rescue in India: The Influence of the Courts',
forthcoming 2015(1) Journal of Corporate Law Studies (hereinafter referred to as "van Zwieten").
47
     van Zwieten.
48
  van Zwieten citing Nimrit Kang and Nitin Nayar, `The Evolution of Corporate Bankruptcy Law in India' (2003-
2004) Money and Finance 37, 44 (hereinafter referred to as "Kang & Nayar") - "In 2004, Kang and Nayar reported
that it took the BIFR an average of 6.5 years to recommend liquidation, and an average of 7 years to sanction a
rehabilitation scheme."
49
     van Zwieten.

 Kang & Nayar; Omkar Goswami, `Corporate Governance in India' in Taking Action Against Corruption in Asia
50

and the Pacific (ADB 2002) 94.

                                                       39
The Committee on Industrial Sickness and Corporate Restructuring ("Goswami Committee"), headed
by Omkar Goswami, an economist, looked at several issues in corporate insolvency, including the issue
of corporate revival and rehabilitation as applicable to industrial companies as part of a broader study
on industrial sickness. The Goswami Committee Report was one of the earliest critiques of the SICA.
One of the prominent criticisms levelled against the SICA provisions in the Report related to its debtor-
in-possession regime. The Report stated that the debtor-in-possession regime under the SICA would
give incentives to the management to propose and implement risky rescue measures, as the costs of
failure (leading to liquidation) would largely be borne by creditors51. It was argued that the
informational advantage that managers possessed, coupled with control over the rescue process would
enable them to carry out such measures. In addition, they could resort to delay tactics to get concessions
from creditors. This finding of the Goswami Committee Report was also mentioned in The Report of
the High Level committee on Law relating to insolvency of Companies 2000 ("Eradi Committee
Report"), submitted seven years later.

Another drawback of the SICA regime pointed out by the Goswami Committee was that the definition
of sickness under the SICA only covered companies in the final stages of corporate distress. The
Goswami Committee Report alleged a pro-rehabilitation bias on the part of the BIFR: the BIFR did not
adequately distinguish between cases suitable for rehabilitation and for winding up, leading ultimately
to the failure of schemes sanctioned by it. The Report also stated that BIFR proceedings had been beset
with delays from the early years of its working. An allegation of creditor coercion to consent to SICA
rehabilitation packages was also put forth- it was said that creditors were pressured to give their consent
to schemes for rehabilitation even in cases where the rescue of the company was not a viable option.52
However, at the same time, the Goswami Committee Report criticised the power of creditor veto under
the SICA as enabling every dissenting institutional creditor to delay the sanctioning of the scheme.53

The Eradi Committee Report reached similar conclusions as the earlier Goswami Committee Report.
Thus, the Eradi Committee Report placed emphasis on the debtor-in-possession regime under the SICA,
and the rehabilitation bias of the BIFR as adversely affecting corporate rescue under the SICA. The
Report went to the extent of recommending the replacement of SICA with a system akin to
administration procedure in the UK.54 Subsequently, the Advisory Group on Bankruptcy Laws,
appointed by the RBI, was tasked with reviewing the status of various bankruptcy laws and formulating
the framework for a national bankruptcy policy and drafting legislation, incorporating international best
practices in this area. The report, submitted in 2001 ("RBI Report"), also noted that the provisions in
the SICA on renegotiation of debt and corporate restructuring were `seriously flawed' and
recommended its repeal. In particular, the RBI Report drew attention to the definition of sickness



51
     van Zwieten.
52
     van Zwieten.
53
     van Zwieten.
54
  "The main drawback of the SICA scheme is that it leaves the debtor company in possession of the
assets which creates an asymmetry and imbalance between the debtor company and its creditors conferring
on the inefficient or inept management an unmerited advantage...
The debtor in possession allows the promoters to leverage informational advantages and to create tailor made
delays in the proceedings by taking recourse to [the moratorium]..." (Eradi Committee Report as cited in van
Zwieten).


                                                    40
provided in the SICA, and the `command approach'55 taken by the BIFR towards corporate
restructuring. According to the Report, the definition of sickness (in particular, the trigger for initiating
proceedings under Section 3(1)(ga), SICA) under the SICA did not facilitate early detection and
intervention in case of corporate distress- a company was identified to be a sick company only at the
final stage of sickness, at which point there was effectively no scope for restructuring of the company.
In relation to the command approach adopted by the BIFR, the RBI Report opined that the restructuring
did not provide the scope for voluntary renegotiation by creditors, ultimately hampering financial
prudence or suitable intervention by creditors.

The RBI Report also criticised the proceedings at the BIFR as being `notoriously dilatory.' It was
suggested that debtor companies abused the SICA provisions to avoid repayment of debts owed to
creditors, and to siphon away whatever value remained in the company during the pendency of such
proceedings. This was aggravated by the fact that promoter/management responsible for instituting
BIFR proceedings in relation to the company remained in possession, thereby affording them an
opportunity to extract value from the company's assets during the proceedings. The RBI Report blamed
the command approach adopted by the BIFR for this. It was also suggested that such an approach did
not give adequate protection to creditors in such a situation: in some cases, the BIFR even ignored the
views of institutional creditors in the rehabilitation process.

The Expert Committee on Company Law, headed by J.J. Irani, was constituted by the Government of
India in 2004 as part of the exercise of an exhaustive review and revision of the company law regime
in India. The Irani Committee Report, like previous Committee Reports, criticised the proceedings
under SICA and BIFR as beset with delays. Further, it was opined that the SICA did not provide a
balanced framework for all interested parties in corporate insolvency. It was suggested that the SICA
favoured debtors the interest of other parties. The Irani Committee recommended that the insolvency
regime should be equally accessible to both debtors and creditors.

The Irani Committee Report also pointed out that the non-representation of unsecured creditors in the
restructuring process led to legal proceedings being initiated during the rehabilitation proceedings,
ultimately hampering the efficiency of the litigation process. It was also noted that the SICA regime
did not effectively utilise the experience and knowledge of professionals and experts in the insolvency
process.

"A Hundred Small Steps", the Report of the Committee on Financial Sector Reforms ("Committee on
Financial Sector Reforms Report"), headed by Dr. Raghuram Rajan, also examined the legal
framework in India relating to insolvency and creditor reforms. The Committee on Financial Sector
Reforms Report stated that an effective insolvency regime should permit rescue in suitable cases, and
provide for a legal framework that supports informal workouts as an alternative to (costly) formal
proceedings. The Committee on Financial Sector Reforms Report concluded that in the current setup,
the BIFR and AAIFR have become defunct bodies. The Report specifically noted that the moratorium
on enforcement proceedings under the SICA was abused by debtors. The Report proposed a number of
modifications to the legal regime on rehabilitation of insolvent companies.




55
  This refers to the approach of the BIFR where the BIFR decides what measures are to be taken to rescue the
company without the agreement of stakeholders.

                                                     41
B. NEW EVIDENCE ON FAILURE

In a four year doctoral research project,56 Kristin van Zwieten (now Clifford Chance Associate Professor
of Law and Finance at the University of Oxford) conducted a comprehensive study of the development
of corporate insolvency law in India, starting with the transplant of UK insolvency law during the
colonial period to the operation of the law on liquidation and corporate rescue in the present day. In
particular, the project considered the influence of the courts in the failure of the liquidation and
corporate rescue procedures under the companies legislation and related laws.

The second part of van Zwieten's doctoral research project57 conducts an exhaustive study of the
background to the enactment of the SICA and the operation of the SICA. The author considers the
influence of the courts on the functioning of the corporate rescue procedure under the SICA in practice.
She argues that while the existing literature on the SICA has largely linked the failure of the corporate
rescue procedure under the SICA to the formal features of the legislation, an equally or more convincing
explanation for the SICA's failure lies in the interpretation and application of SICA provisions by
courts.

van Zwieten finds that judicial practice in interpreting and applying the SICA provisions has been biased
towards rescue, even of commercially unviable companies. Such a bias can be traced to the policy
rationale behind the enactment of the SICA, i.e., that of finding a solution to the problem of sickness in
the industrial sector. She argues that official policy during the years subsequent to the enactment of the
SICA was motivated by the protection of industries from closure and concerns of employee welfare in
such industries. Further, such policy was supported by two significant measures in the financial sector-
(i) the extension of easy credit facilities for rescue through the establishment of non-deposit taking
development financial institutions; and (ii) the earlier policy of the RBI which mandated extension of
rescue finance by development financial institutions and commercial banks to even `potentially viable'
companies. Non-compliance with the latter policy of the RBI was seen as `defeat[ing] the national
policy of revival of viable sick units.'58 There occurred a shift in official policy following economic
liberalisation and the consequent reform of the banking system in the 1990s which gave institutional
creditors autonomy in credit decision-making; however, judicial practice continued to be influenced by
these considerations.59

van Zwieten's study analysed a set of 1066 judgments given by various courts and tribunals between
1987 and 2010 relating to SICA proceedings. The author points towards three crucial judicial
`innovations' which had the effect of delaying the process under SICA and improving the position of
certain stakeholders vis-à-vis others:-

     i.    The development of the judicial practice in the High Courts of permitting companies to explore
           rehabilitation options even after the issuance of a liquidation opinion by the BIFR- This has

56
  van Zwieten The Demise of Corporate Insolvency Law in India (2012, doctoral thesis in law, University of
Oxford) (also hereinafter referred to as "van Zwieten").
57
     van Zwieten.
58
   Circular D.O.IECD.No.IRD.26/IR-A/89-90 `Rehabilitation of sick/weak industrial units' (April 9 1990), in
Circulars relating to the Industrial and Export Credit Department, June 1989-June 1994, vol 2 (RBI) para 2, as
cited in van Zwieten.
59
     van Zwieten.

                                                     42
           been usually done through the provision of relief from liquidation on an interim basis. Such
           relief, van Zwieten notes, has not been based on a finding of error on the part of the BIFR. A
           variety of measures have been used for the provision of relief from liquidation, such as: (i) the
           stay of BIFR proceedings; (ii) the stay of BIFR liquidation opinions; (iii) adjournment of
           hearing of the BIFR liquidation opinion; (iv) use of the provisions of the CA 1956, especially
           those relating to schemes of arrangement, causing delays in winding up of the company; (v)
           remittance of cases back to the BIFR for reconsidering rehabilitation of the company etc. van
           Zwieten also points towards cases in which the courts have exercised their discretion to
           formulate innovative remedies such as ordering repayment of debts owed to secured creditors
           in instalments (Board Opinion v Hathising Mfg Co Ltd60).

     ii.   The interpretation of SICA provisions so as to dilute BIFR's power relating t o liquidation of
           the company- Section 20(2) of the SICA empowers the High Court to order winding up of the
           company on the basis of the liquidation opinion issued by the BIFR. The literal import of this
           provision was to restrict the High Court's discretion in this regard by simply basing the order
           of winding up by the High Court on the liquidation opinion issued by the BIFR. Such a
           construction of the provision was advocated by initial judicial decisions on the point and
           contemporaneous academic commentary. However, this intent was not given effect to by the
           courts, which permitted companies to consider rehabilitation even after issuance of liquidation
           opinions by the BIFR.61 Further, the decision of the Supreme Court in Ramaraju v Union of
           India62) construed the provision as requiring the High Court to merely consider the liquidation
           opinion of the BIFR. The Supreme Court held that the High Court had to determine the
           correctness of the liquidation opinion and determine whether the company was to be wound up.
           This, van Zwieten argues, envisaged an increased role for the High Court in the proceedings
           under SICA and significantly diminished BIFR's powers in relation to liquidation.

 iii.      Differential treatment of various stakeholders resulting from differential application of the
           moratorium under Section 22- van Zwieten finds that while institutional creditors were
           prohibited from initiating proceedings for the enforcement of their debts, certain other creditors
           escaped the stay on enforcement action during the BIFR proceedings. This has been the pattern
           in relation to debts incurred before the registration of the company under SICA (pre-
           commencement debts) and debts incurred thereafter (post-commencement debts). van Zwieten
           finds that certain classes of creditors perceived of as in some way vulnerable (e.g. retail
           investors, workers) have been permitted to escape the operation of the moratorium in some
           cases and recover in full, while others (e.g. institutional creditors) have not, compounding the
           losses that the latter classes of creditors suffer in delayed proceedings.

van Zwieten argues that the effect of these three judicial developments has been to introduce significant
delays in the process under the SICA. Consequently, it has enabled the SICA to be abused by the debtor
companies to delay repayment to creditors, and in many cases, by the managers to siphon away
corporate assets while the company is in BIFR proceedings. This, in turn, leads to increased costs for
certain creditor groups under the SICA and an erosion in the company's asset value.

60
     [2004] 119 CompCas 25 (Gujarat).
61
     van Zwieten.
62
     [1997] 89 CompCas 609, 610.


                                                      43
4.2. SCHEMES OF ARRANGEMENT FOR DEBT RESTRUCTURING UNDER THE COMPANIES
        ACT, 1956

Chapter V of the CA 1956 provides for a mechanism by which corporate revival and rehabilitation may
be undertaken. Section 391, CA 1956 provides for a court-supervised63 process by which a company
can enter into a scheme of arrangement or a compromise with its creditors and members. The broad
procedure under Section 391 is this: a scheme of arrangement or a compromise may be proposed
between the company and its creditors or a class of creditors. Once the scheme is proposed, the company
or any creditor or the liquidator of a company being wound up has to make an application to the court
for holding a meeting of the creditors or a class of creditors. The scheme/compromise shall be binding
on the company and all its creditors, and in the case of a company being wound up, on its liquidator and
all contributories if: (i) it gains the approval of a majority in number, representing three-fourths in value
of the creditors or class of creditors, present and voting at the meeting;64 (ii) it is sanctioned by the court;
(iii) a certified copy of such order of sanction has been filed with the Registrar of Companies.65 It may
be noted that when separate meetings are held for the approval of a single composite scheme, the
approval of three-fourths majority in value of each meeting of creditors / class of creditors is required
for the scheme to have been considered approved for the purposes of Section 391.66 The company can
apply to the court for a stay on the initiation or continuation of any suit or proceedings against the
company, so as to prevent enforcement action by creditors while the scheme is being finalised.67

The nature of the scheme or compromise that can be proposed under this provision is very wide: it
includes schemes or compromises that may be proposed to restore the company to profitability. Further,
unlike the SICA, all companies, and not just industrial companies, are covered within the ambit of
Section 391.

The procedure under Section 391 ought to have been used by companies often as a method for
reorganisation of debts. Since there is no requirement of proof of insolvency or impending insolvency
to have recourse to Section 391, the company's management can act at the early signs of financial
distress and collaborate with the creditors to rescue the company. Such timely action can also avoid
defaults in debts to creditors, loss of goodwill, and can realise higher value for all stakeholders involved.
Further, unlike the SICA where a single institutional creditor can veto a scheme for rescue, the
requirement of obtaining only (special) majority creditor approval for the scheme ought to have
rendered the procedure more attractive to debtor companies. However, unlike the UK which has


63
  The word `court' has been substituted for the `National Company Law Tribunal' by the Companies (Second
Amendment) Act 2002. However, as mentioned before, this provision has not been notified for commencement
yet.
64
     In person or by proxy.
65
     Section 391(2), (3), CA 1956.
66
  Komal Plastic Industries v.Roxy Enterprises Pvt. Ltd., [1991] 72 CompCas 61 (Delhi) wherein the Delhi High
Court held that held that when two meetings ­ one for secured creditors and another for unsecured creditors is
required to be called, and the secured creditors (in this case, there was only one secured creditor, the State Bank
of India) oppose the scheme, it is futile to convene a meeting of the unsecured creditors, as 100 % of secured
creditors rejected the scheme. Also cited In re. Auto Steering India Pvt. Ltd, Vol 47 Company Cases 257 (Del).
67
     Section 391(6), CA 1956.


                                                        44
successfully employed schemes of arrangement for corporate restructuring and reorganisations,
schemes of arrangement have not proved to be of much use in India.

Various Committee reports which studied the procedure under Sections 391- 395, CA 1956 found that
this procedure failed to meet the crucial requirements of a rescue mechanism- it was a protracted
procedure, too expensive and complicated to be effective where speed and urgency were required.68

One of the reasons cited for the low uptake of schemes of arrangement has been the requirement of
obtaining court approvals at every stage, which results in delays in the process. Firstly, court approval
has to be sought for holding a meeting of creditors or class of creditors at which the scheme/compromise
is considered.69

Secondly, the scheme or compromise can be made binding on the creditors only after it receives the
sanction of the court. The court can, in exercising its inherent power of monitoring the scheme
proceeding give a deadline by which a final decision has to be made by the creditors/ class of creditors
in relation to the scheme.70

The sanction of the court shall be granted after the court has been informed of all material facts in
relation to the company, including its latest financial position and auditor's reports on the company's
accounts.71 Further, the scheme shall be granted only if the court is satisfied that: (i) the requisite
statutory procedure for such a scheme has been complied with and the requisite meetings have been
held; (ii) the scheme is supported by the requisite majority vote; (iii) at the creditors' meetings, the
creditors had the relevant material to reach an informed decision and the majority decision is just and
fair as a whole to legitimately bind even the dissenting creditors; (iv) the scheme is not in violation of
any provision of law and is not contrary to public policy;72(v) the class was fairly represented by those
who attended the meeting; (vi) the statutory majority was acting bona fide and not in an oppressive
manner so as to coerce the minority; and (vii) the scheme of arrangement is just and reasonable from
the point of view of prudent business persons who take commercial decisions for the benefit of the class
represented by them.73 The court also has the jurisdiction to consider whether the creditors have been
divided into separate classes correctly, and within each class, whether creditors have been treated on an
equal footing.74 The court can exercise its discretion to modify the scheme before sanctioning to ensure


68
  The Report of the Committee to Examine the Legal and Other Difficulties Faced by Banks in the Rehabilitation
of Sick Industrial Undertakings and Suggest Remedial Changes Incl uding Changes in the Law ("Tiwari
Committee Report") as cited in van Zwieten; RBI Report.
69
  According to the CA 2013, such meetings can be dispensed with by the NCLT if such creditors or classes of
creditors having 90% or more of the value agree and confirm, through an affidavit, to the scheme of
compromise/arrangement (Section 230(9), CA 2013).
70
     The Peerless General Finance and Investment Co. Ltd. V. Essar Oil Limited, [2006] 129 CompCas 353 (Guj).
71
     Proviso to Section 391(2), CA 1956.
72
  Please note that for determining the real purpose of the scheme, the courts can pierce the veil of apparent
corporate purpose.
73
     Miheer H. Mafatlal v. Mafatlal Industries Ltd., AIR 1997 SC 506.
74
     In Re: Spartek Ceramics India Ltd., [2007] 7SCL 548 (AP).


                                                        45
parity to a dissenting minority creditor.75 The court can also use its discretion to thwart the attempt of
dissenting minority creditor from stalling a just and reasonable scheme.76 However, the court will not,
while sanctioning a scheme, adjudicate upon the correct amount of debt owed to the creditor,77 or advise
upon the outcome of creditors' meetings.

Thirdly, where the High Court makes an order sanctioning a scheme/compromise under Section 391, it
has supervisory powers with regard to the implementation of the scheme/compromise and can give
directions or make modifications as necessary to ensure its proper implementation. Such power even
extends to the issuance of an order for the winding up of the company if the court feels that the scheme
cannot be implemented in a satisfactory manner, with or without modifications. The court also has
additional powers to make provisions for the facilitation of reconstruction or amalgamation of
companies as part of the scheme.78

Another problem that has been pointed out in literature is that of holdouts by certain creditors during
the negotiations (Irani Committee Report). Such behaviour may result in them obtaining more
concessions at the expense of other creditors. This may act as an incentive for holdout behaviour, which
can add delay to the negotiation process and cost the company more. Even if holdout behaviour may
not be present, delayed decision-making by creditors, particularly state-owned entities, regarding the
scheme/compromise can affect the scheme adversely. It has also been suggested that a lack of clarity
about priority of debts in liquidation may result in various classes of creditors claiming a higher amount
than they are entitled to during the negotiations.79 This may ultimately prolong the negotiation process.80

4.3. COMPANIES ACT, 2013 - RECOMMENDATIONS FOR REFORM AND QUESTIONS FOR
        CONSIDERATION

The CA 2013 provides for a new comprehensive regime for revival and rehabilitation of companies
under Chapter XIX: unlike SICA which applied to specified industrial companies only, the CA 2013
for corporate rescue is applicable to all companies. The procedure under the CA 2013 in relation to
corporate rescue shall be administered by the NCLT, a quasi-judicial body. The NCLT shall consist of
both judicial and non-judicial members. The following features of Chapter XIX CA 2013 make it
significantly better than SICA: (i) greater involvement of the creditors in the rehabilitation process, (ii)
reference criteria based on a liquidity test (instead of erosion of net worth), (iii) no automatic
moratorium (the moratorium under the CA 2013 will be available only on application to the NCLT, and
is available only for a fixed duration of 120 days), (iv) provision for a committee of creditors (with
representatives from every class of creditors) that will have a say in determining whether a company
should be liquidated or rescued, (v) requirement of creditor consent for approving a scheme of rescue
(that gives rights to both secured and unsecured creditors), (vi) provision for appointment of


75
     In re Siel Limited, [2004] 122 CompCas 536 (Delhi).
76
     Unit Trust of India and Anr. V. Garware Polyester Ltd, AIR 2005 SC 2520.
77
     In Re: Imp Powers Ltd., 2008 142 CompCas 481 Bom.
78
     Section 394, CA 1956.
79
     N Sharma, Restructuring and Insolvency, 43(1) Chartered Secretary 19 (2013).
80
     Ibid.

                                                           46
administrators (as against operating agency under the SICA) - appointed from a databank of authorised
practitioners (company secretaries, chartered accountants, cost accountants and such other
professionals) maintained by the government ­ who can even take-over the management of the debtor
company under the NCLT's directions, (vii) provision for a `Rehabilitation and Insolvency Fund' for
the purpose of liquidation and rescue of sick companies. Additionally, as under the SICA, it is possible
for SARFAESI Act action to defeat the commencement of rescue proceedings altogether (see the
provisos to Section 254 of CA 2013).

Although the rescue related provisions of new CA 2013 make several improvements over the old
regime, there are several areas where its provisions need further changes to ensure that the new regime
works efficiently and produces the desired outcomes. This not only requires few substantive changes
to the CA 2013, but also some institutional changes (to ensure proper implementation).

A. DETERMINING WHEN CORPORATE REVIVAL AND REHABILITATION IS TO BE INITIATED BY THE
       SECURED CREDITORS OR THE DEBTOR COMPANY

In order to facilitate early detection and intervention in case of corporate distress, it is crucial to devise
an appropriate test for identifying when measures for corporate rescue are to be taken in relation to a
company in financial trouble. Under the SICA, the `erosion of net worth' test was used to determine
whether an industrial company had become sick and rehabilitation proceedings were to be initiated in
relation to it. This test was criticized by the Goswami Committee and the RBI Advisory Group on
Bankruptcy Laws as failing to provide an appropriate trigger for taking measures for rehabilitation: the
test determined a company to be sick only when it was in the final stage of sickness, at which point
there was effectively no scope for rescuing the company.

The CA 2013 permits a secured creditor or the company to make a reference to the NCLT for declaring
the company to be a sick company if it is unable to pay/secure/compound the debt when a demand for
payment has been made by secured creditors representing 50% or more of the outstanding amount of
debt within thirty days of the service of notice of demand.81A reference may also be made by the Central
or State Governments, the RBI, a public financial institution, a State level institution or a scheduled
bank if it has sufficient reasons to believe that a company has become sick.82 Thus, typically, the triggers
for making a reference to the NCLT for determination of `sickness' of the company are: (i) non-payment
of 50% or more of the outstanding amount of debt when a statutory demand has been made; or (ii) belief
that the company has become sick. As per the draft NCLT rules, a `sick company' is defined to mean
and include "a company, which has failed to pay the debt of its secured creditors within 30 days of the
notice of demand or to secure or compound it to the reasonable satisfaction of the secured creditors as
per section 253 of the Act".

a. INTERNATIONAL PRACTICES

At this juncture, it is pertinent to examine the practice in other jurisdictions for some guidance in
developing such a test. The US does not require proof of insolvency in order for a company to undergo
rescue procedures under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code. On the contrary, the UK uses the


81
     Section 253(1), (4), CA 2013.
82
     Section 253(5), CA 2013.


                                                     47
insolvency or likelihood of insolvency of a company as a trigger to invoke administration (the formal
process for revival and rehabilitation of companies under financial distress). Since doubtful solvency
is often an indicator of impending financial troubles, such a test is best suited for determining whether
steps for rehabilitating the company are to be taken.

In the UK, an administration order is made by the court only if it is satisfied that the company (a) `is
unable to pay its debts' or `is likely to become unable to pay its debts' and (b) that the administration
order is reasonably likely to achieve the purpose of administration.83The term "likely" has not been
defined anywhere in IA 1986) or the rules, and therefore it becomes relevant to look at the judicial
development on this aspect.

The analysis of this term in the context of the first ground came up specifically in issue in the case of
In the matter of Highberry Limited v Colt Telecom Group plc84. A company called Highberry claimed
in a petition for administration order that Colt Telecom ("Colt") is or is likely to become insolvent due
to the dramatic fall in its share price since the year 2000, and also due to its substantial operating losses
and negative cash-flows and also on the basis of the report of an auditing firm. The noteholders of
Highberry who were keen on forcing Colt into administration argued that though there was no risk of
cash flow insolvency till 2006, however post 2006, Colt would be unable to repay a substantial amount
of the capital due on the notes when it becomes payable (which was 4 years later from the date of the
petition) as it was not clear it will be generating enough cash flow from its assets or anyone would be
willing to re-finance the company in 2006. The issue framed was "must a petitioner prove that the
company is "likely to be unable to pay its debts" on a balance of probabilities or is it sufficient for it to
prove that that there is a real prospect of that being so" and therefore, Jacob J. considered it necessary
to examine the meaning of the term "likely" as it appeared in the IA 1986.

A reference was made to the judgment of Re Primlaks (UK) Ltd85 wherein it has been observed that the
plain grammatical meaning of the word "likely" is not always used to convey the speaker's belief that
it will probably happen, and such a meaning is not what is intended to be attributed to the word "likely"
under the IA 1986. Jacob J. further observed ­"To put a company into administration is a serious
matter. Creditors, as well as the company itself, can apply. To expose the company to all the expense,
danger, and problems associated with administration is a serious matter. It is most unlikely that
Parliament intended this when there was only a real prospect of insolvency rather than where
insolvency was more probable than not. The experience of this case fortifies my view that it is not
enough merely to show a `real prospect' of insolvency as opposed to insolvency being more likely than
not. I cannot think Parliament intended that companies should be exposed to this kind of hostile
proceeding where it is more likely than not that the company is not insolvent."

b. CRITERIA USED IN THE JOINT LENDER'S FORUM FRAMEWORK OF THE RBI

The RBI has recently laid down guidelines for early recognition of financial distress, taking prompt
steps for resolution, and ensuring fair recovery for lending institutions. Before a loan account turns into

83
  Schedule B1, para 11, IA 1986 - Conditions for making order - The court may make an administration order in
relation to a company only if satisfied-- (a) that the company is or is likely to become unable to pay its debts, and
(b) that the administration order is reasonably likely to achieve the purpose of administration.
84
     [2002] EWHC 2815 (Ch).
85
     (1989) 5 B.C.C. 710.


                                                        48
an NPA, banks are required to identify incipient stress in the account by creating three sub-categories
under the SMA category. Banks are also required to report certain credit information pertaining to a
class of borrowers to the `Central Repository of Information on Large Credits'. These guidelines
envisage the mandatory setting up of a JLF by lending banks if the principal or interest payment on the
loan account is overdue for more than 60 days and the aggregate exposure ("AE") of lenders in that
account is INR 1000 million and above ("SMA-2"). More importantly, lenders can also form a JLF
even when the AE in an account is less than INR 1000 million and/or when the account is reported as
SMA-0 (when principal or interest payment is not overdue for more than 30 days but account shows
signs of incipient stress) or SMA-1 (when principal or interest payment is overdue for 31-60 days). For
classifying an account as SMA-0, banks are required to consider several aspects relating to the borrower
and its business which show signs of financial distress even before a default has taken place. Such
factors include bouncing of cheques, evidence of diversion of funds, etc. A borrower may also request
the lenders to form a JLF on account of imminent stress. The JLF process also requires banks to conduct
viability studies before initiating a restructuring.

____

The BLRC is of the opinion that the present criteria for initiating rescue proceedings as laid down in
Section 253(1) of the CA 2013 may not facilitate early intervention. If a company has already defaulted
on 50% of its outstanding debt, it is very likely that it has reached a stage where it would be very difficult
to recue it effectively. Further, it may be noted that while a winding up petition can be filed even if a
company was unable to repay a single undisputed debt on demand, an application for rescue can be
made only at a much later stage. It may be desirable to permit secured creditors with superior
information about the company's financial status and prospects to file an application for rescue of the
company at a sufficiently early stage so as to allow for early intervention in case of financial distress.
The chances of abusive filing by secured creditors are minimal as they would prefer individual
enforcement over the collective rescue procedure. Moreover, the costs and the time taken in rescue are
likely to make it less attractive to such creditors in comparison to other means of debt enforcement.
Secured creditors are likely to have recourse to the collective rescue procedure under Chapter XIX, CA
2013 only in certain limited circumstances: where the secured creditors would like the management of
the company to be replaced by an administrator (for instance, where the secured creditor feels that the
company is being badly run by the existing management and may fail as a consequence); where the
secured creditor would like to use the collective process so as to obtain the benefit of the moratorium
on enforcement (for instance, where the secured creditor is of the opinion that operation of the
moratorium is necessary in order to prevent breakup of the company and to realise maximum value by
keeping the assets together). Therefore, the secured creditor is likely to prefer individual enforcement
of debt rather than a collective rescue procedure. Having said that, if creditors are allowed to initiate
public rescue proceedings too early, it may cause damage to the goodwill of the company and worsen
its financial condition.

The BLRC recommends that any secured creditor should be able to initiate rescue proceedings if the
debtor company fails to pay a single undisputed debt of such creditor above a prescribed value within
thirty days of a notice of demand. Further, the debtor company should be able to initiate rescue
proceedings even before such a default takes place (i.e., on the ground of likelihood of inability to pay
debt). It is important to note that CA 2013 provides for takeover of the management of a debtor company
as part of the rescue process. Given the possibility of such displacement of management, it is unlikely
that debtor companies will initiate the rescue proceedings too early in order to abuse the process for
extraneous considerations. Nevertheless, if creditors are also allowed to initiate the rescue process on

                                                     49
the ground of likelihood of insolvency (as is allowed in the UK), it may in certain situations aggravate
the financial position of the company. Given the public nature of the rescue proceedings contemplated
under CA 2013, further consultation with the stakeholders is required before permitting creditors to
initiate rescue proceedings on the ground of likelihood of insolvency.
_____

Recommendations:

            Section 253(1) of CA 2013 should be amended to specify that any secured creditor may
            initiate rescue proceedings if the debtor company fails to pay a single undisputed debt owed
            to such secured creditor exceeding a prescribed value within thirty days of the service of
            the notice of demand or fails to secure or compound such debt to the reasonable satisfaction
            of such creditor.
            Section 253(4) should be amended to specify that the debtor company itself may initiate
            rescue proceedings on the ground of inability or likely inability to pay any undisputed debt
            of a prescribed value owed to any creditor whether secured or unsecured.
            The prescribed value for making a reference can be provided by rules and may be amended
            from time to time.
            The NCLT should be empowered to impose sanctions/costs/damages on a petitioner and
            disallow re-applications on the same grounds if it finds that a petition has been filed to
            abuse the process of law.

Question for Consideration for the Insolvency Code:

  i.    Should secured creditors be allowed to initiate formal rescue proceedings on the ground of
        likelihood of insolvency?


B. ALLOWING UNSECURED CREDITORS TO INITIATE RESCUE PROCEEDINGS

Currently, the CA 2013 permits the following parties to file an application before the NCLT for a
declaration that the company is sick- (a) the company, (b) any secured creditor, (c) the Central
Government, (d) the Reserve Bank of India, (e) State Government, (f) public financial institution, (g) a
State level institution, (h) a scheduled bank.

Unsecured creditors are not permitted to initiate rescue proceedings under the CA 2013.This may reduce
the incentives of unsecured creditors to provide credit. The recent global financial crisis has shown that
a market for bank loans may not be available at all times and alternative sources of finance need to be
put in place to prevent widespread liquidity crunch when the banks are under distress. A right to initiate
rescue proceedings is particularly important for unsecured bond investors, who expose themselves to a
high risk in such investments. Moreover, there may be companies which only have unsecured creditors.
It may also be noted that in the UK, any creditor can apply to the court for an administration order in
relation to the company. In the US, a Chapter 11 proceeding may be commenced on the filing of a
petition under Chapter 11 by three or more entities, each of which is either a holder of a claim against
the company that is not contingent as to liability or the subject of a bona fide dispute, or an indenture
trustee representing such a holder, if such non-contingent, undisputed claims aggregate at least $10,000
more than the value of any lien on property of the debtor securing such claims held by the holders of
such claims. Thus, international practice is in favour of permitting even unsecured creditors to file for
the initiation of rescue proceedings in relation to the company.

                                                   50
In view of the above the BLRC is of the view that unsecured creditors should also have the right to
initiate rescue proceedings. It may be noted that as per Section 262 (2) of CA 2013 a scheme of
rehabilitation has to be approved by 25% of the unsecured creditors in value (in addition to 75% of the
secured creditors in value). In order to prevent any frivolous applications which may cause damage to
the public image of the company, a similar value related threshold can be provided for unsecured
creditors for initiating the rescue proceedings.
_____

Recommendations:

            Section 253 of CA 2013 should be amended to allow unsecured creditors representing 25%
            of the value of the debt owed by the debtor company to all its unsecured creditors to initiate
            rescue proceedings if the debtor company fails to pay a single undisputed debt owed to any
            such unsecured creditor exceeding a prescribed value within 30 days of the service of the
            notice of demand or fails to secure or compound it to the reasonable satisfaction of such
            unsecured creditor.
            The prescribed value for making a reference can be provided by rules and may be amended
            from time to time.
            Further, the NCLT should be able to impose sanctions/costs/damages on a petitioning
            creditor and disallow reapplications on the same grounds if it finds that a petition has been
            filed to abuse the process of law.


Question for Consideration for the Insolvency Code:

  i.    Should unsecured creditors be allowed to initiate formal rescue proceedings on the ground of
        likelihood of insolvency?

C. RELEVANCE OF VIABILITY AND REDUCTION OF TIME-LINES FOR DETERMINING WHETHER TO
    RESCUE OR LIQUIDATE

CA 2013 uses `sickness' as the preliminary criterion for determining whether a company should be
rescued. However, it does not prescribe any statutory test for determining whether a company referred
to the NCLT is sick or not. This limitation was also highlighted in the report of the Standing Committee
on Finance (dated August 2012) on the Companies Bill 2011. As mentioned above, as per the draft
NCLT rules, a `sick company' "means and includes a company, which has failed to pay the debt of its
secured creditors within 30 days of the notice of demand or to secure or compound it to the reasonable
satisfaction of the secured creditors as per section 253 of the Act". This definition leaves much to the
discretion of the NCLT, with no requirement to consider the viability of the business. Even if the NCLT
does evolve criteria for determination of `sickness', it is possible that such criteria may get influenced
by the SICA test for `sickness' and jurisprudence on the same, which has been considered to be very
problematic. Further, such criteria may be subject to modifications over time and lead to a lot of
uncertainty. Therefore, it is absolutely essential that the NCLT's discretion in determining whether a
company has become sick and is eligible for being rescued should be based an objective assessment of
its viability. This can be achieved by collapsing some of the procedural steps envisaged in Chapter XIX
as discussed below:



                                                   51
It may be noted that the NCLT is required to decide whether a company is sick or not within sixty days
of the receipt of the initial application under Section 253 ("Application 1"). It may also be noted that
after a company has been declared a sick company, the company itself or a secured creditor can make
an application to the Tribunal for determination of measures that may be adopted for rescuing the
company ("Application 2"). Since Application 2 can be filed only after an outcome of Application 1,
a time period of upto sixty days must pass before Application 2 can be filed.

After Application 2 has been filed, Section 256 (1) (b) of CA 2013 requires the NCLT to appoint an
interim administrator who is in turn required to convene a meeting of a committee of creditors to
consider if it is possible to revive and rehabilitate the sick company and file a report with the
NCLT within sixty days of such appointment, based on which a final decision on whether a company
should be revived or liquidated is required to be taken at a hearing, which can be held as late as ninety
days from the date of Application 2 (S 256 (1) (a)). It is also important to note that all orders of the
NCLT can be subjected to appeals before the NCLAT (with the possibility of a further appeal to the
Supreme Court. Therefore, if a decision on Application 1 is subjected to an appeal, the outcome of
Application 2 may take even longer.

In other words, (a) an interim administrator and the creditors can examine the viability of the
company only after it has been declared sick and (b) creditors can object to rescue
and recommend liquidation on the basis of unviability at a hearing that takes place much later. It
may be noted that as per the JLF framework of the RBI, within 30 days of an account being reported as
SMA -2 (see point b. under Section A. above) or receipt of request from the borrower to form a JLF
(with substantiated grounds), the JLF is required to arrive at an agreement on the option to be adopted
for a `Corrective Action Plan' (i.e., rectification of the account on the basis of commitments made by
the borrower, exploring restructuring alternatives or initiating recovery proceedings).The JLF is
required to sign off the detailed final Corrective Action Plan within the next 30 days from the date of
arriving at such an agreement. In other words, the JLF framework requires finality on the
corrective action to be pursued within sixty days of a reference being made.

If an interim administrator is appointed earlier (within seven days of Application 1) for the limited
purpose of convening a meeting of the committee of creditors and submitting a report to the NCLT on
the viability of the business, the NCLT will be able to use the report of the interim administrator to
determine the viability of the business at the time of determining sickness of the company. By way of
such an amendment, a decision on whether the company should be rescued or whether winding
up proceedings should be initiated can be taken within two months of filing of the initial
application (as against five months as is presently contemplated - up to sixty days for
determination of sickness and another ninety days for a final decision on whether to go for rescue
or liquidation).

The BLRC is of the opinion that viability should be the most important (if not the only) consideration
for allowing a company to be rescued. Unviable insolvent companies should not be allowed to continue
functioning for extraneous considerations. Liquidation should not be seen as a measure of last resort for
unviable businesses that have become insolvent ­ they should be liquidated as soon as possible to
minimize the losses for all parties.




                                                   52
____

Recommendations:

               Sections 253 to 258 of CA 2013 should be redrafted to ensure that the viability of a company
               is taken into account while determining its sickness and enabling the creditors to have a
               say in such determination. If an interim administrator is appointed by the NCLT sooner
               (within seven days of the first application for rescue being filed) for the limited purpose of
               convening a meeting of a committee of creditors (that will include representatives of all
               classes of creditors) and submitting a report to the NCLT on the viability of the business,
               the NCLT will be able to use such report to examine the viability of the business at the time
               of determining whether a company is sick or not. This allows creditors to have a say in
               determining the viability of a company at an early stage and significantly reduces the time-
               period for arriving at a final decision on whether to rescue a company or initiate
               liquidation proceedings. By way of such an amendment, a decision on whether the sick
               company should be rescued or whether winding up proceedings should be initiated can be
               taken within two months of filing of the initial application as against the presently
               contemplated five months or longer (in case of an appeal against the first order) - up to
               sixty days for determination of sickness and another ninety days or longer for a final
               decision on whether to go for rescue or liquidation.
               The terms and conditions of the appointment of the interim administrator and its powers
               shall be determined by the NCLT at the time of his or her appointment (as is currently
               envisaged).
               A decision of the committee of creditors on whether the company should be rescued or
               liquidated should be supported by 75 % secured creditors by value (or 75% of all the
               creditors by value, if there is no secured debt in the company). As 75% of the secured
               creditors by value can initiate action under the SARFAESI Act (under the proviso to Section
               254 of CA 2013) and defeat the rescue proceedings at any stage, giving them a larger say
               in assessing the viability of the company will incentivise them to actively participate in the
               rescue proceedings and not initiate separate security enforcement action.

D. MORATORIUM

The CA 2013 provides for a moratorium on enforcement proceedings to be granted on an application
to the NCLT, and for a fixed duration of 120 days.86 The provisions on the moratorium suffer from the
following problems: (i) wide discretion to the NCLT to determine whether a moratorium should be
granted or not; (ii) no provision for lifting or modifying the terms of the moratorium once it has been
granted; (iii) no express requirement for consideration by the NCLT of creditor interests in making the
decision to grant the moratorium; (iv) no provision for an interim moratorium while the NCLT is
hearing an application for grant of the moratorium.

Many countries provide for an automatic moratorium on other proceedings once the company enters
formal insolvency proceedings. The possibility of abuse of the moratorium by the debtor company
arising in such a case is prevented through the incorporation of suitable safeguards for secured creditors.
For example, Section 362 of the US Bankruptcy Code provides for an automatic moratorium on the

86
     Sections 253(2)-(3), CA 2013.


                                                      53
enforcement of claims against the company and its property upon the filing of a Chapter 11 petition.
The moratorium covers judicial and administrative proceedings, enforcement of judgments against the
company or its estate, acts to obtain possession/control of estate property, acts to create, perfect or
enforce liens, acts to collect claims, exercise of right of set off, tax court proceedings etc.87 However,
secured creditors can apply to the court to lift the stay under certain circumstances. The moratorium
may be lifted for appropriate cause, including if, in the opinion of the court, the debtor company has
not `adequately protected' the property interests of the creditor during the period of the moratorium.88
Similarly, the moratorium may also be lifted with respect to an action against property of the debtor's
estate, if the debtor does not have any equity in the property and such property is not required for the
effective reorganisation of the debtor.89

Schedule B1 of the IA 1986 (UK) provides for an interim moratorium applicable during the period
between the filing of an application to appoint an administrator or giving of notice of intention to appoint
an administrator and the actual appointment of such administrator. Further, the IA 1986 provides for an
automatic moratorium on insolvency proceedings. The moratorium on insolvency proceedings is broad
in nature. 90 Further, there is an automatic moratorium on enforcement of security over the company's
property, repossession of goods in the company's possession under a hire-purchase agreement (defined
to include retention of title arrangements), exercise of a right of forfeiture by a landlord by peaceable
re-entry and institution of legal proceedings against the company. The moratorium in these cases can
be lifted with the approval of the administrator or the consent of the court.91

It is evident that in these jurisdictions, an automatic moratorium (coupled with an interim moratorium
in the case of the UK) has been used to prevent a race to collect by the creditors, precipitating the
liquidation of the company. Specific safeguards for protection of the interests of secured creditors and
others with a proprietary interest in the assets in the possession of the firm (e.g. under hire purchase and
retention of title arrangements) have been incorporated through express stipulation of circumstances
under which a moratorium may be lifted in the US, and in the case of the UK, through provision for
lifting of moratorium with the approval of the administrator or the consent of the court.

Principles governing the moratorium

As discussed above, the US provides for an automatic stay on the enforcement of claims against the
company and its property upon the filing of a Chapter 11 petition. The court may grant relief from a
moratorium under Section 362(a) of the US Bankruptcy Code by terminating, annulling, modifying or
imposing conditions on such moratorium.92 Such relief may be granted for cause, including where the
debtor has not adequately protected the interests of the concerned secured creditor in the property.


87
   Rodrigo Olivares-Caminal et al, Debt Restructuring, (1st edn, Oxford University Press 2011) (hereinafter
referred to as "Olivares- Caminal et al")
88
     Finch.
89
     Olivares- Caminal et al
90
     Olivares- Caminal et al.
91
     Schedule B1, para 43, IA 1986.
92
     Section 362(d), US Bankruptcy Code.


                                                    54
Similarly, with respect to a moratorium on an act against property, if the debtor does not have equity in
the property and the property is not necessary for the effective reorganisation of the debtor company,
the court may grant relief from the moratorium. Relief may be granted from the moratorium on an
application by a creditor having an interest in the real property of the company if the court finds that
the filing of the petition was part of a scheme to hinder, delay or defraud creditors that involved multiple
bankruptcy filings affecting the property or transfer of ownership (either in part or whole) or other
interest in the property without the consent of the secured creditor or approval of the court. The court
may also grant relief from the stay, with or without a hearing if such relief is necessary to prevent
irreparable damage to the interest of an entity in the property of the company and if such interest will
suffer such damage before a notice and hearing can be held.

In the UK, case law on the moratorium provisions under the IA 1986 provides useful guidance as to the
exercise of the discretion by the administrator/court in lifting the moratorium. In Re Atlantic Computer
Systems plc,93 the court laid down some guidance for the cases where leave is sought to exercise
proprietary rights (including security rights) against a company in administration. The court held that if
the grant of leave is unlikely to hinder the achievement of the purpose for which the administration
order was made, then the creditor should be given leave to take enforcement action. In other cases, the
court has to conduct a balancing exercise between the legitimate interests of the particular creditor and
the legitimate interests of other creditors. Such a balancing exercise attaches great significance to the
proprietary interests of the creditor:

            "...The underlying principle here is that an administration for the benefit of unsecured
           creditors should not be conducted at the expense of those who have proprietary rights which
           they are seeking to exercise, save to the extent that this may be unavoidable and even then this
           will usually be acceptable only to a strictly limited extent..."

Thus, the court will have to take into account the loss (any kind of financial or non-financial loss,
whether direct or indirect) caused to the creditor on account of a refusal of leave, and weigh it against
the loss caused to others due to the grant of leave. In conducting this exercise, the court will have to
consider circumstances such as the financial position of the company, its ability to pay rental arrears as
well as continuing rentals, the proposals put forth by the administrator, the time for which the
administration order has been in force and the time period for which it will remain in force, the effect
on the administration if the court were to grant leave, the effect of refusal of leave on the creditor
applying for leave, the end result to be achieved by the administration, the prospects of such a result
being achieved and the history of the administration till date. It must be noted that other considerations
may also apply, depending on the circumstances of each case. Thus, in Bristol Airport v Powdrill,94 the
court considered the conduct of the parties as an important factor in not granting leave- the creditors
had in this case obtained the benefit of the administrator's actions through most of the administration
period and were subsequently seeking to exercise their security interests.

The court in Re Atlantic Computer Systems also noted that in considering various circumstances, if loss
to the creditor applying for leave is certain if leave is refused, but loss to the others only a remote
possibility if leave is granted, then that may be a significant factor in favour of granting leave. These



93
     [1990] BCC 859.
94
     [1990] Ch 744.

                                                     55
considerations were also held to be relevant to a decision on whether to impose terms where leave is
granted.

While many countries provide for an automatic moratorium, given the past experience under the SICA
wherein the automatic moratorium was widely abused by debtor companies, the present provision in
the CA 2013 may be retained. However, the law must at minimum lay down clear principles to guide
the exercise of discretion by the NCLT on whether the moratorium should be granted or not, and it does
not seem optimal to leave this fundamental question to be developed on a case by case basis in the
NCLT. Further, a provision may be made for an interim moratorium applicable automatically till the
NCLT decides on the application for grant of moratorium or for a maximum period of 30 days,
whichever is earlier. Given the possibility of the displacement of management under the rescue
mechanism under CA 2013, it seems unlikely that debtor companies will initiate rescue proceedings
only with the intention of taking advantage of the interim automatic moratorium.
_____________________

Recommendations:

i. The NCLT's discretion to grant, refuse or lift a moratorium under Section 253 (2) should be guided
   by a non-exhaustive list of grounds specified in a separate statutory provision. Such grounds may
   include:

            The moratorium may ordinarily be granted if the business seems prima facie viable (and
            needs to be protected from piecemeal sale or liquidation).
            The moratorium may not be granted if 75% of the secured creditors by value (or 75% of
            all the creditors by value where there is no secured debt in the company) dissent to the
            grant of a moratorium.
            The moratorium may not be granted where there is any evidence of fraud, diversion of
            funds, etc.
            Once a moratorium has been granted, the NCLT may terminate or modify the same or
            impose terms on the application of the moratorium, for cause.
            The NCLT may terminate/modify or impose terms on the application of the moratorium on
            the following grounds: (a) if the creditor applying to the NCLT for leave to take debt
            enforcement action is able to prove that the grant of leave is unlikely to hinder the purpose
            of the rescue proceedings from being achieved; (b) on the application of the creditor
            applying for the same if the debtor company has not `adequately protected' the interests of
            the such creditor; (c) if the creditor is able to show that the property in question is not
            necessary for the effective reorganization of the debtor company.
            In exercising its discretion on whether to grant leave to a creditor to take enforcement
            action, the NCLT may balance the legitimate interests of such creditor against the
            legitimate interests of other creditors of the debtor company. If significant loss (financial
            or non-financial, direct or indirect) will be caused to the creditor applying for leave to take
            enforcement action if such leave is refused, the NCLT may normally grant leave. However,
            if the loss caused to the other creditors in granting such leave is greater, then the NCLT
            may not grant leave. In conducting the balancing exercise, the NCLT may consider factors
            such as the financial position of the debtor company, its ability to pay arrears due to the
            creditor as well as continuing payments, the proposals put forth by the interim
            administrator or the company administrator, the time for which the rescue proceedings has
            already been in place and the time for which such proceedings will continue, the effect on

                                                   56
                the rescue proceedings if the NCLT were to grant leave, the effect of refusal of leave on the
                creditor applying for leave, the end result to be achieved by the rescue proceeding, the
                prospects of such a result being achieved. In considering the various factors listed above,
                if loss to the creditor applying for leave is certain if leave is refused, but loss to the others
                only a remote possibility if leave is granted, then the NCLT may grant such leave to the
                creditor.
                Lastly, the moratorium shall automatically stand revoked if the NCLT makes determination
                under Section 253 (7) that the company cannot be rescued.

ii. In order to prevent a precipitous break-up of a viable company before the NCLT decides on an
    application for a moratorium, there should be an automatic interim moratorium in place till such
    determination (or for a maximum/non-extendable period of thirty days, whichever is earlier).

E. DIRECT APPOINTMENT OF THE COMPANY ADMINISTRATOR BY SECURED CREDITORS

The current scheme of the CA 2013 does not provide for the participation of creditors in the appointment
of the interim administrator (who is appointed initially for the purpose of convening a meeting of the
committee of creditors) or the company administrator (who is appointed at a later stage for the purpose
of preparing and implementing the scheme). Both the interim administrator and the company
administrator can take-over the management of the company under directions from the NCLT. As
discussed before, any secured creditor who wishes to initiate rescue proceedings has to apply to the
NCLT for declaring the company to be sick95 and for taking measures for the revival and rehabilitation
of the company once it has been determined to be sick.96 However, it is the NCLT who appoints the
interim administrator and the company administrator. While vesting the power to appoint the interim
administrator/ company administrator in the NCLT may been seen as ensuring fairness and impartiality
towards all parties, such a measure may not always ensure the appointment of the person who is most
suited for conducting rescue proceedings for the particular company involved. Moreover, there is a
strong case to be made for creditor involvement in the process of appointment of the company
administrator (if not the interim administrator). Creditors are likely to be most incentivised to select the
person who is best suited for the task- as the fees payable to the company administrator may be taken
out of the company's assets,97 the creditors will often choose a person who is familiar with the
company's business, its activities or assets or has skills, knowledge or experience in handling the
particular circumstances of the case.

Under Section 13(4)(b) of the SARFAESI Act, the secured creditor has a right to take-over the
`management of the business of defaulting borrower' for the express purpose of realisation of the
secured debt. The taking over of the management of the borrower is operationally difficult for the
creditor as it may not have the expertise for management of the assets (albeit, Section 13(4)(c) does
permit the secured creditor to appoint any person for the management of the secured assets). Further, if
the borrower is a running unit, the management of the secured assets may have legal implications and

95
     Upon meeting the relevant criteria prescribed in Section 253(1), CA 2013.
96
     Section 254(1), CA 2013.
97
   Please note that the CA 2013 does not have a specific provision on the remuneration of the company
administrator. Section 259(2) merely states that the terms and conditions of the administrator's appointment shall
be fixed by the NCLT. This is an important question that should be closely considered and addressed with
reference to administrator's duties.


                                                        57
may render the secured creditor liable to the borrower for the losses which may be sustained on account
of the creditor running operations of the borrower.98 Hence, the purport of the section is effectively
limited to management of the assets unlike Section 9 of the SARFAESI Act which deals with asset
reconstruction and allows for the ARC to take over the management of the business of the borrower
whilst taking into consideration RBI guidelines prescribed in this regard. The RBI guidelines specify
that ARCs can takeover the management only for the purpose of realization of its dues. The SARFAESI
Act requires that the management of the company has to be restored back to the borrower after
realisation of the dues. In other words, the provisions relating to acquisition of management in the
SARFAESI Act are designed to facilitate debt recovery and not insolvency resolution or rescue.99 An
administrator appointed by the creditors (whose rights and obligations are specified in CA 2013 or the
NCLT's order) to take-over the management of a viable sick company under an NCLT order may offer
a solution to the limitations of the management acquisition provisions of the SARFAESI Act regime.
The possibility of abuse of the power of appointment of administrator may be minimised by
incorporating safeguards in the CA 2013. For instance, the company/ other creditors may be given the
right to file a petition before the NCLT to remove or replace the administrator.

In the UK, the holder of a qualifying floating charge100 may appoint an administrator out of court at any
point. This enables a qualifying floating charge holder who has a substantial stake in the company's
fortunes and receives early warning signals about impending financial trouble to act at the earliest and
initiate proceedings for turning the company around. In order to appoint the administrator, the
qualifying floating charge holder only has to file with the court the following documents:

         a. a notice of appointment- the notice must include a statutory declaration by or on behalf of
            the person that he/she is a QFCH, that each floating charge relied on is/was enforceable on
            the date of the appointment and that the appointment was in accordance with Schedule B1.
            Further, the notice must identify the administrator.
         b. the statement by the administrator that he consents to the appointment and that in his
            opinion, the purpose of the administration is likely to be achieved, and giving any other
            information and opinions as may be prescribed.
         c. such other documents as may be prescribed.

Such right may only be given to secured creditors who may otherwise initiate SARFAESI action under
the provisos to Section 254. This will incentivise such creditors to participate in the rescue process and
not initiate separate recovery proceedings which may lead to breaking up of viable businesses. A
process that facilitates direct appointment of insolvency professionals outside the NCLT can also help
in the development of a market for turnaround specialists. Turnaround specialists have become


98
  H.P.S. Pahwa, Law & Practice of Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of
Security Interest, 604 (New Delhi: Modern Law Publications, 2006).
99
  It may be noted that the limitations of the SARFAESI Act for achieving insolvency resolution through ARCs
may also be attributable to factors such as valuation/pricing, lack of proper incentives to turn around a venture,
etc.
100
    A QFC is a floating charge created by an instrument which:
a. states that para 14 (on appointment of administrator by QFCH) applies to such charge, or
b. purports to empower the holder of such floating charge to appoint an administrator of the company, or
c. purports to empower the holder to make an appointment which would be the appointment of an administrative
receiver under earlier law (Para 14(2), Schedule B1).


                                                       58
increasingly popular in international restructuring and recovery processes. They are essentially
professionals skilled in the mechanics of turning around a struggling business. The key for the success
of a turnaround specialist is that they are brought in early enough in the process such that their efforts
can salvage the economic value in the company. Turnaround specialists are particularly useful in the
context of companies suffering from idiosyncratic rather than systemic issues. Since they are essentially
generalists adept at dealing with companies in distress, they may not have the level of in depth
knowledge of the distressed company's particular area of operation. In this context, it is crucial to note
that turnaround specialists are generally more successful when they operate with the advice and
guidance of the incumbent management. Since they are external parties, they are able to bring in a fresh
perspective to the issues faced by the distressed company. As they operate across sectors, they also have
the benefit of being able to look at broader "macro" issues and trends which often entrenched incumbent
management fails to perceive. If certain creditors are allowed to directly appoint a company
administrator and determine the terms and conditions of such appointment (including the fee), it may
help in the development of a market for turnaround specialists in India (as a market driven process will
encourage such service providers to work as company administrators or advisors to company
administrators) .
________

Recommendations:

                75% of the secured creditors in value (or 75% of all creditors by value, if there is no secured
                debt in the company) should be able to appoint a company administrator directly (after a
                company has been declared sick) and determine the terms and conditions for such
                appointment (including the fee), subject to post facto confirmation by the NCLT. Such
                creditors may appoint the interim administrator as the company administrator.
                The CA 2013 should be amended to empower the Government to issue separate rules to
                prescribe standard terms and conditions for such appointment.
                The NCLT may confirm such appointment in the absence of a manifest violation of the
                prescribed terms and conditions or a challenge by the company or the other creditors. The
                process for appointment of the company administrator should be completed within fifteen
                days from the date of the order of the NCLT determining that the debtor company can be
                rescued.
                The company and/or other creditors should be permitted to petition the NCLT for the
                removal or replacement of the company administrator on grounds as may be prescribed by
                rules. Further, a provision similar to the UK's provision for "unfair harm" (which entitles
                a creditor to petition the court for relief where the administrator is acting so as to harm
                the interests of the applicant, with the available relief including the removal of the
                administrator) may be appropriate.101 The NCLT should be able to impose
                sanctions/costs/damages on a petitioner if it finds that a petition challenging such
                appointment has been filed to abuse the process of law.
                The NCLT shall dispose of any application for removal or replacement of the company
                administrator within thirty days of the application.




101
      Schedule B1 para. 74 of the Insolvency Act 1986.

                                                         59
F. TAKEOVER OF MANAGEMENT OR ASSETS BY THE ADMINISTRATOR

As indicated earlier in the Report, "The main drawback of the SICA scheme" was that it left "the
debtor company in possession of the assets which creates an asymmetry and imbalance between
the debtor company and its creditors conferring on the inefficient or inept management an unmerited
advantage...The debtor in possession allows the promoters to leverage informational advantages and
to create tailor made delays in the proceedings by taking recourse to [the moratorium]..." (Eradi
Committee Report as cited in van Zwieten). In order to address this concern, the CA 2013 provides that
an interim administrator or the company administrator appointed as part of the rescue process can take
over the management of the debtor company. However, like most other powers envisaged in CA 2013,
such takeover of management can take place only after the NCLT directs the administrator to take over
the management (under Section 256 (1) or Section 258 (3)). In all other cases, the incumbent
management continues to be in possession of the company. Moreover, CA 2013 does not provide any
guidance on the circumstances in which the management or assets may be taken over. Even where the
administrator has been directed to take over the management, CA 2013 provides no clarity on what role
the existing management will play after such takeover of management. The provision relating to
takeover of management by the interim administrator provides that when such interim administrator has
been directed to take over the management, the directors and the existing management shall extend all
reasonable co-operation to him manage the affairs of the company (S 256(2)). However, the provision
relating to the takeover of management by the company administrator (who is appointed only after the
NCLT has ruled that the company should be rescued) is silent on the role of the existing directors and
management. Contrast this to Section 15 of the SARFAESI Act that includes detailed provisions on the
manner and effect of the takeover of management for the purpose of debt recovery.

International practices

In the UK, the administrator, once appointed, takes over the management of the company. The
administrator plays a central role in the rescue process and has the power to do anything `necessary or
expedient for the management of the affairs, business and property of the company.' The administrator
has the power to carry on the business of the company. 102 Most significantly, it may be noted that a
company in administration or an officer of a company in administration may not exercise a management
power without the administrator's consent.103Once appointed, the administrator shall manage the
company's affairs, business and property.104 The power of the court to give directions to the
administrator is limited to those instances where none of the administrator's proposals have been
approved by the creditors' meeting, or where its directions are consistent with such proposals/revisions,
or if the court thinks the directions are required in order to reflect a change in circumstances since the
approval of proposals/revisions.105 Further, an administrator has the power to remove a director of the
company or to appoint a director of the company.106 Most significantly, a company in administration or


102
      Para 14, Schedule 1, IA 1986.
103
      Para 64(1), Schedule B1, IA 1986.
104
      Para 68, Schedule B1, IA 1986.
105
      Para 68(3), Schedule B1, IA 1986.
106
      Para 61, Sch B1.


                                                   60
an officer of a company in administration may not exercise a management power without the
administrator's consent.

However, this does not mean that the entry into administration terminates board appointment ipso facto.
But the board's power to exercise managerial powers is limited- if the administrator is of the opinion
that the board is competent, he/she may permit them to remain in office and exercise managerial powers.
In order to ensure that the board cooperates with the administrator, Section 235 of the IA 1986 imposes
an obligation on the management of the company (including officers of the company) to give the
administrator such information concerning the company and its promotion, formation, business,
dealings, affairs or property that the administrator may at any time after the entry into administration
reasonably require, and to attend on the administrator at such times as the latter may reasonably require.
This requirement is similar to the obligation under Section 256(2) on the directors to cooperate with the
interim administrator.

In contrast, the US follows a debtor-in-possession regime wherein the management remains in control
of the debtor company even after Chapter-11 proceedings have been initiated. 107 It has been suggested
that in the case of a debtor-in-possession regime as under Chapter 11 of the US Bankruptcy Code, the
management would be encouraged to make a timely reference for early resolution of financial distress
as they would not fear the loss of control in the event of entry into insolvency proceedings.108 However,
such a system has been criticized because it leaves the management (which may be responsible for the
company's failure) in charge of managing the rescue proceedings.109 It could also increase risks of
fraudulent activity by the management, including the siphoning away of the company's assets.
However, the US bankruptcy law provides an important safeguard against the abuse of the debtor-in-
possession regime by permitting the appointment of a trustee in certain circumstances. Section 1104(a)
of the Bankruptcy Code permits the appointment of a trustee to take over the management of the debtor
company on two grounds. A trustee shall be appointed for cause, including fraud, dishonesty,
incompetence or gross mismanagement of the debtor company's affairs by the present management,
either before or after the commencement of the Chapter 11 case, or for a similar cause.110 It must be
noted that the grounds mentioned in Section 1104(a)(1) are not exhaustive.111 Further, a trustee shall
also be appointed if such appointment is necessary in the interests of the debtor company's creditors,
any equity shareholders, and other interests of the estate. The trustee may be appointed by the court on
the request of an interested party or the trustee at any point of time after the commencement of Chapter
11 proceedings but before a plan has been confirmed. Once the trustee is appointed, unless the court
orders otherwise, the trustee takes control of the assets and business operations of the debtor. 112The
trustee steps into the shoes of the debtor and has fiduciary obligations to all the parties. The trustee's

107
  Although in practice the scope of management power in Chapter 11 may be severely limited by the control that
some creditors have over the company's cash flow inter alia (Ayotte and Morrison).
108
      Franken.
109
   John Armour, The Rise of the 'Pre-Pack': Corporate Restructuring in the UK and Proposals for Reform, RP
Austin and Fady JG Aoun (eds.), Restructuring Companies in Troubled Times: Director and Creditor Perspectives,
43-78. (Sydney: Ross Parsons Centre of Commercial, Corporate and Taxation Law, 2012).

110
      Section 1104(a)(1), US Bankruptcy Code.
111
      United States v. Ron Pair Enterprises, Inc., 489 U.S. 235, 109 S.Ct. 1026, 1030, 103 L.Ed.2d 290 (1989).
112
      Section 1108, US Bankruptcy Code.


                                                         61
duties are set out in Sections 1106 and Section 704. They include: (i) investigating the acts, conduct,
assets, liabilities, and financial condition of the debtor, the operation of the debtor's business and the
viability of continuing the business, any other matter relevant to the case or to the formulation of a plan;
(ii) file a plan under Section 1121 or recommend conversion of the case to a case under chapter 7, 12,
or 13 of this title or dismissal of the case; and (iii) post-confirmation of the plan, file such reports as are
necessary or in accordance with the court orders, etc.

An examination of the jurisprudence of the US courts on Section 1104(a) shows that this remedy for
creditors and other interested parties has been considered to be an extraordinary one.113 This is based
on the strong presumption that the debtor is to be left in possession even after Chapter 11 proceedings
have commenced.114 In In re Lifeguard Industries, Inc.,115 the court noted that the shareholders
(management) of a debtor company continued to have the right to manage the company once Chapter
11 proceedings were initiated and the same could not be lightly interfered with. However, the court held
that it had an obligation to `scrutinize the actions of the corporation' upon the request of an interested
party so as to "protect creditors' interests from the actions of inexperienced, incapable, or a foolhardy
management." The appointment of a trustee must "better serve creditors, shareholders, and the public
interest by promoting efficiency, effectiveness and transparency..."116 Further, in line with this
reasoning, a very high standard of proof has been required by courts in cases under Section 1104(a).
The interested party petitioning the court for the appointment of a trustee must show that there is `clear
and convincing' evidence that makes the appointment of the trustee necessary.117

The power of the court under Section 1104(a)(1) and Section 1104(a)(2) differ in as much as under the
former, the court has no discretion once it has been found that sufficient cause for the appointment of a
trustee exists.118 However, under the latter sub-section, the court can exercise some degree of discretion
in whether to appoint a bankruptcy trustee.

US courts have appointed a trustee under Section 1104(a)(1) where the evidence pointed towards fraud,
dishonesty, mismanagement, unauthorized post-petition transfers of the debtor's property etc. In
Celeritas Technologies, the discord between the debtor and creditor which hindered reorganisation
attempts was held to be sufficient cause to appoint a trustee under Section 1104(a)(1). It was found that
the debtors were abusing the bankruptcy process to keep their assets and avoid repayment of a debt to
a creditor. In another case, the failure of the debtor company to include relevant financial information
in its original and amended schedules of assets and liabilities filed with the bankruptcy court in
accordance with the Bankruptcy Code and Rules was held to raise issues of dishonest conduct,



113
      Tradex Corp. v. Morse, 339 B.R. 823 (2006); In re Celeritas Technologies, LLC, 446 B.R. 514 (2011).
114
      In re St. Louis Globe­Democrat, 63 B.R. 131, 138 (Bankr.E.D.Mo.1985).
115
      37 B.R. 3 (Bankr. S.D. Ohio 1983).
116
      In re Celeritas Technologies, LLC, 446 B.R. 514 (2011).
117
   In re Celeritas Technologies, LLC, 446 B.R. 514 (2011). It may be noted that while Tradex Corp. v. Morse,
339 B.R. 823 (2006) held that a lower standard of preponderance of evidence was sufficient, a majority of cases
have favoured using the standard of `clear and convincing' evidence.
118
   In re Oklahoma Refining Company, 838 F.2d 1133, 1136 (10th Cir.1988); In re St. Louis Globe­Democrat,
Inc., 63 B.R. 131, 138 (Bankr.E.D.Mo.1985); In re Ford, 36 B.R. 501, 504 (Bankr.W.D.Ky.1983).


                                                        62
necessitating the appointment of a trustee.119 A bankruptcy trustee was also appointed for cause by the
court where the debtor company had transferred certain assets, stocks etc, made loans to a corporation
solely owned by the debtor company without the court's permission or disclosing the same to the court,
and had not disclosed these transactions in the monthly financial reports.120 It was also held that the
same also constituted grounds for appointment under Section 1104(a)(2). The pre-petition conduct of
the debtor in placing its retail fuel operations beyond the reach of creditors, and post-petition conduct
in not disclosing material and relevant information and making misrepresentations to the court and
creditors was also held to necessitate the appointment of a trustee under Section 1104(a)(1).121 A trustee
was also appointed under Section 1104(a)(1) where the person performing the role of debtor-in-
possession had an interest which was adverse to the debtor's estate.122 This was held to be necessary in
the best interests of creditors under Section 1104(a)(2).

While appointing a trustee under Section 1104(a)(2) in the best interests of the creditors, the court has
held that the debtor's ability to fulfil its duty of care to protect the assets, the debtor's duty of loyalty
and duty of impartiality are relevant.123 Dishonest conduct or the withholding of information on the part
of the debtor would work in favour of the appointment of a trustee. Other factors that the court would
consider include: (i) the overall management of the debtor, in the past and present; (ii) the
trustworthiness of the debtor company's management; (iii) the (no) confidence of the business
community and creditors in the incumbent management; (iv) practical considerations including a
balancing of the benefits from the appointment of a trustee against the costs of such appointment. 124
The court takes into account equitable considerations in exercising its power to appoint a trustee under
Section 1104(a)(2). 125 Relevant cases where courts have appointed trustees in the best interests of the
creditors include where there was a history of transactions which the debtor company carried out with
affiliated companies at the cost of creditors;126 where there were inaccuracies and inconsistencies in the
statements made by the debtor company's principal to the bankruptcy court leading the court to believe
that the creditors cannot place trust in the debtor company to carry out its obligations to the creditors



119
    In re Deena Packaging Industries, Inc., 29 B.R. 705 (1983)- "Because Deena has failed to provide a full and
truthful statement of its financial condition, it is necessary to appoint a trustee so that the court and Deena's
creditors are fully informed." Such a line was also taken in cases such as In re Horn & Hardart case, 22 B.R.
668, 7 C.B.C.2d 65 (Bkrtcy.E.D.Pa.1982) (where one of the factors was the failure of the debtor company to file
operating statements as required by the bankruptcy rules) and In re Philadelphia Athletic Club, Inc., 15 B.R. 60
(Bkrtcy.S.D.N.Y.1981) (where there were allegations of gross mismanagement coupled with a failure on the part
of the debtor to keep adequate books and records).
120
      In re Ford, 36 B.R. 501 (1983). Please note that in this case, the debtor was an individual.
121
      In re V. Savino Oil & Heating Co., Inc., 99 B.R. 518 (1989).
122
      Matter of Embrace Systems Corp., 178 B.R. 112 (1995).
123
      In re Celeritas Technologies, LLC, 446 B.R. 514 (2011).
124
      In re Celeritas Technologies, LLC, 446 B.R. 514 (2011).
125
  In re Hotel Associates, Inc., 3 B.R. 343, 6 B.C.D. 160 (E.D.Pa.1980), aff'd, No. 80-4444 (E.D.Pa. January 30,
1981).
126
   In the Matter of State Capital Corp., 51 B.R. 400 (Bankr.M.D.Fla.1985); In re Humphreys Pest Control
Franchises, Inc., 40 B.R. 174(Bankr.E.D.Pa.1984).


                                                           63
properly,127 where the debtor-in-possession made transfers aimed at placing the company's assets
beyond the reach of its creditors etc.128
______

Given the experience under the SICA regime, a debtor-in-possession approach may be problematic in
the Indian context. Although CA 2013 does provide for takeover of management or assets by the
administrator, it does not provide much guidance on the grounds on which such takeover may be ordered
or the manner and effect of such takeover. The provisions relating to takeover of management by the
administrator under CA 2013 need several changes to make the system more predictable and less prone
to litigation. Given that an NCLT order for takeover of management can be appealed before the NCLAT
(and subsequently before the Supreme Court), the law should specify a non-exhaustive list of grounds
on which the NCLT may direct that the management or assets may or may not be taken over to avoid
the possibility of protracted disputes on the question of such takeover. It may be noted that Section 420
of CA 2013 requires that the NCLT give the concerned parties a reasonable opportunity of being heard
before passing any order. In the absence of clear grounds on which such orders may be passed, matters
can easily get entangled in long-drawn-out litigation. Further, unlike SARFAESI Act that includes a
detailed provision on the manner and effect of such takeover, CA 2013 is silent on these aspects
(including the question of the interrelationship between the company administrator and the existing
directors/management and the shareholders), which is also problematic. The following
recommendations are intended to address these concerns.
___

Recommendations:

i. Chapter XIX of CA 2013 should have a separate provision on takeover of management or assets by
   the company administrator, which should provide for the following:

                The NCLT may direct the company administrator to takeover the management or assets of
                the debtor company suo motu (on its own motion) or on an application made by 75% of the
                secured creditors in value (or 75% of all the creditors by value if there is no secured debt
                in the company). Such an application may be made within seven days of confirmation of
                the administrator's appointment.
                The NCLT shall decide on such application of the secured creditors within thirty days. The
                suo motu order may be made during any stage of the rescue proceedings.
                There should be a separate provision to guide the NCLT's discretion for directing takeover
                of management or assets by the company administrator and the scope of such order.
                Such provision should provide for a non-exhaustive list of grounds to guide the NCLT's
                discretion in determining whether such takeover should be ordered or not. It may be noted
                that the NCLT will be required to allow the debtor company to be heard before such an
                order is passed. Such grounds may include:

                    o    Fraud or impropriety;
                    o    Mismanagement of the affairs of the company;
                    o    The debtor company has defaulted in meeting its undisputed payment or repayment
                         obligations to any creditor who is eligible to make a reference under Chapter XIX

127
      Tradex Corp. v. Morse, 339 B.R. 823 (2006).

128
      In re Ford, 36 B.R. 501 (1983).

                                                      64
                    and where any of the following conditions are satisfied: (a) where the debtor
                    company has defaulted on such obligations despite having the capacity to honour
                    them; or (b) where the debtor company has not utilised the finance from the
                    creditors for the specific purposes for which finance was availed of but has diverted
                    the funds for other purposes; or (c) where the debtor company has siphoned off the
                    funds such that the funds have not been utilised for the specific purpose for which
                    finance was availed of, nor are the funds available with the debtor company in the
                    form of other assets; or (d) where the debtor company has disposed off or removed
                    the movable fixed assets or immovable property given by it for the purpose of
                    securing a loan from any creditor without the knowledge of such creditor; provided
                    that a solitary or isolated instance should not form the basis for such takeover
                    unless the NCLT is of the view that such an intervention is required for protecting
                    the interest of the business and the stakeholders.
                o   The debtor company does not engage constructively with the creditors by
                    defaulting in timely repayment of undisputed dues while having ability to pay,
                    thwarting the creditors' efforts for recovery of such dues by not providing
                    necessary information sought, denying access to assets financed or collateral
                    securities, obstructing sale of such securities and in effect, deliberately obstructing
                    the legitimate efforts of the creditors to recover their undisputed dues; provided
                    that a solitary or isolated instance should not form the basis for such takeover
                    unless the NCLT is of the view that such an intervention is required for protecting
                    the interest of the business and the stakeholders.
                o   Unauthorized transfers of the debtor company's cash or assets during the course
                    of rescue proceedings or anytime before the commencement of the proceedings if
                    the NCLT is satisfied that such transfers were carried out for the purpose of putting
                    such cash or assets beyond the reach of the creditors who have a claim on such
                    cash or assets;
                o   Where an application for rescue has been filed by the debtor company without a
                    draft scheme for revival or rehabilitation and there is a declaration to that effect
                    by its board of directors (as presently envisaged under the proviso to Section
                    256(b)).

ii. The NCLT's order for takeover of the management may also provide for the following:

            Empower the administrator to appoint or dismiss managerial personnel (subject to
            applicable labour laws) including directors as part of taking over the management; any
            directors nominated on the board of the company by the administrator as part of an attempt
            to rescue a company shall have similar level of protections as envisaged for directors
            appointed in terms of Section 35A of the State Bank of India Act, 1955 and hold office for
            such period as directed by the administrator or the NCLT (as the order may prescribe).
            Such a director will not incur any liability `by reason of only being a director or for
            anything done or omitted to be done in good faith in the discharge of his duties as a director
            or anything in relation thereto.'
            Further, in cases where the financial distress of the company is not attributable to
            managerial actions and where the presence of such management (or senior employees) is
            in the opinion of the administrator crucial for a successful turnaround of the business, the
            administrator should be allowed to enter into agreements (on behalf of the company) with
            such managerial personnel that incentivise them to stay on for turning the company around.
            Require the other directors or employees to (a) extend all assistance and co-operation to
            the company administrator and (b) not carry out any act that materially affects the business
            or property of the company without the prior permission of the administrator.

                                                   65
                Such an order may also specify the powers of shareholders after the administrator takes
                over the management and define the rights of the administrator vis-à-vis the shareholders.
                The NCLT may also be guided by Section 15 of the SARFAESI Act to determine the manner
                and effect of such takeover of management.


G. POWERS AND FUNCTIONS OF THE COMPANY ADMINISTRATOR

Chapter XIX, CA 2013 envisages an important role for the company administrator in the revival and
rehabilitation of financially distressed companies. However, despite having such a prominent role in
the rescue proceedings, the CA 2013 does not specifically set out the powers and functions of the
administrator in detail. Section 260 (1), CA 2013 only states that the company administrator shall
perform "such functions as the Tribunal may direct", thereby leaving much to the discretion of the
NCLT. This provision may be contrasted with the corresponding provision on the powers and duties of
company liquidators as set out in Section 290, CA 2013. The latter provision contains a non-exhaustive
list of powers and duties of the company liquidator, unlike Section 260(1) which provides a basic
outline.

In the UK, the functions of the administrator are set out expressly in Schedule B1, IA 1986. Paragraph
59 (1) of Schedule B1 vests a wide discretion in the administrator by empowering him/her to do
anything `necessary or expedient for the management of the affairs, business and property of the
company.' Paragraph 60 states that the powers of the administrator are as specified in Schedule 1, IA
1986, which contains a list of 23 powers of the administrator.129 It may be noted that a UK administrator
takes over the management of the debtor on its appointment unlike CA 2013 which envisages takeover
of the management or assets by the company administrator only under directions of the NCLT.
Therefore, most powers of administrator under IA 1986 are relevant in the Indian context only after the
administrator has been directed to takeover the management or the assets.

The BLRC anticipates that the current wording of Section 260(1) may not facilitate the effective
functioning of the administrator after it has been directed to takeover the management or the assets of
the debtor company. According to the current scheme of the CA 2013, the administrator does not enjoy
any general powers and may have to constantly rely on directions issued by the NCLT. Unless the
statute specifies some basic powers of the administrator in line with international best practices after it
has been directed to takeover the management or the assets, there will be a lot of uncertainty on this
issue which may lead to delays and undermine the very purpose of involving independent insolvency
practitioners in the rescue process. There may be a considerable time gap between an administrator's
taking over the management or assets and the final order of the NCLT sanctioning the scheme. The
proposed powers will ensure that company administrator is able to preserve the value of the company
and protect its business till the scheme is sanctioned. This is important for addressing problems faced
under the SICA regime where the management engaged in siphoning of assets, etc after filing a
reference for rehabilitation. Appropriate safeguards can also be provided to prevent any unilateral action
of the company administrator that could harm the interest of the stakeholders.

__________



129
      Para 64(1), Sch B1.


                                                     66
Recommendations:

i. Section 260 should be amended to provide the following powers to the company administrator:
   General powers in relation to takeover of management (which will include takeover of the
   company's assets):

           Without prejudice to the powers of the NCLT to direct the company administrator to
           perform any function, the company administrator shall have the following powers after he
           has been directed by the NCLT to take over the management of the company:

               o   do anything necessary or expedient for the management of the affairs, business and
                   property of the company;
               o   enforce, modify or terminate any contract or agreement entered into by the
                   company depending on whether such contract is beneficial or detrimental for
                   effectively rescuing the company;
               o   take possession of and collect the property of the company;
               o   appoint a lawyer or accountant or other professionally qualified person or expert
                   to assist him in the performance of his functions;
               o   bring or defend any action or other legal proceedings in the name and on behalf
                   of the company;
               o   power to raise or borrow money and grant security therefor over the property of
                   the company as part of a scheme of revival, subject to the terms of the scheme;
               o   use the company's seal;
               o   do all acts and to execute in the name and on behalf of the company any deed,
                   receipt or other document;
               o   effect and maintain insurances in respect of the business and property of the
                   company;
               o   do all such things as may be necessary for the realisation of the company's
                   property;
               o   carry on the company's business;
               o   make any payment which is necessary or incidental to the performance of his
                   functions;
               o   do all things incidental to the exercise of the above powers.
       General powers in relation to takeover of assets (the management need not be displaced in
       cases where an administrator is directed to take over a particular asset or assets):

           Without prejudice to the powers of the NCLT to direct the company administrator to
           perform any function, the company administrator shall have the following powers after he
           has been directed by the NCLT to take over any asset or assets of the company:

               o   take possession of such assets;
               o   do anything necessary or expedient for the management of such assets;
               o   enforce, modify or terminate any contract or agreement entered into by the
                   company in relation to such assets depending on whether such contract is
                   beneficial or detrimental for the protection of such assets;
               o   appoint a lawyer or accountant or other professionally qualified person or expert
                   to assist him in the performance of his functions in relation to such assets;
               o   bring or defend any action or other legal proceedings in the name and on behalf
                   of the company in relation to such assets;



                                                67
                o    do all acts and to execute in the name and on behalf of the company any deed,
                     receipt or other document in relation to such assets;
                o    effect and maintain insurances in respect of such assets;
                o    make any payment which is necessary or incidental to the performance of his
                     functions in relation to such assets;
                o    do all things incidental to the exercise of the above powers.


        Common principles applicable to the above powers:

            Any action of the company administrator that may adversely affect the rights of the existing
            creditors or the shareholders will require prior authorisation from the NCLT.
            Any action of the company administrator relating to transfer of assets or property of the
            company other than in the ordinary course of business will also require prior authorisation
            from the NCLT.
            The company administrator should also have the power to apply to the NCLT for seeking
            directions and clarifications in relation to the above functions.
            The NCLT shall have the power to modify any of the powers of the company administrator
            at the time of directing such administrator to takeover the management or assets.
            After a scheme of revival has been sanctioned by the NCLT, the company administrator
            shall have such powers and perform such functions as may be specified in the scheme or
            as directed by the NCLT for the proper implementation of the scheme.


H.   SCHEME OF REHABILITATION


In order for the scheme for the rehabilitation of the company to be sanctioned, Section 262 (2) of CA
2013 requires that it has to be approved by (a) secured creditors representing 75% in value of the debts
owed by the company to such creditors and (b) unsecured creditors representing 25% in value of the
amount of debt owed to them. This provision requiring consent from both secured and unsecured
creditors for approval of a scheme of revival seems well founded. In relation to industrial units, such
unsecured creditors will typically consist of suppliers of raw materials and other services such as
maintenance of the plant and machinery. Other unsecured creditors may include bond holders and trade
creditors. If the scheme is approved with the consent of all such stakeholders, it reduces the possibility
separate legal actions by such creditors for recovery of their dues.

The BLRC notes that as per the JLF framework of the RBI, decisions approved by a minimum of 75%
of creditors by value and 60% of creditors in number bind all others. The JLF framework does not
distinguish between secured and unsecured creditors. However, since the JLF circular is applicable to
banks and financial institutions, the second leg of the JLF requirement for sanctioning a scheme (i.e.,
approval from 60% of the creditors by volume) although workable within the JLF framework, may not
be workable in relation to a scheme of rehabilitation under CA 2013 where the number and nature of
creditors may be significantly different (for instance unsecured creditors like trade creditors and
suppliers). It is useful to see how this issue is addressed in some other jurisdictions:

        US: In Chapter 11 proceedings in the US as each class of creditors that are impaired by the plan
        need to consent to it through a vote of two-thirds of that class in volume and half the allowed
        claims of that class. Any class of creditors that are not impaired by the plan are automatically
        deemed to have accepted the plan and any class that does not receive any property or claims


                                                   68
    under the plan are deemed to have rejected the plan. The US Bankruptcy Code provides for
    "cram down" of dissenting creditors as long as certain conditions are satisfied.

    UK: In a UK administration proceedings, acceptance of the proposal requires a simple majority
    in value of the creditors present and voting.

    Germany: The plan needs to be approved by each class of creditors. For each class, approval
    requires majority vote in number of creditors voting on the plan, provided that this represents
    the majority of claims by aggregate amount. The plan may be "crammed down" on any non -
    approving class of creditors if (i) the plan does not make that class any worse than they would
    be in the event of liquidation, (ii) the plan provides that the creditors of such class will
    participate fairly in the economic value to be distributed to creditors and (iii) the plan has been
    approved by the majority of classes.

    France: In French sauvegarde proceedings, two committees of creditors plus a bond holders'
    committee are established. One committee consists of all institutions that have a claim against
    the debtor (financial institutions creditors' committee) and the second committee consists of all
    the major suppliers of the debtor (trade creditors' committee). Consent must be given by each
    committee and requires approval of two-thirds in value of those creditors who exercise their
    voting rights. Creditors of each committee and bondholders vote as a single class regardless of
    the security interest they may hold against the debtor.

While allowing unsecured creditors to vote on a plan of rehabilitation allows them to be part of the
process, their involvement as presently envisaged under Section 262 is also in the interests of the
debtor in the long run. However, the BLRC is of the view that this provision needs further thought
and consideration to prevent hold-outs by non-consenting creditors. Accordingly, appropriate level
of thresholds will be devised at a later stage (during the formulation of the Insolvency Code).

However, Section 262 (2) seems underdeveloped in several other aspects, which need to be
addressed now. For instance, while Section 262(2) provides that the administrator shall convene
separate meetings of the secured and unsecured creditors for the purpose of approving the scheme
of rehabilitation, it does not clarify if the creditors within each such class are to be treated equally.
Further, given that 75% of secured creditors and 25% of unsecured creditors can `cram -down' a
scheme of revival on 25% of secured creditors and 75% of unsecured creditors, respectively,
international best practices indicate that such non-consenting creditors should at least get as much
in scheme as they would in liquidation. It may be noted that determining whether dissenting
creditors are no worse off usually requires valuation evidence, which may be prepared using a
number of different valuation methodologies - so there will need to be expert evidence prepared
and presented, and there will need to be judicial expertise sufficient to evaluate this. Further, consent
of creditors who will not be affected by a scheme (for instance, creditors who will get paid in full
regardless of the scheme) should not be required. Lastly, in order to prevent a scheme from being
blocked by related parties of the debtor company, who may also be unsecured creditors of the
company, such related parties should be excluded from the unsecured creditors entitled to vote on
a scheme.

Another problem that is currently not addressed by the provisions relating the scheme of revival
relates to diversion of cash flow generated by the debtor company after a scheme has been


                                                69
   sanctioned. In order to prevent such diversion, Section 261 should include a specific sub-clause
   that provides for measures which may be included in a scheme to prevent such diversion.
___________

Recommendations:

            Section 262 should be amended to provide for the following principles to be applicable at
            the time of sanctioning a scheme of revival: (i) the creditors within the same class should
            be treated equally; (ii) dissenting creditors should get as much in scheme as they would in
            liquidation; (iii) consent of creditors who are not affected by a scheme should not be
            required (for instance, secured creditors who have realised their security interests outside
            the rescue proceedings); (iv) related parties should be excluded from the unsecured
            creditors entitled to vote on a scheme.
            Identifying `creditors who are unaffected by a scheme' and `unsecured creditors who are
            related parties of the company' should be a specified function of the company administrator
            under Section 260. The process of identification should be completed before the scheme is
            put to vote.
            Section 261 (2) should be amended to specify that a scheme of revival may include
            `measures imposing obligations on the debtor company to provide periodic reports to the
            company administrator, creditors and the NCLT on cash flow status of the company
            including utilisation statements'. The NCLT will be able to monitor this under its general
            powers to monitor the implementation of the scheme under Section 264 and order
            corrective action if required.
Question for Consideration for the Insolvency Code:

  i.    What should be the appropriate thresholds for the different classes of creditors for approving
        a scheme of revival?

I. RESCUE FINANCING AND GRANT OF SUPER-PRIORITY

If a financially distressed company is to be able to successfully pull itself out of rescue proceedings,
continued trading during the course of rescue proceedings is to be facilitated. For this purpose, a
financially distressed company often needs access to external finance. However, once a company enters
the rescue proceedings, it would find it extremely difficult to obtain credit as few lenders would be
willing to lend to a troubled company. Therefore, lenders need to be encouraged to come forward to
lend through measures such as giving super-priority to such finance, increased governance rights,
safeguards for protection of creditor interests etc.

The CA 2013 does not contain provisions which encourage lenders to extend credit to a financially
troubled company. While a proposal for provision of super-priority for rescue financing was considered
by the Committee on Financial Sector Reforms, the Committee ultimately favoured a position where
the debtor would work towards a consensual solution with its largest secured creditor so that, in most
cases, that creditor would be the one providing the additional financing in restructuring.

The experience in other jurisdictions points towards the grant of super-priority for rescue financing,
either through specific legislative provisions or judicial interpretation. For example, in the US,
bankruptcy courts give several benefits, including super priority to a lender who agrees to provide
finance to the company under reorganization, a process known as Debtor-in-Possession financing (see

                                                  70
the discussion below on how such finance works in practice). One of the primary issues which lead to
the breakup of economically valuable businesses is the debt overhang problem which entails that any
fresh capital (which is needed to bolster the working capital needs of the distressed company and kick
start its recovery) is not forthcoming as it will almost entirely be siphoned off in debt payments to the
existing creditors. In order to address this issue, the Bankruptcy Code of US contains provisions which
provides (subject to various safeguards) for the possibility of "super priority" being granted to creditors
who provide finance to companies in distress (in the US, context, companies which have filed for
Chapter 11 protection) ­ i.e., the rescue finance providers will rank ahead of all existing creditors. Any
free cash flows generated as a result of the injection of fresh capital will first go toward the Debtor-in-
Possession financiers and not the existing creditors thereby avoiding the debt overhang problem. The
buy-in of the existing creditors is achieved by allowing them to participate in the Debtor-in-Possession
financing or with equity positions in the distressed companies. This regime has proven to be reasonably
robust in practice in the US (although several lessons need to be learnt from the US experience) and
some of the biggest bankruptcies in the recent past including those of Chrysler and General Motors
included portions of Debtor-in-Possession financing in their structures.

In the UK where the idea of super-priority funding was considered in great detail, the Enterprise Act
2002 (which made significant amendments to the IA 1986) did not provide for such priority. The
Government was of the opinion that the decision to lend to a company in financial trouble was to be left
to the commercial judgment of the market. However, a reading of Section 19(5) and Schedule B1, para
99, IA 1986 indicate that there is a possibility that super-priority for rescue funding may be permitted-
under these provisions, super-priority (over the administrator's statutory charge for his remuneration
and expenses) is given for debts incurred under contracts entered into by the administrator in the
carrying out of his functions. This has been expansively interpreted in Bibby Trade Finance Ltd v
McKay,130 where the High Court permitted the administrator's liability to a lender who had advanced
funds during administration to be characterized as a legitimate administration expense (and therefore
enjoying super priority). This indicates that English courts are willing to permit super-priority funding
even in the absence of a specific legislative provision in this regard. Note however that expenses are
payable only out of the company's unsecured assets and, to the extent these are insufficient, those
subject to a floating charge. Assets subject to fixed security interests are not, to the extent of the security
interest, available for discharging expenses. The result of this is that one can't grant `super priority'
above the holders of fixed security interests, and these secured creditors may have fixed security over
much of the company's assets.

Provision for super-priority financing has now been recognised as an integral part of insolvency law
reform. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development's 10 Core Principles for an Insolvency
Law Regime states that super-priority new financing should be permitted in cases of corporate
restructuring (Core Principle 8). Similarly, the UNCITRAL Legislative Guide on Insolvency Law 2004
also recognizes that giving priority for post-commencement finance is essential for continued trading
and consequently, for a successful rescue. Thus, it is evident that internationally, there is recognition
that provision of super-priority for rescue finance is crucial for a successful rescue. Having said that,
the crucial issue is whether such financier can get priority over existing secured creditors, given that the
company may have no unencumbered assets. This is possible under the US regime (whereas in the UK,
fixed charge holders cannot be subjected to such a super priority result without their consent), but the
US rules are subject to significant safeguards for existing secured creditors. The application of these

130
      [2006] EWHC 2836 (Ch).


                                                      71
safeguards requires significant judicial expertise, including in the adjudication of complex valuation
disputes.

a. US PRACTICE ON DIP FINANCING

Background and context:

For a corporate borrower, Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy code allows for a reorganisation process
involving different steps including, inter alia, a voluntary filing by the debtor, automatic stay on all
payments to pre-petition creditors and allowing the incumbent management to maintain operating
control of the debtor's assets.131 Once the firm has filed for bankruptcy, it is allowed to formulate the
plan of re-organisation while operating the day to day business. Therefore, while the debtor remains in
possession of the company, there are various restrictions on how they are allowed to use, sell and lease
the estate's assets, even the ordinary use of "cash collateral" is prohibited without permission from the
court. Given the insufficiency of these mechanisms in operating the firm, several financing options are
provided under Chapter 11 ("DIP Financing").132 Usually, the debtor-in-possession ("DIP") tries to
arrange for credit before the formal filing of Chapter 11 petition and provided that the credit is arranged,
the petition is accompanied by a request for DIP financing approval.

How does DIP financing work?

The process for approval of a financing mechanism involves two steps. First, in terms of the Federal
Bankruptcy Rule 4001 (c) (1), the debtor makes a motion for authorization to obtain credit. Whilst the
motion has a fifteen day period wherein other existing creditors are allowed to respond to the motion,
the court is authorized to approve immediate borrowing of a limited amount, which is necessary to
avoid "immediate and irreparable harm". Second, after taking into account the objections of the existing
creditors, the court approves a permanent financing order that authorizes borrowing of the full
amount.133

In terms of Section 364 of the Bankruptcy Code, four DIP mechanisms have been provided. First
mechanism does not require any court approval and allows the debtor to obtain unsecured credit in the
ordinary course of business, however, the credit must be eligible for treatment as an administrative
expense. Second mechanism allows for financing for purposes other than ordinary course of business,
but it must be approved by the bankruptcy court after a due notice and hearing, however this credit is
also unsecured. Third mechanism allows that the court may authorize DIP credit with a super-priority
status, where DIP loans are given priority over administrative expenses and a lien on unencumbered
assets, a junior lien on encumbered assets or both. Fourth mechanism allows for the highest level of
security for DIP financing, where it is secured by a senior or equal lien on the assets that are already
subject to a lien. However, despite an enhanced security, there are still risks of loss in cases, including,



131
    Sandeep Dahiya, "A Theoretical Framework for Evaluating Debtor -in-Possession Financing", available at
http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2447868.
132
      In few cases, the commencement of Chapter 11 is initiated by an involuntary petition by the creditors; ibid.
133
   Sandeep Dahiya (et al.), "Debtor-in-possession financing and bankruptcy resolution: Empirical evidence"
Journal of Financial Economics 69 (2003) 259 ­280. (hereinafter referred to as "Dahiya").


                                                          72
inter alia, the value of liquidation being less than DIP loans and primacy being given to secured
creditors in the event of liquidation.134

Whilst order approving DIP financing have rarely been appealed against, in order to provide protection
to the DIP lenders, the Bankruptcy Code provides that the reversal or modification of the DIP order
does not affect the validity of the debt, any priority or lien, unless the effect of the DIP order was stayed
pending appeal. Further, given that the bankruptcy courts have jurisdiction over the debtor's property,
DIP orders usually have a provision stating that the liens are perfected without any further action under
state law. To give an additional protection however, DIP lenders also undertake customary collateral
documentation and complete necessary filings.135

How has US experience in DIP Financing evolved?

Whilst the DIP financing mechanism has been in place since the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1978, it
started to gain importance and significance only during the "wave of bankruptcies" that occurred in
early 90's.136 From being a mechanism to facilitate the rehabilitation of distressed companies, DIP
financing is increasingly used as a mechanism by creditors to exert significant control over the
bankruptcy reorganisation process.137 This has led to concerns that whilst Chapter 11 was originally
intended to be a tool that helps restructure the capital arrangements of businesses and balance the needs
of the debtors with creditor rights and interest of the business owners, it has gradually evolved in a
system where the degree of control exercised by DIP lenders "arguably upsets this balance" and
hampers effort to save and rehabilitate businesses. 138

In the case of In re Tenney Village Co, Inc (1989), a proposed DIP financing arrangement was rejected
on the grounds that it would have given the DIP lenders substantial control over the debtor through
several arrangements, including, requirement of the lenders' approval for any planned improvements,
their direct supervision and hiring of chief executive, granting highest administrative expense priority
to the bank's claims, and waiver of the debtor's potential claims and defenses. In effect, the proposed
DIP arrangement would amount to the DIP lenders operating the business, which is only permitted to
be done by the debtor or the trustee.

However, the aforesaid financing arrangements are increasingly becoming more acceptable by the
courts. In the case of In re Yellowstone Mountain Club (2008)139, a DIP financing arrangement that
gave the lender substantial control over the bankruptcy process by providing that certain restructuring
benchmarks (filing a plan, for instance), if not complied with in due course, would trigger a sale of


134
      D. Moore, "How to finance a debtor-in-possession" Commercial Lending Review 5 (1990) 3­12.

 Marshall
135
                S.         Huebner,         "Debtor-in-Possession       Financing",        available       at
www.davispolk.com/sites/.../huebner.dip.article.2005.revised.pdf.
136
      Dahiya
137
   Robin Phelan, "The use of DIP financing as a mechanism to control the US corporate restructuring process",
available at http://commission.abi.org/sites/default/files/DIP_Financing_Phelan-Tama.pdf.
138
      Ibid.
139
      Case No 08- 61570-112008, Bankr LEXIS 4062 (Bankr D Mont 17 December 2008).


                                                      73
assets by the debtor, was approved by the court. Similarly, in the cases of In re Lyondell Chemical Co140
and In re The Reader's Digest Association141, the DIP financing agreements provided for stringent
timelines for delivering, filing and confirming draft reorganisation plans, and obtaining approval of the
aforesaid plans respectively. Therefore, as evident from the above, DIP financing has transformed into
a "lever to gain control of the bankruptcy process", by taking control of aspects in managing distressed
companies, that was earlier within the ambit of either the debtor-in-possession or the bankruptcy
courts.142

Safeguards for existing creditors

In order to protect the debtor's business against power grabbing creditors and to protect the interests of
all creditors143 including existing creditors who do not enjoy the special rights a DIP lender does, courts
have developed a set of safeguards.

First, courts are reluctant to attach super-priority rights to post-petition credit unless the DIP furnishes
proof under Section 364 of the Bankruptcy Code that the debtor was unable to obtain credit on another
basis. Although the DIP is not required to seek financing from every possible lender, it must show a
good faith effort to obtain finance otherwise than on a super-priority basis.144 On the other hand, if it is
established that the DIP failed to make any effort whatsoever, courts can reject the DIP l ender's
proposed financing terms.145 Second, courts have prohibited cross-collateralization and roll-ups. Cross-
collateralization involves the use of unencumbered property to secure not only post-petition extensions
of credit but also pre-petition claims. Roll-ups involve the using of the proceeds of DIP financing to
pay the pre-petition obligations owed to the DIP lender. Both practices were regarded as self-serving,
beneficial to the DIP lender but often to the detriment of ordinary creditors. Ever since the Seventh
Circuit court first rejected the use of cross collateralization146 a number of districts have adopted rules
or guidelines discouraging cross-collateralization and roll-ups.147 Third, in the AMF Bowling Worldwide
case the court held that the DIP owed a fiduciary duty to its stakeholders to maximize the value for the
estate. Such a finding militated against the argument that the DIP could ignore its fiduciary duties if its
agreement with the DIP lender allowed it to do so.148 Fourth, courts have eliminated the requirement

140
      Case No 09-10023 (Bankr SDNY 11 January 2009).
141
      Case No 09- 23529 (Bankr SDNY 24 August 2009).
142
   Richard M. Kohn, Alan P. Solow and Douglas P. Taber, "Pure -Debtor-in possession financing", available at
http://www.goldbergkohn.com/media/publication/51_kohn_DebtorinPossession.pdf.
143
   The mandate under Chapter 11 is also to protect the interests of all creditors. See In re Applied Paging Techs,
Inc., 1999 WL 672098 where the court held that the Bankruptcy Code aimed to provide "a fresh start to the debtor
and to maximize the bankruptcy estate for the benefit of all creditors."

  See In re Snowshoe Co., 789 F.2d 1085, 1088 (4th Cir. 1986); Suntrust Bank v. Den­Mark Constr., Inc., 406
144

B.R. 683 (E.D.N.C. 2009).
145
      See In re Tamarack Resort, LLC, 2010 Bankr. LEXIS 3680, at 35 (Bankr. D. Idaho Oct. 19, 2010).
146
      Shapiro v. Saybrook Manufacturing Co., 963 F.2d 1490 (11th Cir. 1992).
147
   See for instance, the Local Rules For the United States Bankruptcy Court District of Delaware, Rule 4001-2;
Guidelines for Cash Collateral & Financing Motions and Stipulations, United States Bankruptcy Court Northern
District of California.
148
      AMF Bowling Worldwide, Inc., et al., Case Number: 12-36495, available at http://www.kccllc.net/amf.

                                                       74
that a DIP must pay its existing creditors in full in cash. In Toibb v. Radloff149 for instance, it was held
that Chapter 11 embodied the general policy of maximizing the value of the bankruptcy estate. By
extension, this applies to case where the senior class of creditors could not be paid in full.150 Fifth,
courts have held that inter-creditor agreements that do not adequately protect junior lenders' rights in
the collateral are contrary to the intendment of the Bankruptcy Code and hence unenforceable.151

Current Reforms

It is important to note that the US Bankruptcy Code and DIP financing itself are currently under review
in the US152, However, the extant provisions on the point provide useful guidance for a similar
mechanism to be included under Indian law.
___

The BLRC is of the opinion that rescue financing can be a very effective way of preserving going-
concern value for viable companies under financial distress. Therefore the law should provide for an
enabling provisions for the company administrator and the creditors to provide for such financing (by
existing or external creditors) as part of a scheme of revival. In the event the existing creditors refuse
to allow super-priority for rescue finance provided by external creditors even at the cost of failure of
the rescue exercise (of a company which is otherwise viable), the NCLT could arguably require the
existing creditors to agree to such super-priority for such external financers as part of its general powers
to modify a scheme under Section 262 (6). However, the US experience suggests that granting super-
priority for rescue financers by courts provide for several safeguards for the existing creditors. In view
thereof, if the NCLT does require modification a scheme to grant such super-priority, it should do so
subject to providing appropriate safeguards for existing creditors as available in the UK and the US.
_____

Recommendations:

                Section 261 should be amended to include `raising secured and unsecured loans from any
                creditor (whether existing or external) as part of a scheme of revival'. The scheme may
                also provide for `super priority' being granted to creditors who provide such finance ­ i.e.,
                the rescue finance providers will rank ahead of all existing creditors subject to such
                safeguards for the existing creditors as may be provided in the scheme. Given that a scheme
                of revival will have to be approved by the requisite majority of creditors as specified in
                Section 262, the terms of such rescue finance (including super-priority rights, if any) will
                also be subject to approval by such creditors.



149
      501 U.S. 157, 163 (1991).
150
   Jennifer Taylor (on behalf of O'Melveny & Myers LLP), "Hot Topics in DIP Financing: DIP Financing as a
Means of Gaining Control" at the American Bankruptcy Institute's Southwestern Conference held on 23 August
2013, available at http://materials.abi.org/sites/default/files/2013/Aug/InsAndOutsOfDIPFinancing.pdf.
151
   See Beatrice Foods Co. v. Hart Ski Mfg. Co., Inc. (In re Hart Ski Mfg. Co.), 5 B. R. 734 (Bankr. D. Minn.
1980) where the court refused to enforce the junior lender's waiver of its adequate protection rights. Similarly in
In re Hinderliter Indus., Inc., 228 B.R. 848 (Bankr. E.D. Tex. 1999) the court refused to enforce pre-bankruptcy
waivers by creditors of other statutory rights.
152
      https://abiworld.app.box.com/s/7rzks7fa7h01grihurx8

                                                        75
               Section 290 (1) (e) should also be amended to allow company liquidators the power to raise
               both secured and unsecured loan during liquidation proceedings (presently, they are
               empowered to raise secured loans only).


J.         INTERACTION WITH DEBT ENFORCEMENT UNDER THE SARFAESI ACT

Corporate insolvency law may have a crucial role in supporting the operation of debt enforcement law,
but it also has a role in relieving debtors from debt enforcement in certain circumstances. Where a
debtor is distressed but its underlying business is sound, corporate insolvency law may provide a forum
in which the debtor's assets can be kept together. This may enable the sale of the business on a going
concern basis, or facilitate the restructuring of the underlying debt such that the debtor company can
itself survive: in either case, the loss of value associated with the piecemeal dismemberment of the
debtor's assets in individual enforcement actions by creditors can be ameliorated. Corporate insolvency
procedures achieve this through the imposition of a moratorium that bars the exercise of individual
enforcement remedies. This will only be effective if the moratorium bars (at least temporarily)
enforcement by secured creditors as well as unsecured creditors: otherwise, the enforcement of security
interests may result in the same precipitous break-up of the debtor's assets, and the associated loss in
value.153 In its current form, the law permits secured creditors to not only escape the application of the
moratorium in corporate rescue procedures but also cause the abatement of rescue proceedings
altogether. This escape route was initially provided by an amendment to SICA, which might perhaps
be best understood as a reaction to the widespread opinion that SICA was dysfunctional and not being
used for legitimate rescue purposes. But the same carve-outs for secured creditors have been reproduced
in the corporate rescue provisions of the CA 2013.154 However, given that the current rescue regime
under the CA 2013 has been predicted to resolve the problems with the SICA regime, inter alia, through
greater creditor involvement in the rescue process, the inclusion of such a provision may adversely
affect the effectiveness of the rescue regime under the CA 2013. In other words, giving power to secured
creditors to effectively `veto' recourse to the corporate rescue procedure may mean that viable
businesses are unnecessarily dismembered, where ­ at least in principle155 ­ they could have been
rescued under a collective insolvency procedure. In a given case it is possible for NCLT to pass an order
approving the revival scheme which compels secured and other creditors to accept repayment of their
outstanding loans in the manner provided in the revival scheme. Such an order would by implication
mean that the rights of enforcement of securities of secured creditors shall be suspended during the
period the scheme of revival is in operation. This may be a difficult proposition in the Indian context
where banks have a practice of obtaining mortgage of land and building, hypothecation of plant and
machinery and all other movables coupled with personal guarantees of the promoter directors. Since
the entire undertaking would be mortgaged and charged to the secured creditors it would not be possible
to enforce the scheme of revival unless the secured creditors give their consent to the scheme. However,
in stark contrast to SICA which has proved to be dysfunctional in practice, the SARFAESI Act has been
fairly successful in enabling secured creditors to enforce their debt against defaulting debtors.
Moreover, as discussed above, in terms of Section 262 of CA 2013, a scheme of revival needs to be

153
   IMF, Orderly and Effective Insolvency Procedures (1999), "Treatment of Encumbered Assets and Secured
Creditors", explaining also that secured creditors' interests will need to be adequately protected whilst they are
subject to the stay.
154
      See the provisos to Section 254 CA 2013.

  In practice, of course, this will depend on whether the corporate rescue law operates efficiently ­ otherwise it
155

may be no better at preserving value in distress.

                                                       76
approved by 75% of the secured creditors for it to be approved. If 75% of secured creditors intend to
initiate debt recovery proceedings156, it is unlikely that they will subsequently approve a rehabilitation
plan for the debtor. Therefore, the BLRC is of the opinion that until there is some evidence to suggest
that the rescue proceedings under CA 2013 cannot function effectively (i.e., save viable businesses from
piece-meal liquidation) in the face of the secured creditors' enforcement rights under the SARFAESI
Act, such rights should not be disturbed at this stage. This issue can be re-examined at the time of
framing the Insolvency Code.
_____________

Question for Consideration for the Insolvency Code:

      i.   In what circumstances should debt enforcement by secured creditors be allowed while a
           company is undergoing a rescue? More specifically, where a reference for rescue has been
           made and (a) the court/tribunal has made a determination that revival or rehabilitation of the
           company is feasible based on an independent viability study, and (b) the scheme has been
           sanctioned by the requisite majority of creditors, should secured creditors be permitted to stop
           the rescue proceedings by enforcing their security interests under the SARFAESI Act?

K. DEBT RESTRUCTURING UNDER SCHEMES OF ARRANGEMENT

Debt restructuring under a scheme of arrangement was possible under Section 391 of CA 1956.Section
230, CA 2013, the corresponding provision on schemes of arrangement has undergone a few changes.
This section will examine the significant changes to the provision from an insolvency resolution
perspective.

Firstly, the company or any other person making an application for a compromise or arrangement under
Section 230(1) is required to disclose to the NCLT (in addition to earlier disclosure requirements
contained in the proviso to Section 391(2), CA 1956) the following: (a) a reduction of share capital of
the company, if any, included in the compromise or arrangement; (b) any scheme of corporate debt
restructuring having the consent of not less than seventy-five per cent of the secured creditors in value,
including-- (i) a creditor's responsibility statement in the prescribed form; (ii) safeguards for the
protection of other secured and unsecured creditors; (iii) auditor's report stating that the fund
requirements of the company after the corporate debt restructuring as approved shall conform to the
liquidity test based upon the estimates provided to them by the board; (iv) where the company proposes
to adopt the corporate debt restructuring guidelines specified by the RBI, a statement to that effect; and
(v) a valuation report by a registered valuer in respect of the company's shares, its property and all
assets (tangible and intangible, movable and immovable). The requirement of disclosure of a scheme
of corporate debt restructuring was probably made taking into consideration the Irani Committee's
recommendation for the quick sanctioning of schemes of corporate debt restructuring under the CDR
mechanism of the RBI. The Irani Committee had recommended that if the petitioning creditors or the
company is prima facie able to prove that seventy five percent of secured creditors have consented to
the scheme, the scheme should be sanctioned upon filing. However, while Section 230(2) provides for
disclosure of such schemes consented to by seventy five percent or more of the creditors at the time of
making the application, it does not provide for sanctioning upon filing. The approval of a scheme of
arrangement still requires the consent of three-fourths majority of each class of creditors, including
secured and unsecured creditors, thereby defeating the purpose of making such a disclosure.

156
      Albeit, it must be noted that the SARFAESI Act threshold has now been reduced to 60%

                                                       77
Secondly, the proviso to Section 230(4) stipulates that objections to be made to any compromise or
arrangement can be made only by persons holding not less than 10% of the shareholding or having not
less than 5% of the total outstanding debt as per the latest audited financial statements. This ensures
that creditors having only a small amount of debt due to them, most likely unsecured creditors, cannot
delay or otherwise obstruct the process.

Thirdly, it may be noted that the NCLT has the discretion to dispense with the calling of a meeting of
creditors or a class of creditors where such creditors or class of creditors, having at least ninety percent
value, agree and confirm by affidavit to the scheme.157 This amendment might speed up the procedure
to some extent.

Fourthly, the order made by the NCLT sanctioning the scheme has to, inter alia, provide for protection
of any class of creditors and for the abatement of BIFR proceedings, if any, where the scheme or
compromise is agreed to by any of the creditors.158

It may also be noted that while Section 391(3), CA 1956 stipulates that the order of the court sanctioning
the scheme will not take effect till a certified copy of the order has been filed with the Registrar of
Companies, Section 230(8), CA 2013 merely stipulates that the order of the NCLT shall be filed by the
company with the Registrar of Companies within thirty days of receipt of the order. While Section
230(8) does not specify what the effect of non-compliance with the provision is, the wording in Section
230(6) suggests that the NCLT's order is binding on the company and the creditors or class of creditors
or members or class of members, as the case may be, and in the case of a company being wound up, on
the liquidator and the contributories of the company.159
______

The BLRC notes that schemes of arrangements (under the CA 1956) for debt restructuring have not had
many takers in India. This may be partially attributable to the perception that court driven processes
necessarily involve delays and significant costs. Additionally, there have been problems of holdouts by
creditors. Notwithstanding these factors, the BLRC notes that schemes of arrangement in India have
been relatively successful for schemes between shareholders (especially those involving mergers and
acquisitions). Such schemes are typically driven by the advisors of the parties and involve minimal
intervention from the courts (other than when there is evidence of abuse of the process). The BLRC is
of the opinion that schemes of arrangement can become a very effective tool for debt restructuring,
acknowledging however that such restructurings can also be achieved less formally (and often less
expensively) through a workout outside the court. Given that the proceedings for schemes of
arrangement can be initiated without any proof of default or insolvency, they can facilitate early
intervention and finality.


157
      Section 230(9), CA 2013.
158
      Section 230(7), CA 2013.
159
   Section 230(6) Where, at a meeting held in pursuance of sub-section (1), majority of persons representing three-
fourths in value of the creditors, or class of creditors or members or class of members, as the case may be, voting
in person or by proxy or by postal ballot, agree to any compromise or arrangement and if such compromise or
arrangement is sanctioned by the Tribunal by an order, the same shall be binding on the company, all the creditors,
or class of creditors or members or class of members, as the case may be, or, in case of a company being wound
up, on the liquidator and the contributories of the company.

                                                        78
Schemes of arrangement can also facilitate the use of hybrid-rescue mechanisms like `pre-packaged
rescues'. Pre-packaged rescue is a practice evolved in the UK and the US by which the debtor company
and its creditors conclude an agreement for the sale of the company's business prior to the initiati on of
formal insolvency proceedings. The actual sale is then executed on the date of commencement of the
proceedings/date of appointment of insolvency practitioner, or shortly thereafter (and the proceeds
distributed among the stakeholders in the order of priority). Until the Indian market for insolvency
practitioners becomes sufficiently developed and sophisticated, it may not be advisable to allow such
sales without the involvement of the NCLT. However, such sales can be allowed as part of a NCLT
supervised scheme of arrangement. Subject to prior approval of the different classes of creditors,
shareholders and government authorities as may be prescribed, such pre-packed schemes may be
approved by the NCLT within thirty days of filing (without requiring any separate meetings or hearings)
as long as the scheme satisfies the basic requirements as may be prescribed. However, pre-packaged
rescues in the UK have also been criticised for failing to take into account the interests of all the
stakeholders (specially the unsecured creditors). In view thereof, before any such measure is introduced
in India, separate rules will have to be developed to operationalise such pre-packed schemes to protect
the interests of all the stakeholders. Accordingly, the BLRC is of the view that further consultation may
be required with the stakeholders before allowing such pre-packed sales as part of the schemes of
arrangement without involving all the requirements relating to creditor meetings, etc.
___

Questions for Consideration:

  i.    Should pre-packaged schemes of rescue (with minimal involvement of the NCLT and no
        separate requirements for creditor meetings) be allowed as part of a scheme of debt
        restructuring under Section 230 of CA 2013?




                                                   79
5. LIQUIDATION OF COMPANIES ON THE GROUND OF INSOLVENCY

5.1. COMPANIES ACT, 1956

A. THE LAW IN PRACTICE

During the initial period following the commencement of the CA 1956, the application of law on
liquidation was guided by governmental policy on the resolution of industrial sickness. It was perceived
that the healthy functioning of the industrial sector was vital to the economic growth of the country. 160
Thus, this period was characterised by government interventions in cases of industrial indebtedness,
such as management take-overs and provision of rescue finance by the financial sector. In this
framework, liquidation of an insolvent company was only seen as a measure of last resort.
Consequently, this is likely to have diminished creditor recourse to liquidation as a mechanism for
enforcement of debt.

Following economic liberalisation and the concomitant reform of the banking sector in the 1990s, the
interventionist policy of the government underwent a change. This ought to have increased creditor
recourse to liquidation and winding up proceedings against insolvent companies. However, the
liquidation provisions under the CA 1956 have been widely seen as being ineffective in protecting
stakeholder interests and facilitating an easy exit for companies in financial trouble. Various committee
reports and studies have analysed the limitations of India's liquidation law and proposed substantive
changes to the provisions in the CA 1956.

The Goswami Committee Report, submitted in 1993, broadly condemned the liquidation procedure
prescribed by the CA 1956 as unworkable.161 The Report pointed out that the liquidation process under
the CA 1956 was beset with delays. The official liquidator of an insolvent company faced an uphill task
as he was subject to delays at various stages of the process: delay tactics employed by the management,
delays at the level of the courts in obtaining and enforcing decrees in favour of the company, in making
asset sales etc. 162 This allegation of delay made in the Goswami Committee Report has been a recurring
complaint in other Committee reports that undertook a review of the law on liquidation.

The Eradi Committee Report drew attention to the administrative aspects of the liquidation regime as
being responsible for delays in the winding up proceedings, particularly after the making of the winding
up order163. The Report echoed the findings of the Goswami Committee Report regarding the
vulnerability of the official liquidator to delays at various stages. Additionally, it pointed out that further
delays were caused due to the requirement of court approvals at several stages of the liquidation process.
The Eradi Committee also noted that the liquidators also faced significant resource constraints- there
was a lack of well-trained staff to assist the liquidator, and often enough, the liquidator did not have

160
      See for example, Tiwari Committee Report 1984 as cited in van Zwieten.
161
      van Zwieten.
162
    An earlier report on the working of the CA 1956, the Report of the High-Powered Expert Committee on the
Companies and MRTP Acts 1978 ("Sachar Committee Report") had also made an observation regarding delays
in the liquidation process, especially after the making of the winding up order (van Zwieten).
163
      van Zwieten.


                                                       80
enough funds to cover the expenses of liquidation, costs of litigation etc. The Eradi Report also noted
that there were constraints in court capacity due to a dearth of judges dealing with company matters at
the High Courts.164 Very significantly, it also pointed towards the involvement of courts in the failure
of the law on liquidation: it noted that in some cases, delays were caused by the courts which insisted
on pursuing recovery proceedings even for very small claims or on carrying on the business of the
company for many years or delayed the making of a winding up order against the company.

The RBI Report, submitted in 2001, indicated some of the main problems with the bankruptcy regime
as being: (i) significant delays in insolvency proceedings; (ii) institutional constraints, such as lack of
official liquidators with specialised knowledge and training, resource limitations; (iii) lack of timely
implementation of restructuring and winding up.

The Irani Committee criticised the Indian insolvency regime for failing to provide an easy exit for
insolvent companies. It noted that the liquidation procedure in India is "costly, inordinately lengthy and
results in almost complete erosion of asset value." The Committee added that the insolvency framework
did not balance competing stakeholder interests adequately. The Report proposed a number of changes
to the liquidation regime, including changes for increased protection of creditor rights, maximisation of
asset value and better management of the company in liquidation.

The Committee on Financial Sector Reforms drew a link between the availability of credit to the
protection of creditor rights and effective enforcement of debt claims. Therefore, it emphasised that an
effective insolvency framework should provide: (i) adequate protection of creditor rights; and (ii) a
mechanism for quick and efficient liquidation in cases where corporate rescue is not viable. The
Committee on Financial Sector Reforms Report stated the key challenges to the efficient operation of
insolvency laws in India are: (i) the fragmented nature of the bankruptcy regime, resulting in increased
costs for creditors in lending; and (iii) delays, hampering the efficient reallocation of assets and results
in erosion of asset value. The Report also pointed towards resource constraints such as lack of properly
trained judges as a cause for delays in the bankruptcy process.

B. NEW EVIDENCE ON FAILURE

As discussed in Section 4.1 (B) above, a recent research on the law and practice of corporate insolvency
(conducted by van Zwieten over a period of four years) throws more light on the reasons for the failure
of the liquidation regime. In the first part of her research project, van Zwieten examined the
development of the law on liquidation and considered the reasons why India's liquidation procedure,
although very similar to that of the UK, has worked very differently in practice. The data compiled by
van Zwieten from the `Annual Reports on the Working and Administration of the Companies Act 1956'
for the period between 2005 and 2010 reveals that there were only a total of 1138 compulsory winding
up orders, and an additional 10 cases of creditors' voluntary liquidations, given during that period as
against 303, 239 company registrations. Compared to this, there were 13, 460 compulsory liquidations
and creditors voluntary liquidations as against 429, 700 company registrations during 2006- 2007 alone
in the UK.165 Thus, assuming the reliability of the reported data, the insolvency procedures under the


164
      This observation was also made by the Sachar Committee Report in 1978 (van Zwieten).
165
  The corresponding statistics for India are- 249 liquidations and 51, 708 new company registrations (van
Zwieten).


                                                       81
CA 1956 (India) appear not just dysfunctional but `near defunct'.166 It is important to note that these
figures relate to the period after the enactment of the SARFAESI Act and indicate that most secured
creditors now prefer enforcing their security interests under the SARFAESI Act instead of initiating
liquidation proceedings under CA 1956. This goes against the main objectives of corporate insolvency
law ­ preservation of going concern value by preventing piece-meal liquidation. In other words, a
dysfunctional liquidation regime encourages creditors to initiate separate recovery proceedings for the
same assets, leading to conflicts, disorderly distribution, delays and depletion in value of the company.

van Zwieten's work looks at the existing literature on liquidation law in India, and concludes that the
failure of liquidation law in the initial phases post-Independence is likely to be linked, at least in part,
to the government's earlier policy bias towards revival and rehabilitation of industrial companies.
Specifically, she observes that the literature refers to two factors that could be predicted to have
decreased creditor recourse to insolvency law procedures: (i) development of a liberal policy towards
rescue of insolvent industrial debtors, supported by the provision of rescue finance from banks and other
financial institutions; (ii) encouragement of such lending to certain categories of borrowers by the
central and state governments.

In the period following economic liberalisation, despite a policy shift on the part of the government,
liquidation proceedings continued to be unattractive to creditors as a means of debt enforcement. It is
in this context that van Zwieten's research offers an alternate (or more likely complementary )
explanation for the failure of the liquidation regime. While existing literature has focussed on the
administrative aspects of the liquidation regime, including the substantial role played by courts in the
liquidation process, delays at the court level caused by overburdening / lack of judicial and registry
resources, resource constraints faced by liquidators and managerial delay tactics, van Zwieten's
research draws attention to the role of judicial practice and procedure in the failure of the liquidation
regime. For this purpose, she compiled a hand-collected dataset of 454 judgments handed down by the
High Courts on insolvent liquidation167 between the commencement of the CA 1956 and 31 December
2011. Specifically, the study looked at judgments on creditors' petitions to wind up the company.

The author reports that there had been a series of judicial innovations during the entire liquidation
process (from the presentation and admission of petitions to the making of the final winding up order),
and in deciding when an order of inability to pay debts was to be made against the debtor. The author
draws attention to three sets of judicial developments:

        i.    The development of a special pre-admission procedure in the initial stage of presentation
              and admission of the petition for winding up. The Supreme Court decision in National
              Conduits (P) Ltd v SS Arora168 had added the requirement of the issuance of a show-cause
              notice to the company prior to the admission of a petition for winding up, leading to an
              opportunity for the company to be heard at the admissions stage. Although an opportunity to
              be heard is not problematic per se, this decision, coupled with the later decision in Pradeshiya
              Industrial & Investment Corporation of U.P. v North India Petrochemical Ltd169 which

166
      van Zwieten.
167
      Section 433(e), CA 1956.
168
      AIR 1968 SC 279.
169
      [1994] 79 CompCas 835 (SC).

                                                       82
              necessitates an enquiry into the validity of the claim of the petitioning creditor at the
              admissions stage, has led to significant delays at this stage. The author notes that such delays
              are caused, in particular, due to the judicial practices of permitting adjournments to enable
              the debtor company to file objections and to be heard, of requiring the petitioner to satisfy
              the court that there is a case for winding up at the admissions stage itself. These delays are
              aggravated by subsequent appeals from decisions to admit such petitions, which have to be
              heard on merits170.

        ii.   The development of the judicial practice of giving the debtor company time to settle the debt
              owed to the petitioning creditor at various stages between the presentation of a petition and
              the making of an order for winding up. The author notes that this has extended even to a stay
              of the winding up in order to enable the debtor company to pay the petitioning creditors - the
              debtor companies have often used such orders only to delay the proceedings to avoid a
              winding up order.

       iii.   The exercise of judicial discretion in determining when the company is `unable to pay debts'
              and in making a winding up order when the creditor has proved an inability to pay debts.
              According to van Zwieten, the available evidence shows that courts in India have taken a
              strict view on the first issue- the non-payment of a single undisputed debt has been held to
              be insufficient to prove an inability to pay debts in the absence of a formal statutory
              demand.171 Further, the author notes that there have been cases where such non- payment
              (even on formal demand) has been held to merely give rise to a rebuttable `presumption'
              about the company's financial position- "...it must be further be shown that the company
              omitted to pay without reasonable excuse and the condition of insolvency in the commercial
              sense exists."172 In the case of disputed debts, courts have applied an even more rigorous
              standard of inability to pay debts, considering even the question of factual insolvency of the
              debtor company.

              Once the petitioning creditor has proved the inability of the debtor company to pay debts,
              van Zwieten states that courts in India have recognised a wide discretion that enabled it to
              give time to the debtor to make payment or even dismiss the petition. This is in stark contrast
              with the position in the UK (from where the law was transplanted) where once the company's
              inability to pay debts has been proven, the petitioning creditor is ordinarily held to be entitled
              to a winding up order (although it should be noted that there is an alternative corporate rescue
              procedure, `administration', which a debtor may be entitled to enter).

The effect of these abovementioned judicial developments has been to add significant delays in the
liquidation process under CA 1956 and to add uncertainty regarding the rights of the creditors in the
event of the company's insolvency. Consequently, this has made creditor recourse to the liquidation
procedure as a means of debt enforcement rather difficult, and secondly, rendered the liquidation
procedure ineffective as a disciplinary mechanism for creditors against insolvent debtors.


170
      Golcha Investment P Ltd v Shanti Chandra Barna AIR 1970 SC 1350.
171
      Section 433 (e) read with Section 434(1), CA 1956.
172
   Kanchanaganga Chemical Industries v Mysore Chipboards Ltd [1998] 91 CompCas 646 (Karnataka), as cited
in van Zwieten.

                                                           83
5.2. COMPANIES ACT, 2013 - RECOMMENDATIONS FOR REFORM AND QUESTIONS FOR
        CONSIDERATION

CA 2013 incorporates several features of CA 1956 in relation to winding up of companies. However,
there are many marked differences between the two, which include ­ (i) additional grounds for winding
up of a company including failure to `restructure the debt' to the creditor's reasonable satisfaction after
a statutory demand for repayment; (ii) defined timelines for the winding process (for example, unlike
the CA 1956, the NCLT has to make an order upon receipt of the petition for winding up within ninety
days from the date of presentation of such petition); (iii) more comprehensive framework for the
appointment of official liquidators (now termed as company liquidators, who are to be appointed from
a panel of prescribed professionals including lawyers, chartered accountants, company secretaries and
cost accountants); (iv) expanded powers of the liquidator including the power to conduct a going
concern sale of the company, obtain professional assistance, appoint a professional for the protection
of the company's assets and appoint an agent to do any business that he may not be able to do himself;
(v) new provisions relating to increased oversight of the liquidator by the NCLT in terms of the
requirement of submission of reports and the contents thereof, fixing the time limit for the completion
of the winding-up proceedings by the liquidator, monitoring the proceedings through an advisory
committee constituted by the NCLT; (vi) provision for constitution of a winding up committee to
monitor the progress of liquidation proceedings; (vii) provision requiring promoters, directors, officer
and employees etc. to cooperate with the company liquidator in the discharge of his functions and duties
(and non-compliance with this provision leads to penalties, including imprisonment for a term upto six
months);(viii) power the of the NCLT to stay the winding up of the company (even after a winding up
order has been made) if it is satisfied that it is just and fair to give an opportunity for rehabilitation of
the company; and lastly (ix) a summary liquidation procedure for prescribed class/classes companies.

Although CA 2013 provisions on winding up of companies includes several improvements over the CA
1956, there are several unresolved issues which have not been appropriately addressed. The said issues
have been discussed below. In order to develop an effective legal regime for winding up under the CA
2013, it is suggested that these issues be resolved statutorily, as per the recommendations underscored
in this Section.

A. DEVELOPING APPROPRIATE CRITERIA FOR DETERMINING WHEN A COMPANY IS `UNABLE TO
       PAY DEBTS' FOR THE PURPOSES OF WINDING UP

The process of winding up / liquidation of a company may be initiated on a number of grounds as
prescribed in the CA 2013173 (previously under the CA 1956). One of the common grounds for filing a
winding up petition is "if the company is unable to pay its debts". The phrase, "unable to pay its debts"
is not specifically defined in CA 2013 and its contours are determined by the judicial precedents
delivered by the Indian courts. However, Section 271(2) of CA 2013 lays down three situations wherein
a company is deemed to be unable to pay its debts ­ (i) if a creditor makes a statutory demand upon the
company for repayment of debt (owed by the company to the creditor) for an amount exceeding INR
1,00,000/- and the company fails to pay the sum within 21 days of the demand or to provide adequate
security or re-structure or compound the debt to the reasonable satisfaction of the creditor; or (ii) if any
execution / other process issued on a decree or order of any court or tribunal in favour of a creditor of





173
      Section 271(1), CA 2013.


                                                     84
the company is returned unsatisfied; or (iii) if it is proved 174 to the satisfaction of the NCLT that the
company is unable to pay its debts, and, in determining whether a company is unable to pay its debts,
the NCLT shall take into account the contingent and prospective liabilities of the company.

On a plain reading of the law above, it is abundantly clear that the deeming provision treats the mere
inability to pay a single undisputed debt (for an amount exceeding INR 1,00,000/-) as proof of inability
of a company to pay its debt for the purposes of Section 271 of the CA 2013, thereby being a clear
ground for winding up of a company. Thus, on the face of it, under this ground, the creditor is relieved
from proving that a company is unable to pay all its debts, or in other words, establish insolvency of the
company in a wider or more comprehensive sense. However, over the years, the courts seem to have
interpreted this provision very liberally (for the debtor) by reading into it various additional
requirements to be proved by the creditor.175

An early judgment on this issue was in the case of State of Andhra Pradesh v. Hyderabad Vegetable
Products Co. Ltd., Hyderabad176 wherein the judge proceeded on the premise that consequence of
failure to pay debt upon a statutory demand (as envisaged under Section 434 of CA 1956) leads to the
presumption of insolvency and the basis of a winding-up order on the ground of a company's inability
to pay its debts is always insolvency. The judge further clarified that by insolvency, he meant
commercial insolvency and the meaning of "commercial insolvency" was routed to Sir Willian James,
V. C.'s definition of the same, in European Life Assurance Society177, to mean: "Not in any technical
sense but, plainly and commercially insolvent -- that is to say, that its assets are such, and its existing
liabilities are such, as to make it reasonably certain -- as to make the Court feel satisfied -- that the
existing probable assets would be insufficient to meet the existing liabilities." In another judgment178,
the division bench of the Calcutta high court observed that "before a company could be sent to
liquidation, it must be "unable to pay its debts." This presupposes that there exists a debt and the
company is unable to pay it. Prima facie this must relate to the solvency of the company. The word used
is "unable" and not "unwilling"." Therefore, the judicial interpretation as emergent from these cases
inclines towards the interpretation that in the event a company defaults in the payment of a debt upon a
statutory demand, the court will only presume the company to be insolvent in the commercial sense
(rather than find this insolvency `deemed'), and the creditor will be required to not just prove the
inability to pay the demanded undisputed debt, but insolvency of the company in the commercial sense.
It becomes pertinent to analyse cases which decipher Section 433 and 434 of CA 1956 from a different
perspective. In an earlier case of In the Matter of Advent Corporation Pvt. Ltd.179 , a petition for winding

174
   It may be noted here that despite the heading of the section, this sub-section is not a deeming provision and
inability to pay debt has to be proved.
175
      van Zwieten.
176
      [1962] 32 CompCas 64 (Andhra Pradesh).
177
      In re (1869) 9 Eq. 122 at p. 128.
178
      Bangasri Ice and Cold Storage Ltd. v. Kali Charan Banerjee, AIR1962 613 (Cal).
179
   [1969] 39 CompCas 463 (Bom). Followed in Destinations of the World (Subcontinent) Pvt. Ltd. v. Raj Travels
and Tours Ltd., 2013 (7) BomCR 320 (In this case, it was held that the dispute in relation to the debt was not bona
fide (commercial insolvency was not looked into), and following In re Advent case for the ratio that once there is
noncompliance with a statutory notice and the court comes to the conclusion that there is no bona fide dispute with
regard to the petitioner's debt, the creditor is entitled to a winding up order ex debito justitiae, and hence, the
company petition for winding up was admitted).


                                                       85
up was filed on the basis of an unpaid debt upon a statutory demand under Section 434(1)(a) of the CA
1956. The counsel for the respondent argued no winding-up order should be made unless the company
is shown to be commercially insolvent, even though it may have neglected to comply with a statutory
notice under section 434(1)(a). The judge outrightly rejected the counsel's argument stating that that if
that were to be the construction to be placed upon section 434(1)(a), it would be a logical absurdity and
there would be no reason why section 434(1)(a) should have been enacted by the legislature. It was also
held that courts do not have a discretion of not winding up a company under Section 433 and 434.
Following this principle, it was held that the dispute in relation to the debt was not bona fide, and
therefore the company is deemed to be unable to pay its debt. The petition for winding up was admitted
to the court and a direction for advertisement to invite claims to be published was given.

In 2007180, a single judge of the Bombay High Court appears to have extended the line of reasoning
propounded in In re Advent (supra), while ordering winding-up of a solvent company on the non-
payment of a demanded debt. It was held that the fact that the company was solvent was not an
extenuating circumstance but rather is further proof of the company's neglect to pay. The judge
observed the following : (i) Omission to pay under Section 434(1)(a) except on account of bona fide
dispute181 therefore is sufficient in law and commercial solvency of respondent company does not
appear to be relevant at all; (ii) Relying on In re Advent (supra), the judge reiterated that
Section 434(1)(a) does not merely lay down a presumption which can be rebutted but uses the word
"shall" and enacts a deeming provision which must come into play once the company neglects to pay
the sum demanded by the statutory notice to which it refers; (iii) A person can be said to be neglecting
to pay only when though he possesses that capacity, payment is not made for no valid reason.
Legislature appears to have deliberately treated such culpable withholding of amount due to another by
company as its inability to pay for the purposes of section 433(e) and that intention needs to be
honoured. The Supreme Court has also held that if a company refuses to pay a debt on statutory demand
for no valid reason, it should not be able to avoid paying the debt on the grounds that it is a solvent
company.182 Although these cases lay down the correct law in this regard183, due to other conflicting
judgments on this issue, it becomes important that the position of law is clarified under the statute.

The discussion above relates to cases relating to the statutory demand test. The discussion suggested
that there have been some cases where courts have doubted whether a debtor should be `deemed'
insolvent on the basis of its failure to pay such a debt, while others have applied the deeming provision.
A further problem that emerges from the case law relates to when a debt is to be treated as bona fide
disputed. On an analysis of various judgments regarding bona-fide disputed debt wherein the petitioner
seeks winding up of the company on the ground of its inability to pay debt, the judicial trend that emerges
is that the courts tend to look into and attribute weightage to the factual solvency of the company.184 For

180
  Karpara Project Engineering, Surat v. Ballarpur Industries Ltd., Company Petition No. 8 of 2006, Decided
On: 28.02.2007 (Bombay) (in this case, it was held that the dispute in relation to the debt was not bona fide, and
therefore the company is deemed to be unable to pay its debt).
181
      The judicial interpretation in respect of the term `bona fide' has been discussed later in this report.
182
      IBA Health (I) Pvt. Ltd. V. Info-Drive Systems Sdn. Bhd., [2010]159CompCas369(SC).
183
   For several reasons i.e. a third party creditor may find it extremely difficult to establish insolvency of the
defaulting company in a global sense (being unaware of the affairs of the company and not having access to the
relevant documentation) and also, a defaulting company may have the ability to pay debt (i.e. it may not be
insolvent in the global sense) but may be plainly unwilling to satisfy the debt.
184
      van Zwieten.

                                                             86
instance, while dismissing a winding up petition on the basis of a bona-fide disputed debt (as the
agreement under which the debt was due had been cancelled) the court attributed its decision to dismiss
to some extent to the financial soundness and profitability of the company.185 In another case186 though
there was a bonafide dispute as to the liability of the respondent to pay the debt as it was based on the
determination whether the debt demanded had crystallized or not, the court also emphasized that since
no case for proving the commercial insolvency of the respondent was made out and the respondent
company was in fact profit making and solvent (as per the evidence adduced), the respondent will not
be wound up. The rationale as to why the courts would require to take upon the exercise of looking into
the solvency of a company wherein the debt owed by the company is itself bona-fide in dispute has been
to some extent explained by the Supreme Court in the case of IBA Health (I) Pvt. Ltd. V. Info-Drive
Systems Sdn. Bhd.187. The Court stated that ­ "An examination of the company's solvency may be a
useful aid in determining whether the refusal to pay debt is a result of a bona fide dispute as to the
liability or whether it reflects an inability to pay. Of course, if there is no dispute as to the company's
liability, it is difficult to hold that the company should be able to pay the debt merely by proving that it
is able to pay the debts. If the debt is an undisputedly owing, then it should be paid. If the company
refuses to pay, without good reason, it should not be able to avoid the statutory demand by proving, at
the statutory demand stage, that it is solvent. In other words, commercial solvency can be seen as
relevant as to whether there was a dispute as to the debt, not as a ground in itself, that means it cannot
be characterized as a standalone ground." Therefore, what the court attempted to lay down was that if
the court has to determine whether the reason for non-payment of the debt is a bona fide dispute or
insolvency, if it is shown that the company is solvent, it strengthens the stand that there exists a bona
fide dispute. The problem with the approach laid down by the Supreme Court is that upon the evidence
of solvency of a company the courts may be too quick to hold the debt as disputed without a rigorous
inquiry into the validity of the dispute, and thus deprive the creditors of the benefit of the deeming
provision. 188

It is settled law that if there exists a "bona fide dispute" in relation to li ability of payment of the debt,
then a winding up order will not be made, unless such dispute relating to the debt is settled (or another
creditor is substituted for the original petitioning creditor), as the courts have held that a winding up
petition is not a legitimate means of seeking to enforce payment of a bona-fide disputed debt. Further,
as long there exists a bona fide dispute, the petitioner cannot be regarded as a creditor per se, and the so
called debtor cannot be said to have neglected / failed to make the payment of the debt. The yardstick
on which a disputed debt may be termed as bona-fide disputed is three pronged189 - (i) that the defence
of the company is in good faith and one of substance; (ii) the defence is likely to succeed in point of
law; and (iii) the company adduces prima facie proof of the facts on which the defence depends. The
Indian courts have further expounded that the defence of the debtor should not be moonshine and the
court is entitled to investigate whether a dispute has been manufactured in order to delay and defeat the



185
  Pradeshiya Industrial & Investment Corporation of U.P. v. North India Petrochemical Ltd. and Anr., [1994]7
9 CompCas 835 (SC).
186
      Alpha Packaging Ltd. v. Som Distelleries Ltd., Company Petition No. 15/1999, Decided On: 12.11.2014
187
      [2010] 159 Comp Cas 369 (SC).
188
      van Zwieten.
189
      Madhusudan Gordhandas& Co. v. Madhu Woollen Industries Pvt. Ltd., AIR 1971 SC 2600.


                                                       87
realisation of the dues of the petitioning creditor and is merely a cloak for the inability of the company
to pay its just debts.190

The corollary to this should be that if the debt is undisputed, or if it is proved that that the dispute in
relation to the debt is not bona fide, then the courts should not have a wide discretion in whether to wind
up the company or not and should generally incline towards winding up of the company (without looking
into other factors such as commercial insolvency etc.) under the companies legislation, specifically in
cases where the statutory demand for debt is not honoured, as it is reflective of the defaulter's admission
of debt on the one hand and non-payment for no reasonable cause on the other hand. This approach has
been affirmed in the case of In re Advent (supra) and Karpara v Bullarpur (supra). To this effect, the
Supreme Court191 has held that "Where the debt is undisputed, the court will not act upon a defence that
the company has the ability to pay the debt but the company chooses not to pay that particular debt."
However, the more recent judicial reality does not seem to be in line with these decisions and is rather
quite complex due to the court's discretion in exercising its power to wind up being fraught with the
consideration of various factors. It has been observed in some cases that the court moves on the premise
that the creditors are not entitled to winding up orders as a matter of right. Some of the factors as culled
out of the judicial precedents are as follows ­ (i) impact on the employment of numerous persons; (ii)
loss of revenue of the state by way of collection of tax from the operating company; (iii) scarcity of
goods and diminishing employment opportunities; (iv) public interest; (v) entire status and position
of the company in the market; (vi) interest of justice; (vii) alternative remedy etc. The Gujarat High
Court192 held that winding up "is the last thing that the Court would do and not the first thing that the
Court would do having regard to its impact and consequences" and suggested that it should not be
done as long as the company can be resurrected (by a scheme or arrangement). Tata and Iron Steel Co
v. Micro Forge (India) Ltd.193, widens the discretion of the court in winding up to a great extent,
observing that the winding up is akin to `commercial death of a company' and lays down numerous
guidance notes for the exercise of discretion of the court, most of which indicate that the court should
exercise a very wide discretion in relation to winding up orders and incline towards not granting a
winding up order. The court has gone to the extent of holding that an order admitting a winding up
petition and the resultant advertisement published for invitation of claims is, from the commercial point
of view, the business point of view, from the marketability point of view, no less injurious than winding
up.194A creditor's winding up petition in certain instances implies insolvency and financial difficulty
and may damage the creditworthiness or financial standing of the company. 195 Therefore, an order
admitting a winding up petition or a winding up order itself has been cast in a negative light and as
something which should be avoided by the courts as much as possible. Though Section 271 (1) reads
that a company "may" be wound up on the grounds mentioned therein, which includes inability to pay
debt, indicative of the court's discretion in winding up the company, however, such an interpretation if
applied to Section 271(2) of the CA 2013 would result in defeating the very purpose of the deeming

190
      Bangasri Ice and Cold Storage Ltd. v. Kali Charan Banerjee, AIR 1962 613 (Cal).
191
  Madhusudan Gordhandas& Co. v. Madhu Woollen Industries Pvt. Ltd., AIR1971SC2600; Excel Embroideries
and Ors. v. Trend Designs Limited and Ors., AIR 1997 Ker 329.
192
      Registrar of Companies v. Navjeevan Trading Finance Private Limited , (1978) 48 Comp Cas 402 (Guj).
193
      [2001] 104 Comp Cas 533 (Guj).
194
      Tata Iron Steel and Co. v. Micro Forge (India) Ltd., [2001] 104 Comp Cas 533 (Guj).
195
      IBA Health (I) Pvt. Ltd. V. Info-Drive Systems Sdn. Bhd., [2010] 159 CompCas 369 (SC).


                                                        88
provisions as present therein. Hence a statutory clarification in this regard is necessary. Also, the courts
may look into the judicial development in this regard in the UK, wherein a creditor who establishes the
company's inability to pay debts (even a single undisputed debt) can ordinarily expect the court to
exercise its discretion to admit / make a winding up order.196
_____
Such broad interpretation by courts of when a company is determined to be unable to pay debts under
the Indian law has rendered liquidation ineffective as a disciplinary mechanism against insolvent
debtors. For the creditor to be able to use the threat of winding up procedures ­ with their attendant costs
for debtors ­ to encourage repayment, there must also be a real possibility of the imminent
commencement of liquidation proceedings, and attendant publicity. However, the judicial practice of
requiring the non-payment of a single undisputed debt to be supplemented with evidence of the
company's commercial insolvency has meant that the threat of imminent liquidation is not necessarily
­ at least in the present state of the law ­ a credible one. Debtors are not compelled to negotiate with
the creditors to restructure their debt or take other measures to resolve their financial distress. The
creditor should ordinarily be entitled to a winding up order upon proof of non-payment of a single
undisputed debt after a formal statutory demand for payment has been made.197

Moreover, the test for determination of insolvency under the Indian law appears to be, as has been cited
in various judicial precedents198, the "commercial insolvency test" as laid down by James VC in 1869
in In Re European Life Assurance Society (supra). The definition by James VC was given at the time
when there was no rigid distinction between the commercial insolvency test and balance sheet
insolvency test. However, in the Supreme Court case of Mediquip Systems (P) Ltd. v. Proximo Medical
System199 the Apex Court observed (approving the view of the Bombay High Court in In Re: Softsule(P)
Ltd.200) "that one of the considerations in order to determine whether the Company is able to pay its
debts or not is whether the Company is able to meet its liabilities as and when they accrue due. Whether
it is commercially solvent means that the Company should be in a position to meet its liabilities as and
when they arise." However, the interpretation of the term "as and when they arise" is not clear,
particularly in relation to how far ahead should one look for the inclusion of the unpaid liabilities /
debts.201 Further, there has been extensive judicial development with regard to the meaning and
interpretation of "commercial insolvency" in the UK post the In Re European Life Assurance Society
which does not seem to have been taken into consideration by the Indian courts.

The position of law in the UK

In the UK, the concept of insolvency can be located in Section 123 of IA 1986. The said section lays
down a number of tests for determining whether a company is "deemed" to be unable to pay its debts.

196
      van Zwieten.
197
   The law may provide for exceptions if the petition has been filed for a collateral purpose to abuse the process
of law and to allow the possibility of a corporate rescue in appropriate cases.
198
   Pradeshiya Industrial & Investment Corporation of U.P. v. North India Petrochemical Ltd. and Anr., [1994]
79 CompCas 835 (SC); Dallah Albaraka (Ireland) Ltd. v. Pentasoft Technologies Ltd., [2011] 101 CLA 177 (Mad.)
199
      AIR 2005 SC 4175.
200
      (1977) 47 Com. Cases 438 (Bom).
201
      Please see Cheyne judgement.


                                                       89
In general parlance, the tests are divided into two groups ­ (i) specific tests which refer to the statutory
demand test and the jurisdiction specific tests as encapsulated in Section 123(1)(a) and Section 123(b)
to (d) respectively; and (ii) general tests which refer to cash flow insolvency or commercial insolvency
test and balance sheet insolvency test as encapsulated in Section 123(1)(e) and Section 123(2)
respectively.

The statutory demand test under IA 1986 is similar to the test as under Section 434(1)(a) of the CA 1956
or Section 272 (2)(a). As discussed above, the Indian courts have read cash flow / commercial
insolvency into the statutory demand test, as opposed to in the UK, where statutory demand test
and cash flow / commercial insolvency test form separate grounds for the purposes of the deeming
provisions under Section 123 of IA 1986. The statutory demand test presumes the fact that the
company is unable to pay its debt and it may be rebutted by the company, however, a detailed analysis
of the financial condition of the company is not required.202 Further, the courts have generally been
amenable to accepting the inability of a company to pay its debt on failure to pay a single undisputed
debt.203To this effect, the observations of Lord Walker in the Supreme Court judgment of BNY
Corporate Trustee Services Limited and others v Eurosail-UK 2007-3BL PLC204 ("Eurosail") are
relevant ­ "A company's non-compliance with a statutory demand, or non-satisfaction of execution of a
judgment debt, is a matter that can be proved quite simply, usually by a single short witness statement.
If proved, it establishes the court's jurisdiction to make a winding up order, even if the company is in
fact well able to pay its debts." On the other hand, the cash flow / commercial insolvency test and the
balance sheet test require a more detailed examination of the financial status of the company to conclude
the existence of any one kind of insolvency.

Cash flow / commercial insolvency test ­ Before the IA 1986, there was no rigid statutory and judicial
distinction between the said two tests as is evident from Section 518(1)(e) of the Companies Act 1985
which read - "... if it is proved to the satisfaction of the court that the company is unable to pay its debts
(and, in determining that question, the court shall take into account the company's contingent and
prospective liabilities)." The split rendering the two tests as distinct grounds was statutorily recognized
only in the IA 1986. In place of the requirement to take into account the company's contingent and
prospective liabilities, the phrase "as they fall due" was added after "debts". The requirement to take
into account the company's contingent and prospective liabilities now only appears in Section 123(2).
So, Section 123(1)(e) reads: "... if it is proved to the satisfaction of the court that the company is unable
to pay its debts as they fall due."

Commercial insolvency basically means that a company cannot pay its way in the conduct of the
business, and the fact that its assets exceed its liabilities is irrelevant. In this regard, the creditor has to
adduce evidence that demonstrates a persistent failure on the part of the company to pay its debts as
they fall due.205 In the In re European Assurance Society case (supra), though James VC ostensibly laid
down the test for commercial insolvency, however, as the Supreme Court of UK in the Eurosail
judgment (as mentioned later in the report) observed that in European Life Assurance Society case, the


202
      Olivares- Caminal et al.
203
      van Zwieten.
204
      [2013] UKSC 28.
205
      Olivares- Caminal et al.


                                                      90
judge seems to have applied the `balance sheet test' to existing liabilities. The original interpretation of
this kind of insolvency was that it made a reference to the inability of the company to pay its debts
immediately / presently due and did not include any debt falling due in the future.206 However, in the
case of Re Cheyne Finance Plc (No.2)207 ("Cheyne") the judge changed the law by giving a different
interpretation to this aspect in the following words ­ "In my judgment, the effect of the alterations to
the insolvency test made in 1985 and now found in section 123 of the 1986 Act was to replace in the
commercial solvency test now in section 123(1)(e), one futurity requirement, namely to include
contingent and prospective liabilities, with another more flexible and fact sensitive requirement
encapsulated in the new phrase `as they fall due." The said interpretation was affirmed by the
Supreme Court of UK in the Eurosail judgment in 2013, where the court observed that the
commercial insolvency test is concerned with presently due debts and also those falling due from
time to time in the "reasonably near future". The Supreme Court of UK has however given only a
skeletal guidance on what constitutes reasonably near future ­ "it will depend on all the circumstances,
but especially on the nature of the company's business."208 The question which arose post the Cheyne
judgment was that with both the cash flow / commercial insolvency test and balance sheet insolvency
test having a futurity element to them, and as they stood side by side in the same section of the IA 1986,
how could one understand the interaction between the two tests? This question was put to rest to some
extent in the Eurosail judgment, wherein the Supreme court held that "moving beyond the reasonably
near future (the length of which would depend on the circumstances of the case), any attempt to apply
a cash-flow test will become completely speculative, and a comparison of present assets with present
and future liabilities (discounted for contingencies and deferment) becomes the only sensible test." In
the subsequent case of Bucci v Carman (Liquidator of Casa Estates (UK) Ltd)209, it was further laid
down that (i) significance has also to be attached as to how the debts are being satisfied and (ii) the two
tests of cash-flow and balance sheet feature as part of a single exercise to determine whether a company
was unable to pay its debts, and that the balance sheet test in IA 1986 was not excluded merely because
a company was for the time being paying its debts as they fell due.

Balance Sheet test ­ A company is deemed to be unable to pay its debts if it is proved to the satisfaction
of the court that the value of the company's assets210 is less than the amount of its liabilities, taking into
account its contingent and prospective liabilities. The rationale for this test is that even if a debtor
company is able to meet its current obligations, its solvency cannot be established if it is already clear
that its assets will be inadequate to satisfy its liabilities going forward. 211 This test is an important
warning mechanism for the board of a debtor company to know of the troubled times ahead, if any.212
The land mark case which attempts to throw some light on the `balance sheet test' as it exists under the

206
      Highberry Limited v Colt Telecom Group Plc [2002] EWHC 2815.
207
      [2008] Bus LR 1562.
208
   Another Australian judicial decision (Lewis v Doran, [2005] N.S.W.C.A. 243.) cited in the Cheyne judgment
held ­"it is a fact sensitive question depending upon the nature of the company's business and, if known, of its
future liabilities".
209
      [2014] EWCA Civ 383.
210
  These assets include the present assets of the company valued at their present value, and contingent and
prospective assets will not be considered.
211
      Roy Goode, Principles of Corporate Insolvency Law (4th edn, Thomson Sweet & Maxwell 2011).
212
      Olivares- Caminal et al.

                                                      91
UK law is the Eurosail judgment. The Supreme Court of UK elucidated the following factors for the
determination of balance sheet insolvency ­ (i) The balance sheet test doesn't have to be interpreted
literally (in the sense of an examination of what appears on the company's balance sheet only) because
there is no statutory provision linking section 123(2) of the IA 1986 to the detailed provisions of the
Companies Act 2006 as to the form and contents of a company's financial statements. Therefore it is
far from an exact test and will depend on all the circumstances of the company's business; (ii) the "point
of no return" test goes beyond the need for a petitioner to satisfy the court that, on the balance of
probabilities, a company has insufficient assets to be able to meet all of its liabilities, including
prospective and contingent liabilities. The Supreme Court accepted that the test was good in so far as it
elucidated the purpose of Section 123(2) but should not be read to be a paraphrase of Section 123(2) of
IA 1986 or as setting a higher standard of proof to be met by the petitioners; (iii) The court must be
satisfied that, on the balance of probabilities: a company has insufficient assets to be able to meet all of
its liabilities, including prospective and contingent liabilities, if and when they eventually fall due; and
that there will therefore "eventually be a deficiency".
___

The BLRC is of the opinion that in order to re-instate the debt enforcement function of the statutory
demand test, cash flow / commercial insolvency tests should not be read into that test. In other words,
if a company fails to pay an undisputed debt of prescribed value, the creditor should be entitled to a
winding up order irrespective of whether it is insolvent (in commercial or balance sheet terms) or not.
It is important to note that although a creditor should be entitled to a winding up order on failure to pay
such debt, the NCLT should have the discretion to refer the company for rehabilitation under Chapter
XIX (before making a winding up order), if the company appears to be prima facie viable. Such power
of the NCLT will prevent liquidation of viable companies on failure to pay single undisputed debt.

Further, in order to avoid any overlap with the statutory demand test, the tests of commercial insolvency
and balance sheet insolvency should be recognised as separate grounds on which a company shall be
deemed to be unable to pay its debts. These tests should be defined in the statute itself but unlike the
statutory demand test, will require a more detailed examination of the financial status of the company
to conclude the existence of insolvency.
 ______

Recommendations:

            In order to re-instate the debt enforcement function of the statutory demand test for winding
            up, if a company fails to pay an undisputed debt of a prescribed value as per Section 271(2)
            (a), the creditor should be entitled to a winding up order irrespective of whether it is
            insolvent (in commercial or balance sheet terms) or not. Further, the NCLT should have
            the discretion to refer the company for rehabilitation under Chapter XIX before making a
            winding up order on such ground, if the company appears to be prima facie viable. Further,
            in order to prevent abuse of the provision by creditors and ensure that it is not used to force
            debtor companies to settle disputed debts, the provision should specify the factors that the
            NCLT may take into account to determine whether the debt under consideration is disputed
            or not. As laid down by the courts, a petition may be dismissed if the debt in question is
            bona fide disputed, i.e., where the following conditions are satisfied: (i) the defence of the
            debtor company is genuine, substantial and in good faith; (ii) the defence is likely to
            succeed on a point of law; and (iii) the debtor company adduces prima facie proof of the
            facts on which the defence depends. Further, as with initiation of rescue proceedings, the


                                                    92
                NCLT should also have the power to impose sanctions/costs/damages on a petitioning
                creditor and disallow reapplications on the same grounds if it finds that a petition has been
                filed to abuse the process of law.
                The Government may also consider revising the present value for triggering the statutory
                demand test under Section 271 (2) (a) from `one lakh rupees' to a higher amount or revise
                the provision to state `one lakh rupees or such amount as may be prescribed'.
                `Balance sheet insolvency' and `commercial insolvency' should be identified as separate
                grounds indicating a company's `inability to pay debt' in order to avoid conflicts/confusion
                with the statutory demand test (as is the case of the IA 1986 where the statutory demand
                test, the commercial insolvency test and the balance sheet insolvency test are alternate
                grounds for determining a company's inability to pay debts under Sections 123(1) (a) ,123
                (1) (e) and 123(2), respectively).


B. PRIORITY OF PAYMENTS

The provisions of the CA 2013 lay down a very complicated system for payments to be made in a
winding up.213Such a complicated system increases uncertainty, costs and leads to delays as the
ascertainment of claims, sums payable under those claims as well as the distribution of assets in winding
up becomes a very difficult exercise. Therefore, the provisions relating to priority of payments and
preferential payments need to be simplified and made more transparent in line with international best
practices. Specifically, two issues need to be addressed- rights of secured creditors in the event of an
insolvency and the status of the government as a preferred creditor.

a. PRIORITY RIGHTS OF SECURED CREDITORS


The secured creditor has the option to relinquish his security and prove his debt in the winding-up
proceedings or independently enforce the security outside the winding up proceedings by way of an
action for debt enforcement. However, the preferential status of the secured creditor is subject to certain
exceptions.

In terms of Section 529 of the CA 1956 (or Section 325 of CA 2013), the security of every secured
creditor is deemed to be subject to a pari passu charge in favour of the `workmen'214 to the extent of
the workmen's portion therein. The workmen's `portion' in relation to a security for any secured
creditor is equal to such percentage of the value of the security that is equal to the percentage that the
workmen's dues constitute of the sum of (a) the total amount of the debts due to all the secured creditors
and (b) the workmen's dues. In other words, if the value of the security for a secured creditor is INR
1,00,000, the workmen's dues are INR 1,00,000, and the amounts dues to all the secured credit ors is
INR 3,00,000, then the workmen's portion of the security in question is INR 25,000 (i.e., 25% of the
value of the security, as the workmen's dues also amount to 25% of the sum of total debt owed to
secured creditors - INR 3,00,000 ­ and the workmen's dues - INR 1,00,000). Therefore, if a secured
creditor decides to enforce his security interest outside the winding up proceedings, such proceeds will
be subject to a charge in favour of the workmen as per the above formula. However, such unrealised
portion of the debt of the secured creditors that could not be recovered completely because of the

213
      Section 325-327, CA 2013.
214
      As defined in the Industrial Disputes Act 1947.


                                                        93
operation of Section 529 is required to be paid to them in priority over all other debts in the winding up
of a company. As per Section 529A of CA 1956 (or Section 326 of CA 2013), (a) workmen's dues and
(b) the dues of the secured creditors that could not be recovered completely (outside the winding up
proceedings) because of the operation of Section 529 of CA 1956 (or Section 325 of CA 2013) are to
be paid before any other debt, out of the proceeds realised from the other assets of the company (during
the course of winding up). The Supreme Court in Jitendra Nath Singh v. Official Liquidator215 has
clarified that, "... only such debts due to the secured creditor which rank pari passu with dues of the
workmen under Clause (c) of the proviso to Sub-section (1) of Section 529 have to be paid in priority
over all other debts of the company. The High Court has clearly fallen in error by holding that all debts
due to secured creditors will rank pari passu with the workmen's dues and have to be paid along with
the workmen's dues in priority to all other debts of the company." The effect of these provisions is that
while a secured creditor may be able to realise his security outside the winding up proceedings, the
proceeds of such sale will remain subject to a charge in favour of the workmen in accordance with
Sections 529 and 529A of CA 1956 (or Sections 325 and 326 of CA 2013),i.e., such creditor may retain
the sale proceeds of his secured assets after depositing the specified portion of the workmen's dues.

Further, while in general, dues of the Government get priority over debts owed to unsecured creditors
only, where the tax or revenue payable to the Government is by virtue of a specific statutory provision
made as a first charge on the assets of the assesse, such tax or revenue gets priority over secured creditors
as well.216 There are various judicial precedents also which affect the preferential status of the secured
creditors. For instance, in Employees Provident Fund Commissioner v. O.L. of Esskay Pharmaceuticals
Limited 217, where there was a conflict between two central legislations (the Employee Provident Funds
and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 ("EPF Act") and the CA, 1956), the Supreme Court observed
that the EPF Act being a social legislation formulated for the welfare of employees will prevail over the
inconsistent provisions of CA 1956, a subsequent legislation 218 (the inconsistency was that the EPF Act
gave priority to the employees' contribution over all other debts whereas the CA 1956 placed the dues
of the secured creditors and the workmen at par in a specific situation).

Furthermore, the basic principle applied by the Supreme Court, when pronouncing judgments in relation
to the priority to be given to government debts vis-a-vis secured debts appears to be that firstly, the
common law doctrine (i.e. absolute priority to government debts) existing on the date of coming into
force of the Constitution must yield to a statutory provision enacted by the central or the state legislature,
and secondly, that the state legislation should not be inconsistent with any central legislation occupying
the same field (or there should be no ostensible overlap between a state and central legislation occupying
different fields).219 However, this has given rise to several conflicting judicial precedents on this aspect.


215
      (2013)1 SCC 462.
216
   M.R.Umarji, Law & Practice relating to Securitization & Reconstruction of Financial Assets & Enforcement
of Security Interest (6th edn., Taxmann Publications Private Limited 2014).
217
      AIR 2012 SC 11.
218
   Especially in view of A.P. State Financial Corporation v. Official Liquidator ((2000) 7 SCC 291) wherein the
Supreme Court held that the relevant provisions under the CA 1956 (Section 529, 529A) would prevail over the
State Financial Corporation Act, 1951 in view of the settled position of law that a legislation later in point of time
prevails over an earlier legislation by virtue of the non-obstante clause.
219
      Central Bank of India v State of Kerala, [2010] 153 CompCas 497 (SC).


                                                         94
On the one hand, there are judgments220 which uphold the statutory priority in state legislations which
give absolute priority to government debts over all other debts (including debts of secured creditors),
whereas on the other hand there are more recent judgments which uphold state legislations221 / stock
exchange rules approved by the central government222 which have express provisions giving absolute
priority to secured debts over all debts including government debts.

This position is in stark contrast to the position in many jurisdictions where the rights of secured
creditors are given a great degree of protection.223 In the UK, fixed charge holders are entitled to claim
first, even over liquidator's fees and expenses, whereas there are certain carve-outs made from the assets
available for distribution to floating charge holders (but this no longer includes debts owed to the
Crown, like taxes).224 In the US, secured creditors are entitled to claim first, even over the liquidator's
fees and expenses.

Although subjecting the priority rights of secured creditors to the workmen's dues and dues under
certain employee welfare laws like the EPF Act may be reasonable, there is a strong case to be made
for not subjecting such rights to crown debt. Allowing crown debt (whether state or central) to prevail
over the security interest of secured creditors is problematic for several reasons- (i) it leads to
uncertainty for secured creditors regarding the sums that would be payable to them in the event of a
company's insolvency; (ii) it may slow or otherwise complicate the exercise of out-of-court
enforcement rights by secured creditors and increase costs; (iii) the cost of credit for the debtor company
may increase as secured creditors may ultimately pass on the risks arising from these to the debtor
through higher interest rates; and (iv) it may reduce the attractiveness of certain kinds of security
interests that would otherwise generate positive externalities, as where they encourage monitoring ex
ante.

Moreover, the dues payable to the Government in such circumstances are unlikely to be significant
when compared to total government receipts, whereas the impact of non-payment on commercial
creditors (including public sector banks) is likely to be substantial and may even lead to their
insolvency225 and systemic issues for the economy. As noted by the Committee on Financial Sector
Reforms, "The government, which has substantial powers to recover arrears to it prior to bankruptcy,
should not stand ahead of secured creditors."




220
   Dena Bank v. Bhikhabhai Prabhudas Parekh & Co. & Ors, AIR 2000 SC 3654; State Bank of Bikaner & Jaipur
v. National Iron & Steel Rolling Corporation and Ors., (1995) 2 SCC 19; State of Madhya Pradesh and Anr.v.
State Bank of Indore and Ors., (2002) 10 SCC 441; Orissa State Financial Corporation v. Commnr. Of
Commercial Taxes and Ors., (2013) 14 SCC 619.
221
  Union of India (UOI) and Ors. V. SICOM Ltd. and Anr., (2009) 2 SCC 121; Rana Girders v UOI (AIR 2013
SC 3422).
222
      The Stock Exchange v. V.S. Kandalgaonkar, [2014] 187 CompCas 143 (SC).
223
      Section 59, 60, 61, IA 1986; Chapter V, VII, US Bankruptcy Code.
224
      Ibid.
225
      Morgan.


                                                       95
b. PRIORITY FOR GOVERNMENT DEBTS (CROWN DEBTS) OVER UNSECURED CREDITORS

The preferential status given to dues of the Government/Crown has been a controversial issue in many
jurisdictions. The origins of the preference for Crown debt can be traced back to UK, where the Crown
was entitled to an absolute priority for revenue-related debts in the event of the insolvency of a
subject.226 This common law doctrine was later exported to other countries, including India, to grant
preferential status over other debts to the government in the absence of a monarch.227 However, under
the Indian law, two significant qualifications to this doctrine were laid down by the Supreme Court228 -
(i) the preferential status of the government debt is largely confined only to unsecured creditors (with
the exception of the circumstances discussed in the previous section) and such preferential right is not
available over debts of a mortgagee or pledgee of goods or a secured creditor, as the rights of the latter
are complete and perfect before that of the crown; and (ii) the doctrine may not be applicable when the
welfare state enters into commercial fields which cannot be regarded as an essential and integral part of
the basic government functions of the State.

The main reasons behind giving preferential status to the Crown are: (i) unlike the claims of private
creditors, revenue-related claims of the Government are for the benefit of the community- granting
priority usually prevents the costs of insolvency from being borne by taxpayers; (ii) the Crown is a non-
adjusting creditor in that it cannot choose the debtor or obtain security for its dues; (iii) in cases where
the debtor collects taxes on behalf of the Crown (sales tax, value added tax etc.), if no priority is given
to the Crown, the moneys so collected will result in a windfall for other unsecured creditors; (iii) if the
Crown is not given some security through preferential status, the Crown may not negotiate repayments
with debtors, thus precipitating unnecessary business failures.229 However, these arguments have been
countered by critics of the Crown preference. The Crown is often able to adjust tax levels in a manner
that anticipates the risk of default. Further, as discussed earlier, the dues payable to the Crown are
unlikely to be significant when compared to total government receipts, whereas the impact of non-
payment on private commercial creditors is likely to be substantial and may even lead to their
insolvency.230 It has also been argued that the Crown has other means of enforcing its debts, which
private creditors do not have recourse to, such as imposition of penalties, higher interest rates, statutory
liens and levies. 231 Thus, it seems clear that the arguments for granting Crown preference are tenuous.

Taking these arguments into consideration, many jurisdictions have moved towards abolishing or
limiting the status of the Crown as a preferential creditor.232 In the UK, after the enactment of the
Enterprise Act 2002, Crown preference has been abolished- the Crown now takes in pari passu with
ordinary unsecured creditors. In Germany, a flat priority system is followed with the Crown being

226
   Barbara Morgan, Should the Sovereign be Paid First? A Comparative International Analysis of the Priority
for Tax Claims in Bankruptcy, 74 Am. Bankr. L.J. 461, Fall 2000.

227
      Morgan.
228
      Dena Bank v. Bhikhabhai Prabhudas Parekh & Co. & Ors, AIR 2000 SC 3654
229
      Morgan.
230
      Morgan.
231
      Morgan.
232
      For example, the UK, Germany and Australia.


                                                    96
treated on par with other unsecured creditors.233 Australia has also abolished priority for tax claims,
while strengthening the powers of taxing authorities through statutory liens, personal liability of
directors etc.234 It is pertinent to note that though the common law doctrine was exported into the Indian
legal regime from England and applied and adopted by the Indian courts, we have failed to take
cognizance of the later developments in terms of the abolition of this doctrine.

Thus, it is evident that the preferential status given to the Crown in winding up stands on a shaky ground.
Having said that, the BLRC notes that if the preferential status of the Crown over unsecured creditors
is removed without qualifications, the possibility of misuse cannot be ruled out (for instance, related
parties being used in the garb of unsecured creditors to misuse the benefit). Consequently, further
consultations with the stakeholders is required before introducing any such change.
____

Recommendations:

                Subject to the pari passu charge in favour of the workmen as envisaged in Section 325 of
                CA 2013 or rights of the employees under employee welfare legislation like the EPF Act,
                there should be a separate declaratory provision that upholds the priority rights of secured
                creditors on their security interests notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in
                any state or central law that imposes a tax or revenue payable to the Government by virtue
                of a specific statutory provision made as a first charge on the assets of the assesse; provided
                that such first charge may be allowed for claims that existed on the date when such security
                interest was created.235

Question for Consideration for the Insolvency Code:

          i.    Should the preferential status of the Crown over unsecured creditors under insolvency law
                be abolished? If so, what safeguards should be provided to mitigate the possibility of misuse
                of such benefit?



C. STRENGTHENING PROVISIONS ON AVOIDANCE OF CERTAIN TRANSACTIONS IN WINDING UP

If liquidation proceedings are to be fair to all creditors, insolvency law must provide for protection of
the collective nature of the insolvency process, and promote adherence to the principle of pari passu
distribution of assets. 236 For this reason, the law on avoidance of transactions seeks to invalidate certain



233
      Morgan.
234
      Morgan.
235
   The statute for Goods and Service Tax that will replace state specific sales tax statutes could also provide for
this in line with Section 11E of the Central Excise Act, 1944 with appropriate modifications. For avoidance of
doubt, it is clarified that the exception for claims existing on the date of creation of the security interest will not
disturb the priority rights of the secured creditors under statutes that recognise such rights of secured creditors
without any such exception.
236
      Finch.


                                                          97
transactions which result in dispositions of the company's property in the lead up to insolvency other
than for full value, or payments that unduly benefit certain creditors at the expense of others.

The CA 2013 contains several provisions which invalidate transactions entered into within specific
periods prior to the company's insolvency, such as provisions invalidating fraudulent preferences, late
floating charges other than for new value and provisions preventing transfers prior to and during the
winding up process. These provisions contain very few departures from the provisions under the CA
1956.

While the law on avoidance in the UK has evolved through legislative intervention and case law
developments, the law on avoidance in India has become outmoded. Specifically, the scope of certain
provisions need to be clarified, while other provisions need to be reinforced to provide for specific
scrutiny of transactions involving related parties.

           a. AVOIDANCE OF TRANSFERS NOT IN GOOD FAITH

Section 329 of the CA 2013 voids any transfer of property or delivery of goods made by a company
within the period of one year before the presentation of a petition for winding up by the Court or the
passing of a resolution for voluntary winding up, if such transfer/delivery is not made in the ordinary
course of its business or in favour of a purchaser or encumbrancer in good faith and for valuable
consideration. This provision is in pari materia with Section 531A of the CA 1956. There has been
some indication from the courts that this provision strikes at undervalued transactions (similar to the
provision avoiding transactions at undervalue contained in the IA 1986),237 however, in practice it is
not clear if the same sort of rigorous enquiry in the determination of undervalue transactions as done in
the UK, is also followed in India.238 Certainly the modern formulation of the undervalue transaction
rule in the UK is different in its terms and scope to Section 531A, despite their common heritage.
Therefore, there is a need to clarify the scope of Section 329, CA 2013 by laying down clear criteria for
determination of whether the transaction is at undervalue.

           b. INCLUSION OF A PROVISION VOIDING TRANSACTIONS DEFRAUDING CREDITORS


In the UK, Section 423 of the IA 1986 voids transactions at undervalue if such transactions have been
entered into with the intention of putting the assets beyond the reach of, or otherwise prejudicing the
interests of a person who is making or may make a claim against the company. While the scope of this
provision is similar to that of the provision avoiding transactions at undervalue (Section 238, IA 1986),
Section 423 actions differ in that they do not have any time limit for the challenged transactions, and is
available in and outside formal insolvency proceedings. The inclusion of such a provision in the CA
2013 would reinforce the protection given to creditors under avoidance law by permitting the liquidator
to set aside transactions entered into prior to the one year period ending in the company's insolvency.
This is necessary to guard against the siphoning away of corporate assets by managers who have
knowledge of the company's financial affairs in cases where a long period of financial trouble,
extending over a year, ends in insolvency.

237
      See Section 238, IA 1986.
238
   See Monark Enterprises v Kishan Tulpule [1992] 74 CompCas 89 (Bombay); Hawa Controls v Official
Liquidator of Tirupati Foundry Private Ltd. [2008]172 CompCas 528 (Gujarat).


                                                   98
           c. TRANSACTIONS WITH RELATED PARTIES

The law on avoidance in the UK provides for close scrutiny of transactions entered into with persons
connected with the company (other than employees) by incorporating longer time periods in relation to
which such transactions can be challenged. Thus, while the relevant time period for avoiding
preferences is six months prior to the onset of insolvency, the time period is increased to two years in
the case of persons connected with the company.239 Similarly, for late floating charges other than for
new value, the vulnerability period for non-connected persons is twelve months while it is two years in
the case of connected persons.240The avoidance provisions under the CA 2013 does not provide for
longer time periods in case the transactions are with connected persons. It is submitted that providing
for longer time periods for vulnerability would be significant in improving the efficacy of these
provisions. This is because a wider range of transactions diminishing creditor wealth entered into with
insiders occur not in the `zone of insolvency' but as soon as early signals of trouble are visible. Such
insiders have superior information of the company's deteriorating financial position and may raid
corporate assets knowing that the company may become insolvent. These provisions are of special
significance in the Indian context where even the larger corporates are often promoter/family controlled
with such insiders often enjoying significant informational advantages over even well advised secured
lenders.

           d. IMPROVING THE EFFECTIVENESS OF THE AVOIDANCE PROVISIONS


Anecdotal evidence on the working of the avoidance provisions under the CA 1956 indicate that these
provisions have been a failure in protecting creditor interests. The Official Liquidator was faced with
severe resource constraints in prosecuting these cases. The Official Liquidator also did not have access
to reliable information regarding the financial affairs of the company. Moreover, funding constraints
(see section E, below) have acted as a deterrent to pursuing such actions. Therefore, it is evident that
the law on the books has to be supplemented with the provision of adequate support to liquidators to
pursue such actions.
______

Recommendations:

                Section 329, CA 2013 should be suitably amended in line with Section 238 of IA 1986 to
                lay down clear criteria for challenging undervalue transactions in the lead-up to the
                insolvency.
                A provision invalidating transactions defrauding creditors similar to Section 423 of the IA
                1986 should be inserted in CA 2013. Such provision would apply without any time limits
                and should be available in and outside formal insolvency proceedings.
                The avoidance provisions under the CA 2013 (Sections 328 and 329) should be
                strengthened by providing for a longer vulnerability period (up to two years) for avoiding
                transactions entered into with related parties of the company.




239
      Section 240, IA 1986.
240
      Section 245(2), IA 1986.

                                                      99
D. STRENGTHENING MANAGERIAL ACCOUNTABILITY PROVISIONS IN WINDING UP

The management of a company enjoys wide powers in the running of the company and its business.
While such powers to make business decisions are often exercised for the benefit of the company and
its shareholders, unscrupulous managers may misuse such powers and put the interest of the company
and its creditors at risk. In the lead up to insolvency, the managers may be incentivized to take more
risks to save the business (knowing that the upside to such risks would be enjoyed by them but the
downsides will be borne by the creditors). There may also be a heightened risk of fraudulent activity,
for example, the transfer of assets to persons connected with the company. The need to limit managerial
discretion, particularly when the company is in dire financial straits and is set to be wound up thus
becomes necessary for protection of its creditors.

The CA 2013 contains a number of provisions which provide for the initiation of criminal proceedings
against delinquent officers of the company or the imposition of personal liability on such officers to
contribute to the company's assets. However, there are a number of issues which need to be resolved if
the CA 2013 is to provide an effective regime for deterrence of managerial misconduct and punishment
of offenders.

Anecdotal evidence concerning the corresponding provisions on managerial liability under the CA 1956
suggests that the provisions have not succeeded in holding directors responsible. Interestingly, the
evidence points to the existence of a practice whereby promoters resign from directorships and key
managerial positions by the time the winding up order is made, installing employees (who act as proxies
for such promoters) as directors in their place. Such `employee -directors' then act as directors of the
company which has already been stripped off valuable assets throughout the duration of insolvency
proceedings. In such cases, it has been difficult to hold the promoters who are responsible for the
company's failure accountable as they would have long ceased holding key managerial positions. While
the managers can theoretically be held liable for transactions entered into while they were in office,
prosecution in such cases has been found to be extremely difficult in practice.

The evidence also suggests that provisions relating to the prosecution of directors have been rendered
ineffective due to funding constraints and lack of institutional capacity. The total number of Official
Liquidators is grossly inadequate in comparison to the number of liquidations being initiated. As a
consequence, Official Liquidators are currently overburdened, and are forced to give less priority to
prosecutions under provisions imposing liability on directors. Further, Official Liquidators do not get
adequate support in the form of legal assistance as the standing counsel assigned to him/her prosecutes
cases relating to 60-70 companies (even 200 companies in some cases). Therefore, they are often forced
to seek multiple adjournments, delaying such prosecutions even further.

It is also suggested that Official Liquidators faced informational constraints in that the financial
information relating to the company was often unreliable or incomplete. The Registrars of Companies,
on whom the Official Liquidators have to rely for obtaining data relating to the company are
overburdened, and consequently not able to provide the required assistance efficiently. Therefore, a
large number of cases seeking to impose liability on the directors of the insolvent company are
dismissed on account of lack of sufficient supporting evidence in the form of financial data. This
evidence indicates that there is a need to build institutional capacity and address issues relating to
informational and financial constraints to ensure that the provisions in the CA 2013 deter managerial
misconduct, particularly in the run up to insolvency. It may be noted that Section 287 of CA 2013
envisages an `advisory committee' (which can include creditors) to assist the company liquidator, which

                                                  100
can be constituted by the NCLT at the time of making a winding up order. Such advisory committee
is specifically empowered to examine the books and accounts of the company.

Further, the provisions under the CA 2013 do not recognise the existence of a duty on the directors to
consider creditor interests when the company is in financial distress. Conventional corporate law
jurisprudence says that the directors are primarily responsible to the company and its shareholders.
However, given the societal losses associated with creditor losses and the risk of a creditor contagion,
it has been argued that the directors of companies in financial distress should also be liable to the
creditors in certain situations. The wrongful trading provision of the IA 1986 subjects directors to
personal liability if they fail to take reasonable steps to minimize the potential loss to the creditors when
there is no possibility of avoiding insolvent liquidation. Such directors may be liable to make
contributions to the assets of the insolvent company, which could then be distributed to the creditors.

It may also be noted that US courts have observed that creditors cannot bring cases against the directors
for breach of fiduciary duties whether before or after insolvency (North American Catholic Educational
Programming Foundation Inc. v Gheewalla241), i.e. the directors do not owe any direct duty to the
creditors. Courts in the UK have also recognized that directors owe no direct duties to the creditors.
However, some courts in the US (and the UK) have held that the duties of directors to the company
should be adjusted to reflect the fact that the when the company is insolvent or in the `zone of
insolvency', the residual claimants are the creditors and not the shareholders ( Credit Lyonnais, N.V v
Path Communications Corp.242 in the US and West Mercia Safety wear v Dodd243in the UK)244. Such
shift of duty appears to have been recognised in certain situations by Indian courts as well.245 Recent
incidents of corporate collapses in India show us that the directors and management may underestimate
the risks of their actions and overestimate their own ability to save a failing business. At such instances,
the law should step in to protect other stakeholders before a company goes beyond redemption. When
a company is in financial distress, such shift of duty in favour of creditors should be recognized under
Indian law as well. The introduction of a wrongful trading remedy under Indian law could be considered
in this regard as it would prevent directors from taking a gamble on the company's fortunes at creditors'
risk. An overview of the law on the wrongful trading remedy is as follows:

        a. INTRODUCING THE WRONGFUL TRADING PROVISION
The first attempt to include a provision on wrongful trading and mismanagement under company law
in the UK was made by the Greene Committee on Company Law Reforms.246 The said recommendation



241
      930 A.2d 92 (Del. 2007).
242
      Civ. A. No. 12150, 1991 WL 277613, (Del. Ch. Dec. 30, 1991).
243
      [1988] BCLC 250.
244
   The shift under Delaware law occurs on `insolvency', and not in the `zone of insolvency' (while the UK shift
does occur in the zone): see North American Cahtolic Educational Programming v Gheewalla.
245
  See for example the Karnataka High Court decision in Chamundi Chemicals and Fertilisers Ltd (in liquidation)
v M C Cherian [1993] 77 CompCas 1 and the Supreme Court decision in Bakemans Industries Pvt Ltd v New
Cawnpore Flour Mills AIR 2008 SC 2699 .
246
   Andrew Keaya, and Michael Murray, `Making Company Directors Liable: A Comparative Analysis of
Wrongful Trading in the United Kingdom and Insolvent Trading in Australia', Int. Insolv. Rev., Vol. 1 4 (2005)
27-55 (hereinafter referred to as "Keaya & Murray")

                                                      101
envisaged criminal liability for the responsible directors through proof of intent.247 However, on account
of various inadequacies noted by the UK Insolvency Law Review Committee ("Cork Committee") in
its report in 1982, a form of civil liability was recommended by the Cork Committee to deal with the
issues surrounding fraudulent trading and mismanagement of the company's affairs.248 It may be noted
that although there did exist a provision on fraudulent trading, the committee was concerned about the
narrowness of the provision (since it required proof of the carrying on of business with intent to
defraud): hence the committee's recommendation of parallel civil liability for wrongful trading, which
would not require proof of intent to defraud. This recommendation was accepted and Section 214 was
subsequently included into the Insolvency Act of 1986.249 The main purpose of the provision is to
minimise losses for the creditors and not to penalise the directors, after it has been discerned that a
company is inevitably going into an insolvent liquidation.250

Under Section 214 of IA 1986, the director of the company can be made liable to make contributions
to the company's assets in an insolvent liquidation, if at some point before liquidation, the director knew
or had reason to conclude that there was no reasonable prospect of the company avoiding going into
insolvent liquidation.251 In this context, insolvent liquidation implies a form of liquidation of a company
wherein its assets are insufficient for the payment of its debts and other liabilities and the expenses of
the winding up (i.e, this provision relates to balance-sheet insolvency and not a cash-flow
insolvency).252 The directors for the purposes of this provision, include shadow directors of the company
as well.253

The operation of the provision is dependent upon three conditions namely, (i) a company going into
(balance-sheet) insolvent liquidation, (ii) the director's knowledge (or where he ought to have known)
that there was no reasonable prospect that the company would avoid going into insolvent liquidation,
and (iii) the director holding his position as the director in the company at the time of his knowledge.254
The Court is however not to make any order for contribution by the director where it is satisfied that
the director, after learning that there was no reasonable prospect of saving the company from liquidation
(or the time when she or he ought to have concluded this), took every step that he ought to have taken
to minimise the potential loss to the company's creditors.255 In instances where the company lacks
proper accounting records, the liability of the director is assessed through quantification of the aggregate



247
      Ibid.

248
   Edward Bailey & Hugo Groves, Corporate Insolvency: Law and Practice, Third Edition (LexisNexis
Butterworths, 2007) p. 698. (hereinafter referred to as "Edward Bailey & Hugo Groves").

249
      Keaya & Murray.

250
      Edward Bailey & Hugo Groves.

251
   Section 214 (1), IA 1986. It may be noted that the starting point for liability under Section 214 is the increase
in net deficiency, i.e., increase in deficiency of funds owed to the creditors in the relevant period.

252
      Section 214 (6), IA 1986.
253
      Section 214 (7), IA 1986.

254
      Section 214 (2), IA 1986.

255
      Section 214 (3), IA 1986.

                                                       102
debts incurred after wrongful trading began.256 It is pertinent to note that in determining the knowledge
of the director, the Court not only looks at the available financial and accountancy records of the
company but also at the time when the proper accounts should have been laid and filed (even if they
were not prepared by that time). In the case of Re Produce Marketing Consortium Ltd (No. 2)257, this
was followed as the Court ruled that the directors had knowledge about the company's affairs in spite
of absence of records.

The level of awareness and skill expected of a director, under the impugned section, is that which is
known or ascertained, or reached by a reasonably diligent person having both (i) the general knowledge,
skill and experience reasonably expected of a director of a company, and (ii) the general knowledge,
skill and experience that the director actually possesses.258 Further, the functions carried out in relation
to a company by the director of the company include functions which he does not carry out but which
are entrusted to him.259

In establishing knowledge of a director, the objective component of general knowledge, skill and
experience required of a director a company along with the subjective component of general knowledge,
skill and experience that a particular director actually has, needs to be satisfied.260 The size and
complexity of the company and its business are crucial elements for establishing knowledge, since in a
more complex business operation the level of skill and care required is higher in comparison to a smaller
and simpler operation.261 An examination of the qualifications of the director also assist the Court in
assessing the level of actual or presumed knowledge.262 The hurdle of proving the requisite knowledge
of there being `no reasonable prospect of avoiding an insolvent liquidation' rests on the liquidator
making the application.263

The main defence that a director can resort to in action for wrongful trading is that on becoming aware
of no reasonable prospect of avoiding insolvent liquidation, the director took every step that a
reasonably diligent person would take in order to minimise the potential loss to the creditors.264 Some
of the matters that have been suggested to be considered by directors, on becoming aware of the
company's uncertain affairs are:-

       a. Calling a meeting of the creditors to inform them of the financial state of the company;
       b. Considering liquidation of the company or inviting a lender to appoint a receiver;


256
      Re Purpoint Ltd., [1991] B.C.C. 121.

257
      (1989) 5 B.C.C. 569

258
      Section 214 (4), IA 1986.

259
      Edward Bailey & Hugo Groves at p. 700.

260
      Edward Bailey & Hugo Groves at p. 702.

261
      Ibid.
262
      Ibid.

263
      Ibid.

264
      Edward Bailey & Hugo Groves at p. 704.

                                                    103
   c. Taking a call on discontinuing trade, as in certain instances that could lead to aggravation of
      losses rather than improvement;
   d. Consulting professional advisors about the financial viability of the company;
   e. Holding regular directors' meeting to review the situation with up-to-date financial information,
      as feasible and possible;
   f. Keeping minutes of directors' and creditors' meetings and considering rationalisation
      programmes, such as reducing employees or cutting back on the company's perks;
   g. Considering resignation, as even though it may not free the director from liability, it may be
      the only option available to the director in instances where the board ignores his/her
      warnings.265
_____

Recommendations:

                 All efforts must be made to ensure that the liquidators and their counsels are sufficiently
                 equipped and have all necessary resources to: (a) discharge their duties efficiently; (b)
                 bring cases against the management for committing offences contemplated in the law
                 during the course of liquidation; and (c) effectively manage the costs associated with
                 achieving these functions. Further, appropriate institutional capacity needs to be built to
                 address issues relating to informational and financial constraints faced by the liquidators
                 in brining cases against the delinquent management. The `advisory committee' consisting
                 of creditors (as envisaged under Section 287 of CA 2013) should be utilised for bridging
                 this gap.
                 CA 2013 should be amended to introduce a provision for a civil remedy for `wrongful
                 trading' similar to Section 214, IA 1986 with appropriate carve-outs for independent and
                 non-executive directors in line with Section 149 (12) of CA 2013.




265
      Ibid.



                                                      104
6. ISSUES RELEVANT FOR BOTH RESCUE AND LIQUIDATION

6.1. FORUM

A. IMPACT OF THE SUPREME COURT RULINGS ON THE NATIONAL COMPANY LAW TRIBUNAL AND THE
       NATIONAL TAX TRIBUNAL

As discussed before, the CA 2013 provides for the establishment of the NCLT to deal with, inter alia,
the revival and rehabilitation of sick companies and the winding up of companies. The establishment
of the NCLT was originally proposed by way of an amendment to CA 1956 in 2002. However, the
NCLT was never established under CA 1956, as the relevant provisions of the Companies (Second
Amendment) Act, 2002 could not be notified for commencement. The NCLT proposed under the CA
2013 has also not been established yet. The BLRC notes that in spite of having been first proposed more
than twelve years ago, the NCLT has not been operationalised on account of multiple challenges before
courts. Although, the Supreme Court in the NCLT case had held certain provisions of CA 1956 relating
to the NCLT and the NCLAT to be unconstitutional, the NCLT and NCLAT were themselves held to
be constitutional.

However, the BLRC notes that the CA 2013 does not comply with all the observations of the Supreme
Court in the NCLT case. Moreover, in light of a recent ruling by a Constitution Bench of the Supreme
Court on the 25th of September, 2014 in the NTT case which struck down the National Tax Tribunals
Act, 2005 ("NTT Act"), several other amendments may be required to the CA 2013 to prevent further
challenges. The National Tax Tribunal ("NTT") was set up to take over the existing jurisdiction of High
Courts in India to hear and decide appeals pertaining to `questions of law' relating to Income Tax,
Customs, Central Excise and Service Tax matters, arising from the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal and
the Customs, Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal. While the power of the legislature under
Article 323B of the Constitution to create by law, any tribunal and vest any jurisdiction upon such
tribunal as the legislature so chooses was upheld, the Supreme Court has laid down that Tribunals which
are vested with the jurisdiction of Courts should enjoy the same constitutional protections and features
as Courts whose jurisdictions they are replacing. The NTT was struck down as being unconstitutional,
since it was a tribunal which had been vested with the extant subject matter jurisdiction of a High
Court266, but did not enjoy at least as much of the Constitutional protection that the High Court enjoyed
in respect of its independence from the Executive.267 Moreover, the Court also struck down provisions
of the NTT Act on the ground that they were responsible for the NTT being a less efficacious remedy
than the High Courts it was supposed to replace.268 Thus, Sections 5, 6, 7, 8 and 13 of the NTT Act were
held to be unconstitutional. Since these were the principal provisions of the NTT Act, the entire Act
was held unconstitutional.

The NCLT is designed to replace the jurisdiction of the existing Company Law Board (CLB), the BIFR
and the High Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction as a Company Court. Although most cases
before the NCLT will be between private parties, there are several provisions under CA 2013 as per


266
      See Section 15 of the NTT Act.
267
      NTT case, p. 225, para 89 (majority judgment) and p. 270 para 43 (concurring opinion of J Nariman).
268
      NTT case, p. 215, para 80.

                                                        105
which the Government will be the primary litigant before the NCLT. A non-exhaustive list of such
provisions include:

    i.      Presentation of a winding up petition of a company to the NCLT by the Registrar of
            Companies or by any person authorised by the Central Government in that behalf or by the
            Central Government or State Government (in circumstances as specified in Section 272) -
            one such ground being the company having acted against the interests of the sovereignty
            and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with other States, public
            order, decency and morality; It is important to mention that the jurisdiction for winding up
            of companies under CA 1956 presently lies with the designated Company Courts at the
            High Courts.
    ii.     Appeal to the NCLT against orders of the Registrar of Companies or the Central
            Government under several provisions of CA 2013;
    iii.    A reference may be made by the Central Government under Section 221 to the NCLT for
            freezing of assets of a company for a specified period of time during the investigation into
            the affairs of a company;
    iv.     The Central Government may file an application before the NCLT for passing orders
            (relating to disgorgement of assets etc. or holding directors etc. personally liable) in cases
            of detection of fraud in a company under Section 224(5);
    v.      The Central Government may make an application to the NCLT for relief in cases where it
            is of the opinion that the affairs of the company are being conducted in a manner prejudicial
            to public interest under Section 241.

The NCLAT on the other hand is empowered to hear appeals from the orders of the NCLT (and the
Central Government too, in certain cases) in exercise of its jurisdiction under CA 2013. It replaces the
jurisdiction of the High Court under Section 10F (appeals against the orders of the CLB) of CA 1956
and the AAIFR under Section 25 of the SICA. In view of the above, the provisions of CA 2013 relating
to NCLT and NCLAT need to be analysed on certain specific parameters as laid out by the Supreme
Court in the NTT case as well.

ANALYSIS AND IMPLICATIONS

Some of the parameters laid down by the Supreme Court in the NTT case were already discussed in the
NCLT case. However, NTT case lays down some additional parameters, which also need to be
considered. The following section identifies the key parameters that need to be considered for
complying with the decisions of the Supreme Court in relation to the constitutional validity of a tribunal:

(1) WHETHER THE TRIBUNAL TAKING OVER THE FUNCTION OF THE COURT IS AT LEAST AS
    GEOGRAPHICALLY WIDESPREAD AND ACCESSIBLE AS THE COURT IT SEEKS TO REPLACE?


The NCLT, replacing the jurisdiction of High Courts is required to have a presence in at least those
States where the seat of High Court is located. However, sub-section (2) of Section 419 of CA 2013
creates only the principal bench of the Tribunal in New Delhi and leaves it up to the Central Government
to decide the number of benches under sub-section (1). While this is not identical to sub-section (2) of
Section 5 of the NTT Act, it does however leave it up to the discretion of the Central Government to
set up the benches of the Tribunals where it deems fit. The fact that there is no positive mandate upon
the Central Government to do so in the legislation is likely to affect the efficacy of the NCLT as a forum
replacing the High Court. In the context of the NCLAT, which is also replacing the function of the High

                                                   106
Court insofar as appeals are concerned, there is no provision akin to Section 419 which prescribes where
the seat of the Appellate Tribunal shall be. Consequently, we are of the view therefore that:

       a. Sub-section (2) of Section 419 of CA 2013 may not withstand judicial scrutiny as it does not
          provide for at least one bench of the NCLT in each State where there exists a High Court.
       b. Section 410 of CA 2013, by not providing for a seat or even giving the Central Government
          powers to set up more benches of the NCLAT may not withstand judicial scrutiny, since there
          is no provision to create a principal bench or grant powers to the Chairperson of the NCLAT
          to constitute additional benches.

(2) WHERE THE CENTRAL GOVERNMENT IS A PARTY IN EVERY CASE BEFORE THE TRIBUNAL OR WHERE
    THE TRIBUNAL'S JURISDICTION WAS VESTED EARLIER WITH THE HIGH COURT, WHETHER THE
    TRIBUNAL'S FUNCTIONING WITH RESPECT TO COMPOSITION AND JURISDICTION OF BENCHES OF THE
    TRIBUNAL AND TRANSFER OF MEMBERS IS VESTED WITH THE PRESIDENT OF THE TRIBUNAL?


This test will be applicable in the present case since both the NCLT and the NCLAT's jurisdiction, to
some extent, was previously vested with the High Court. At present, there are no provisions which
prescribe the manner in which benches will be constituted or the jurisdiction to be vested in such
benches. It is unclear if the power will be exercised by the Central Government or by the President of
the NCLT or the Chairperson of the NCLAT.

We are therefore of the view that:

           a. There is an omission of a clause empowering the President of the NCLT to determine
              constitution of benches and the jurisdiction to be exercised by such benches and such
              omission may hamper the functioning of the NCLT.
           b. There is an omission of a clause empowering the Chairman of the NCLAT to determine
              constitution of benches of the NCLAT and the jurisdiction to be exercised by such benches
              and such omission may hamper the functioning of the NCLAT.

(3) WHETHER THE PRESCRIBED QUALIFICATIONS OF THE MEMBERS OF THE TRIBUNAL ARE ADEQUATE
    TO ENABLE THE TRIBUNAL TO EXERCISE ITS JURISDICTION?


In order to be eligible to be the President of the NCLT, a person should have been a High Court judge
for a period of five years. In order to be a "Judicial Member" a per son should have been a judge of a
High Court, a District Judge for at least five years or an advocate of a court for at least ten years. 269 In
order to be eligible to be a "Technical Member", the person should have been

a. A member of the Indian Corporate Law Service or the Indian legal service out of which at least three
   years' of service should be at Joint Secretary level
b. A chartered accountant for at least fifteen years
c. A company secretary for at least fifteen years




269
      Section 409 CA 2013.


                                                    107
The Chairperson of the NCLAT is required to have been a judge of the Supreme Court of India or a
Chief Justice of a High Court.270 A judicial member should have been a judge of a High Court or a
judicial member of the tribunal for five years.271 A technical member is required to have "special
knowledge and experience" in law, industrial finance, et al or has been a presiding officer of a Labour
Court or National Tribunal constituted under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947.272

In so far as the Supreme Court's finding in the NCLT case in respect of the rank of the members being
appointed as "technical members" is concerned, we find that Section 409 and Section 411 would be
contrary to the finding of the Supreme Court that at least Additional Secretary level officers should be
appointed to the NCLT and the NCLAT given the fact that the High Court jurisdiction is being vested
with the Tribunals in question. As such the clauses which permit the appointment of Joint Secretary
level officers may be struck down since it is not keeping in mind the requirement of independence of
the judiciary as has been discussed in the NTT and NCLAT cases. Although Section 411 of CA 2013
does not per se prescribe the eligibility of serving Government officers to be appointed as Technical
Members, the fact that some may be qualified by virtue of the expertise would mean that they would
also have to meet the requirements of the test laid down by the Supreme Court in the NCLT case when
it comes to the question of their rank.

Further, the requirement under Section 409 that a person has to be a High Court judge for a period of
five years to be eligible to be appointed to the NCLT President is unlikely to pass the test of non-
discrimination under Article 14 of the Constitution. While Article 14 of the Constitution permits
classification in a law based on rational and intelligible criteria linked to the purposes of the law, it does
not permit classification on bases that have no relation to the legislation itself.273 As such the category
of High Court judges being created by the Constitution, there cannot be a distinction between the
eligibility of a High Court judge for a post-retirement post in a Tribunal on the basis of the time period
for which they have been High Court judges.

For these reasons we are of the view that:

        a. The requirement of five years of service as a High Court judge for appointment as President
           of the NCLT may be struck down on the ground being unconstitutional.
        b. The eligibility requirement for the members of the Indian Legal Service and Indian Corporate
           Law Service is not in accordance with the Supreme Court's judgment in the NCLT Case and
           is likely to be struck down.

(4) WHETHER THERE IS SUFFICIENT REPRESENTATION FOR LEGALLY TRAINED MEMBERS OF THE
    TRIBUNAL TO HELP PERFORM ADJUDICATORY FUNCTIONS?

Both the NCLT and the NCLAT are composed of judicial and "technical members" though CA 2013
does not give a break-up of the number of judicial and technical members required to be appointed,
leaving it to the discretion of the Central Government. Section 419(3) provides that the powers of the

270
      Section 411(1) CA 2013.
271
      Section 411(2) CA 2013.
272
      Section 411(3) CA 2013.
273
      State of West Bengal v Anwar Ali Sarkar 1952 SCR 284.

                                                     108
Tribunals shall be exercisable by benches consisting of two members, one judicial and one technical
member. This ensures that there is adequate representation of the judicial members in the NCLT
benches charged with hearing cases. In addition, the proviso to sub-section (3) also permits the single
judicial member to exercise the functions of the bench. Moreover, sub-section (4) mandates that the
special benches of the NCLT consisting of more than two members are to necessarily have a majority
of judicial members. However, no similar clauses can be found in the context of the NCLAT. There is
no clarity on the manner in which benches will be constituted and whether there will be a majority of
judicial members on such benches. Read with the absence of a clause delegating powers of management
of the NCLAT to the Chairperson, there is a serious constitutional defect in CA 2013 insofar as
guarantees of independence of the Tribunal are concerned, especially when it has been vested with the
functions hitherto carried out by the High Courts.

For these reasons we are of the view that:

            In the absence of a separate section in pari materia with Section 419 of the CA 2013 dealing
            with the manner of constitution of the Benches of the NCLAT indicating that at least one
            member per Bench should be a judicial member, the NCLAT's constitution may be
            constitutionally invalid.

(5) WHETHER ONLY LEGALLY TRAINED MEMBERS ARE APPOINTED TO THE TRIBUNAL IF SUCH
    TRIBUNAL IS TAKING OVER THE JURISDICTION OF THE COURT?

Since the NCLT has such a wide jurisdiction which are likely to involve issues of fact, the inclusion of
technical members with expertise in chartered accountancy and company secretary work is not
problematic. However, the inclusion of such technical members in the NCLAT, which is supposed to
exercise a purely appellate function, militates against the judgment of the Supreme Court in the NTT
case. Therefore, we are of the view that:

            Where the appeal from an order of the NCLT is in any matter that does not relate to technical
            matters, the bench hearing such matter has to be composed only of judicial members or
            technical members who have legal training as may be specified, else such clause will not
            withstand judicial scrutiny.

(6) WHETHER THE APPOINTMENT, AND TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF SERVICE OF CHAIRPERSON AND
    MEMBERS OF A TRIBUNAL ARE ON PAR WITH THE COURT WHOSE JURISDICTION IS BEING REPLACED
    BY THE TRIBUNAL?


The appointment procedure for the Chairperson of the NCLAT, the President of the NCLT and the
judicial members of the NCLAT is akin to that of the judges of the High Court274 in that the appointment
is made by the Central Government with due consultation by the Chief Justice of India. 275 Given that
the NCLT and the NCLAT both exercise the jurisdiction of a High Court to a certain extent, this is
entirely justified. However, technical members of the NCLT and the NCLAT and the judicial members

274
      See Article 217(1) of the Constitution of India.
275
   Section 412(1) CA 2013. However, since the Chief Justice of the High Court and the State Government are
not involved in the running of or functioning of tribunals, consultation with them would not be relevant in this
context.


                                                         109
of the NCLT are appointed through a selection procedure where their names are recommended by a
selection committee composed of the Chief Justice of India, a judge of the Supreme Court or a Chief
Justice of the High Court, the Secretary of the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, the Secretary of the
Ministry of Law and Justice and the Secretary of the Department of Financial Services, Ministry of
Finance as members.276

While it is understandable that the President or Chairperson of a Tribunal, by virtue of being vested
with powers to run the tribunal should be selected in a different manner from the members of the
tribunal, it is not clear on what basis the distinction between judicial and technical members of the
NCLAT is being made when it comes to the appointment procedure. Such a provision would be, prima
facie, a violation of Article 14 of the Constitution of India. When viewed in light of the fact that in case
of the NCLAT, no distinction is made between the judicial and technical members insofar as their
powers are concerned, Section 412 inasmuch as it relates to the NCLAT members does not seem
constitutionally sustainable. Sub-section (2) of Section 412 is moreover, almost identical to the
provisions of sub-sections (1) and (2) of Section 7 of the National Tax Tribunals Act, 2005 which was
struck down by the Supreme Court. Since the NTT was replacing the High Court, the Court held that
unless the procedure for appointment was identical to that of the High Court, i.e., consultation with the
Chief Justice and not by way of recommendation by a Selection Committee, the provision in question
would amount to an infringement of the independence of the judiciary. Similarly, since the NCLT and
the NCLAT are both replacing the High Court's jurisdiction on various matters, the appointment of
NCLT and NCLAT members must follow the same procedure.

In view thereof:

               a. Sub-section (2) of Section 412 may not be constitutionally valid.
               b. Sub-section (1) of Section 412 may not be constitutionally valid.
____

At present, the nodal ministry for the administration of CA 2013 is the Ministry of Corporate Affairs,
including for matters related to the appointment to NCLT and the NCLAT. As pointed out, the NCLT
and the NCLAT are required to review certain decisions of the Central Government, specifically that
of the Ministry of Corporate Affairs. In such a situation, it would be preferable, to ensure the
independence of the tribunal, that the nodal Ministry be different from the one which is also the litigant
before the tribunal. The Supreme Court had pointed this out as a "defect" in the context of the provisions
of the CA 1956 dealing with the NCLT and NCLAT in the NCLT case.277
__

Recommendations:

          i.      Since a writ petition against the operationalisation of the NCLT and the NCLAT is presently
                  pending before the Supreme Court, the Government may consider making an appropriate
                  representation before the Court stating that it is agreeable to carrying out changes to CA



276
      Section 412(2) of CA 2013.
277
      NCLT case, p 66, para 120.


                                                       110
            2013 in line with the rulings of the Supreme Court discussed above. The following
            amendments are required:

                    Section 419(2) should be amended to provide for at least one bench of the NCLT
                    in every State with a High Court.
                    Section 410 should be amended to provide for setting up a bench of the NCLAT in
                    every State with an NCLT bench.
                    A new clause should be inserted giving the President of the NCLT exclusive power
                    to determine the constitution of benches of the NCLT and the jurisdiction of such
                    benches.
                    A new clause should be inserted giving the Chairman of the NCLAT exclusive
                    power to determine the constitution of benches of the NCLAT and the jurisdiction
                    of such benches.
                    The words "who has been a judge for five years" should be deleted from Section
                    409.
                    Section 409 should be amended to make it clear that only officers who have held a
                    post at Additional Secretary level or higher will be eligible for appointment.
                    A separate clause should be inserted, in pari materia with Section 419 indicating
                    that at least one member of each NCLAT bench will be a judicial member.
                    A clause should be introduced to indicate that in all appeals not involving technical
                    issues, the NCLAT bench hearing such appeals should only comprise judicial
                    members or technical members with legal training, as may be prescribed.
                    The Ministry of Corporate Affairs cannot have representation on the committee to
                    appoint members to the NCLT or the NCLAT. The clauses should be replaced with
                    a provision which gives the Chief Justice of India the final say in the appointment
                    of members to the NCLT and NCLAT, with the relevant inputs being obtained from
                    the concerned ministry.
                    The nodal ministry for the administration of CA 2013 should be different from the
                    Ministry of Corporate Affairs.


6.2. PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE

As mentioned earlier in the Report, Dr. van Zwieten in her recent research findings had concluded that
several practice related innovations may have contributed to the failure of the corporate insolvency
regime in India. These innovations have had a significant impact on how the corporate insolvency
procedures functioned in practice, including by adding significant delay (and a range of associated
costs) to the disposal of proceedings.

For company liquidation, for example, she revealed how changes in practice and procedure in the early
stages of the treatment of a creditor's petition to compulsorily wind-up a company significantly slowed
the process of obtaining a winding-up order. The author emphasised two such changes in particular:

        the development of the judicial practice of issuing a show-cause notice to a debtor company
        prior to the admission of a winding-up petition, leading to a hearing on the question of
        admission (typically on merits) and attendant delays;
        the development of the judicial practice of affording a corporate debtor time to repay all or part
        of the debt owed to a petitioning creditor (including by instalments) over a potentially long
        period of time, prior to the admission of the petition or its advertisement.


                                                  111
She contrasted the position under English law, and suggested that the emergence of these practices in
India was one plausible source of explanation for the difference in time required to obtain a winding-
up order under English law (which as noted above remains similar to India's law on the books, but
functions very differently in practice).

For corporate rescue under the SICA, she revealed a series of innovations that influenced its operation
in practice. Two of the developments that she highlighted were:

           a change in the interpretation of the SICA that diluted the BIFR's power to direct companies
           found incapable of rescue into liquidation, and expanded the power of the High Courts to
           reconsider a company's rescue prospects on the merits. This change was contrary to the
           intention of SICA's drafters, who envisaged an autonomous BIFR insulated (subject only to
           judicial review) from the civil courts;

           relatedly, the development of a judicial practice in the High Courts of permitting the SICA
           companies to explore rehabilitation after the issuance of a liquidation opinion by the BIFR.

She concluded that these developments added significantly to the delays associated with the disposal of
proceedings under the SICA, especially for companies found to be incapable of rescue (that is,
companies that should have been re-directed into liquidation far more swiftly if value maximisation was
the goal).

The BLRC notes that CA 2013 includes certain provisions which may seem reasonable in theory, but
may facilitate delays in practice (for both rescue and liquidation proceedings). For instance, in relation
to rescue proceedings, after a reference has been made, Section 253 (7) requires that before determining
whether a company has become sick, the company should be given a reasonable opportunity to reply.
A similar opportunity to reply is also provided in relation to a winding up petition under Section 274
(1) of CA 2013.Although giving such opportunity to reply seems reasonable, this should not lead to a
situation where the NCLT starts hearing the matter on merits even before admission of a case. Another
significant change in the CA 2013 relates to the power of the NCLT to stay the winding up of the
company. Section 466 of the CA 1956 permits the Court to stay the winding up of a company, even
after the making of a winding up order, without specifying any ground on which such stay can be
permitted. Further, the stay can be of an either of an indefinite duration or for a limited time. However,
Section 289 of CA 2013 permits the stay of winding up, after an order of winding up has been made,
only if it is satisfied that it is just and fair to give an opportunity for rehabilitation of the company .
Further, the stay order can also be granted when it is accompanied with a scheme for rehabilitation and
can operate only for a duration of 180 days. However, there is evidence that the judicial practice of stay
of the winding up order to pursue corporate rescue has only added to the delays in the winding up
process.278 While such power of the NCLT is important for preventing liquidation of viable companies
at the behest of the creditors, caution must be exercised to ensure that unviable companies do not use
this provision for shielding themselves against a winding up order and abusing the process of law.

Further, in relation to rescue proceedings, Section 253 (8) provides that if the NCLT is of the opinion
that the debtor company can repay its debts within a reasonable time, it may allow the company such
time as it may deem fit to make the repayment. As discussed above, in the context of liquidation of

278
      van Zwieten.

                                                   112
companies, research shows that practices that provide for settlement before admission are widely
misused. Debtor companies often request for additional time for repayment and the courts seem to have
allowed such extensions in many cases, leaving creditors extremely disadvantaged. Any provision that
allows the debtor company to exit the proceedings by repaying the debt should be subject to strict-
timelines with no possibility of extension and should also take into account the interests of the non-
petitioning creditors as well.
___

Recommendations:

       i.   The rules for operationalization of the NCLT should specify that (i) whenever a company
            is given an opportunity to file a reply before admission of a petition, the NCLT should not
            hear the matter on merits at that stage, (ii) whenever a company has been given the
            opportunity to repay the debts before admission, such repayment should be as per a
            prescribed schedule (as specified in the order), which shall not be extendable under any
            circumstances and such a repayment related order should take into account the interests
            of all (or substantially all) the creditors and not just the petitioning creditor and (iii) an
            order that stays a winding up order should only be made in exceptional situations (for
            instance where there is evidence to suggest that creditors have abused the process of law
            to obtain a winding up order)­ unviable companies should not be allowed to take the benefit
            of such stays for extraneous considerations. It would be extremely important to develop a
            system for on-going training for the NCLT members and insolvency practitioners to ensure
            that they have complete understanding of (i) the reasons for the failure of the present system
            and (ii) technical issues in liquidation and rescue cases. Further, the relationship between
            the NCLT and the superior courts should be closely monitored and subject to ongoing
            review. The judiciary should be sensitised about (i) the economic costs of delays in
            liquidation and rescue proceedings, (ii) benefits of insulating the NCLT and the NCLAT
            from a review on merits. Lastly, the NCLT and the NCLAT should be required to record
            annual statistical data on matters such as the number of pending cases, the number of cases
            disposed, and the time taken for disposal of cases. This data may be passed on to the
            Government and the Supreme Court on a regular basis, who can evaluate the data based
            on standard efficiency parameters and recommend corrective action for tightening of
            procedural rules as and when required.

      ii.   The NCLT members and insolvency practitioners should receive sufficient training in
            banking, finance, accounting and legal matters. The training component should be
            continuous, requiring such officers to participate in stated minimum training requirements
            annually. The training programs for NCLT members should include a component on the
            nature of cases that warrant adjournments and stay orders. Members of the higher
            judiciary, senior lawyers and chartered accountants, the Indian Institutes of Management,
            the Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs and the National Institute of Public Finance and
            Policy may be requested to design and implement such training programs through an
            institutional set up.




                                                  113
6.3. REGULATION OF INSOLVENCY PRACTITIONERS

Insolvency officials play an integral role in an effective insolvency regime- they are responsible for
operationalising the different insolvency procedure so as to derive the best outcomes for the
stakeholders involved. Insolvency officials are often influenced by the cultural, institutional,
disciplinary and professional backgrounds as well as economic, career and other incentives.279
Therefore, in order for the efficient functioning of the insolvency regime, significant work needs to be
done to develop a framework for the licensing and/or regulation of such professionals in order to ensure
that they have the necessary competence, skill and integrity required for the performance of their
functions.

`Inefficient and overburdened official liquidators' are counted as being one among the primary reasons
for the administrative delays that plague winding up proceedings under that legislation.280 Notably,
under the CA 1956, private, professional liquidators could only be appointed for voluntary winding up
proceedings. That possibility was entirely foreclosed in the winding-up of companies by the court.281
Consequently, to many, the solution (or at least a part of it) to the administrative inefficiency was to
open up a larger section of winding up proceedings to private liquidators.282 This proposal finally came
to fruition in the CA 2013.

While the CA 2013 provides for a fairly comprehensive regime on liquidators, some issues relating to
the appointment, qualification and regulation of private insolvency practitioners as liquidators do
remain. However, CA 2013 provisions in relation to administrators seem fairly underdeveloped.

       A. SAFEGUARDS AS REGARDS QUALIFICATION

Under the CA 2013, a `company liquidator'283 may be appointed from a Central Government panel
consisting of chartered accountants, advocates, company secretaries, cost accountants or firms or,
bodies corporate consisting of such professionals. The sole criterion for the membership of this panel
is that its candidates must possess `at least ten years' experience in company matters.'284 In relation to
administrators, Section 259 provides for the appointment of the interim administrator or the company
administrator by the NCLT from a Central Government database consisting of the names of company
secretaries, chartered accountants, cost accountants and such other professionals as may be specified by
the Central Government. The provision does not provide any additional qualification criteria. It also
does not cover firms or bodies corporate consisting of such professionals (as provided in case of
company liquidators).



279
      Finch
280
   van Zwieten; TCA Anant and Omkar Goswami, `Getting Everything Wrong: India's Policies Regarding "Sick"
Firms' in Dilip Mookherjee (ed), Indian Industry: Policies and Performance (OUP 1995) 283.
281
      Section 448, CA 1956.
282
    PL Sanjeev Reddy, `Good Corporate Governance -- the Road Ahead' in Public Governance and
Decentralisation: Essays in Honour of TN Chaturvedi (New Delhi, 2003 Mittal Publications) 881.
283
    Section 2(23), 275(2), CA 2013.
284
      Section 275(2), CA 2013.


                                                   114
Bodies such as the Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs have therefore recommended that safeguards
for the appointment of candidates to the panel of company liquidators must be augmented: "merely
listing the professions from which company Liquidators should be appointed will not suffice and a set
of minimum qualification should be prescribed before the professionals can be enlisted in the panel so
as to ensure the quality of professionals entering the professionals entering the profession as Company
Liquidators [sic]."285

We believe that this suggestion is well-founded (not only for company liquidators, but also for
administrators). It is also buttressed by the experience from other legal systems. In the UK for example,
the opening up the liquidation proceedings to private `insolvency practitioners' was accompanied by
several safeguards. For example, under the IA 1986, anyone who wishes to practice as an insolvency
practitioner needs to pass examinations on Liquidations, Administrations, Company Voluntary
Arrangements, Receiverships and Personal Insolvency. These examinations are regulated by the Joint
Insolvency Examination Board and meet the authorising body's insolvency experience requirements.
However, the BLRC notes that developing an examination based system may take time and may not be
implementable in the short term. This issue can be revisited at the time of framing the Insolvency Code.

      B. REGULATION OF CONFLICT OF INTERESTS

The possibility that the company liquidator may put herself in a position that results in a conflict of
interests is currently regulated by Section 275(6) of the CA 2013. This provision offers no guidance on
what exactly triggers the `conflict of interests' threshold. As far as administrators are concerned, the
terms of their appointment are entirely left to the discretion of the NCLT (S 259 (2)).

Interestingly, an analogous regulatory scheme may be found in the CA 2013 as far as appointment of
auditors are concerned. Thus, Section 141 (6) lists nine circumstances under which candidates are
prohibited from being appointed as auditors of a company on account of their conflict of interests. Many
of these concerns are equally relevant to company liquidators. Section 141(6) prohibits: (i) an officer
or employee of the company; or (ii) a person who is a partner, or who is in the employment, of an officer
or employee of the company; (iii) a person who, or his relative or partner-- (a) is holding any security
of or interest in the company or its subsidiary or (b) is indebted to the company, or its subsidiary, or its
holding or associate company or a subsidiary of such holding company, in excess of such amount as
may be prescribed; or (c) a person or a firm who, whether directly or indirectly, has business relationship
with the company, or its subsidiary, or its holding or associate company or subsidiary of such holding
company, among others, from acting as auditors.

      C. CODE OF CONDUCT/ETHICS

The Company Liquidator's conduct while in office, and the consequences of misconduct for his/her
continuance as a member of the Central Government panel, are currently governed by S275(4) of the
CA 2013. Section 275(4) provides for the removal of the name of any person or firm or body corporate
from the panel by the Central Government on the grounds of misconduct, fraud, misfeasance, breach of
duties or professional incompetence.




285
   Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs, Need to Regulate & Outline the Qualification of Company Liquidators ,
available at http://www.iica.in/images/1st%20Papers.pdf.

                                                     115
The exceedingly varied nature of potential for misconduct and the difficulty of anticipatory regulation
in this regard make it impossible to lay down precise rules. Besides, the company liquidator will act
under the broad supervision of the NCLT. The broad and suggestive wording of Section 275(4) is
therefore, in our view, appropriate. However, this provision may be usefully supplemented with a model
Code of Conduct and/or a Code of Ethics for company liquidators. Such a model Code will not only
prove to be a useful guide for company liquidators but will also assist the Central Government in
operationalising Section 275(4). The barebones of a model Code of Conduct including a tentative list
of fundamental principles have been suggested by the Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs.286 This may
provide a useful starting point.

In so far as administrators are concerned, as mentioned above, all terms and conditions of their
appointment will be as per the discretion of the NCLT. The BLRC notes that leaving all matters relating
to the appointment of the administrator to the discretion of the NCLT (on a case by case basis) may
create a lot of uncertainty.

       D. REMUNERATION

Remuneration of company liquidators is governed by Section 275(5), CA 2013. The provision provides
for the fixation of fee payable to the company liquidator by the NCLT on the basis of the task required
to be performed by such liquidator, his/her/its experience and qualification and the size of the company.
The remuneration of administrators on the other hand is entirely left to the discretion of the NCLT.

Such provisions are in contrast to the practice followed in jurisdictions such as the UK where insolvency
practitioners' remuneration is fixed by creditors' committees. That methodology has the benefit that it
fosters a competitive market for the services offered by insolvency practitioners. However, it may be
noted that a recent report in the UK reviewing the remuneration of insolvency practitioners has
recommended either regulatory or independent oversight over the fees charged by insolvency
practitioners.287 The BLRC is of the opinion that the remuneration of the insolvency practitioners in
India should also be determined by the creditors (with appropriate supervision by the NCLT). In
relation to liquidators, such remuneration may be a combination of: (a) payment dependent on the
number of hours employed; (b) fixed fee; (c) payment based on the percentage of realisations. In relation
to administrators, such remuneration may be a combination of (a) payment dependent on the number
of hours employed; (b) fixed fee; (c) payment based on the turn-around of a business or percentage of
realisations for the creditors. Such an approach will ensure that, while some part of the insolvency
practitioner's fee is pre-determined, some share of it depends on the assets realised or turn-around of
business (in case of an administrator). This can be expected in turn to incentivise efficient realisation of
the company's assets and genuine efforts towards turnaround of viable companies.
___

Recommendations:

                 The Ministry of Corporate Affairs informed the BLRC that it is already in the process of
                 developing rules that will provide for a detailed criteria for qualification (including

286
      Ibid.
287
     E Kempson, Review of Insolvency Practitioner Fees: Report to the Insolvency Service ,
 (accessed 30th October,
2014).

                                                     116
   experience in insolvency matters), disqualification and regulation of insolvency
   practitioners. In view of that representation, a specific amendment may not be required at
   this stage. Such rules should also provide for a code of ethics and address issues relating
   to conflict of interests (for liquidators, administrators, including any directors nominated
   by the administrators and experts/professionals engaged by such liquidators or
   administrators).
   Section 259 (1) should be amended to include `turn-around specialists' or `business
   consultants' specialising in insolvency matters as professionals who may be appointed as
   `interim administrators' or `company administrators', subject to any additional
   qualification criteria that may be laid down by the Government. Lastly, firms or bodies
   corporate consisting of professionals envisaged in Section 259 (1) should also be eligible
   to be appointed as `interim administrators' or `company administrators.
   Sections 275 should be amended to specify that the remuneration payable to the company
   liquidator shall be determined by the creditors as per the rules prescribed by the Central
   Government.




                                        117
7. SAFE HARBOURS IN INSOLVENCY

7.1. INTRODUCTION

Safe harbour provisions exist in the laws of several international which exempt financial contracts
(including contracts in securities, derivatives in various asset classes, repo transactions, contracts
entered into on recognized securities exchanges etc.) from the normal operation of insolvency laws.
Safe Harbour provisions provide exemption from several crucial features of general insolvency law to
financial contracts within their scope including exemption from:(i) the mandatory stays on enforcement
upon the contractual counterparty's entry into formal insolvency proceedings (for instance, the
provision for moratorium under Section 253 (2) or stay of suits on a winding up order under Section
279 of CA 2013); (ii) the prohibition on the exercise of termination provisions exercisable upon the
entry of the contractual counterparty into formal insolvency proceedings; and (iii) liquidator or other
relevant office holder's rights to challenge and avoid transactions entered into at an undervalue or prefer
select classes of creditors (Sections 328, 329 of CA 2013 ) .

These provisions are referred to as "Safe Harbour" provisions since they are seen as providing safe
harbours to financial contracts from the normal operation of insolvency legislation.

The nature and types of financial contracts covered by such Safe Harbour provisions and the content of
the insolvency law provisions exempted or suspended vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Safe
Harbour provisions in the US are contained in the Bankruptcy Code and in Europe, were introduced
through a number of Directives including the Settlement Finality Directive and the Financial Collateral
Directive at the European Union level. The underlying rationale provided for the various types of Safe
Harbour provisions is broadly similar across jurisdictions. It is argued that Safe Harbour provisions
provide certainty and predictability for market participants, ensure stability of financial markets and
avoid contagion effects by allowing counterparties to terminate contracts with insolvent/near-insolvent
entities and limiting the extent of losses suffered by such counterparties.

7.2. RATIONALE AND CRITIQUES OF SAFE HARBOUR PROVISIONS

The arguments in favour of Safe Harbour provisions highlight the utility of such provisions in limiting
the "contagion" or "domino" effects which may potentially arise as a result of the insolvency or failure
of a financial market participant. Such spillover risks could arise in the event that other market
participants who are exposed to the failing institution themselves fall into financial risk if they are not
allowed to exercise their contractual enforcement rights and rights to collateral. In addition, proponents
of Safe Harbour provisions also point to the fact that such provisions permit credit to be extended to
institutions in difficulty by alleviating some effects of the debt overhang problem. 288

Another positive effect often alluded to is that (especially in the context of the repo market), in the
absence of Safe Harbour provisions, valuable, liquid financial collateral will be tied up in the insolvency
proceedings of a failed market participant and reduce systemic liquidity should counterparties not be

288
   Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, "Study on the Resolution of Financial Companies under
the Bankruptcy Code" (2011) citing Harold S. Novikoff and Sandeep C. Ramesh, "Special Bankruptcy Code
Protections for Derivatives and other Financial Market Transactions" (2009) (hereinafter referred to as "Novikoff
& Ramesh").


                                                      118
allowed to liquidate such collateral in the enforcement of their claims. As a corollary, Safe Harbour
provisions in benign market conditions increase liquidity and reduce financing costs for borrowers.
Since creditors who lend money on the back of financial contracts can rely on Safe Harbour provisions
to enforce in the event of insolvency, they do not have to charge interest rates commensurate with the
level of risk associated with the borrower in the absence of such provisions (which are presumed to be
higher). Safe Harbour provisions are also claimed to alleviate market risk. In the absence of such
provisions, it is argued that market makers such as banks would be faced with unhedgeable uncertainties
associated with the stay on enforcement associated with insolvency law and would thus be
disincentivised from providing these hedging services. 289

In summary, the most often cited benefits of Safe Harbour provisions are (a) reduction in systemic risks
and spillover/domino effects and (b) reduction in uncertainty and financing costs and increase in
liquidity.

However recently, several academics have questioned these traditional justifications for the Safe
Harbour provisions. It has been argued that Safe Harbour provisions, far from ameliorating systemic
risks actually exacerbate them and any potential benefits in the form of reduced financing costs
increased liquidity are more than offset by increased costs arising as a result of the increase in systemic
risks and the increased likelihood of firm failure caused by such Safe Harbour provisions.

Certain academics290 argue that Safe Harbour provisions have a negative impact on systemic risk in the
financial system. Interconnectedness in the financial system, especially in derivatives industry is often
cited in order to support Safe Harbour provisions - with high levels of concentration in the financial
industry, failure of one market participant greatly increases the likelihood of systemic collapse.
However, Safe Harbour provisions also make it more likely that the troubled systemically important
financial institution does fail by allowing its financial counterparties to enforce their contractual and
collateral rights without being subject to stay - which is what appears to have happened in the case of
Lehman Brothers and AIG in 2008.291 Additionally, Safe Harbour provisions in fact aid market
concentration and interconnectedness by making financial contracts which fall within the Safe Harbour
artificially attractive. Permitting contractual and close-out netting allows counterparties to increase their
exposures to other financial counterparties beyond what would have been permissible absent such
exemptions which in turn result in greater concentration.292

Unrestricted close-out netting and collateral rights in insolvency also dry up liquidity for the troubled
firm when it needs it the most. Given such rights under the Safe Harbour provisions, financial
counterparties rush to close out their existing positions and liquidate their collateral at `fire sale' prices.
Absent such rights, these counterparties, it could be argued, would have been persuaded, along with
other creditors of the firm to inject additional capital in the struggling firm in order to achieve a turn

289
      Novikoff & Ramesh.
290
   Steven L Schwarz, "Derivatives and Collateral: Balancing Remedies and Systemic Risk" (2014), Charles W.
Mooney Jr., "The Bankruptcy Code's Safe Harbours for Settlement Payments and Security Contracts: When is
safe too safe?" (2014) and Mark J Roe, "The Derivatives Market Payment Priorities as Financial Crisis
Accelerators" (2011) (hereinafter referred to as "Roe")
291
      Roe.
292
      Roe; Morrison et al, "Rolling back the Repo Safe Harbours" (2014) (hereinafter referred to as "Morrison").


                                                        119
around. In other words, Safe Harbour provisions impact one of the primary objectives of bankruptcy
legislation ­ the rescue of economically viable businesses. This, academics generally agree is what
happened during the 2008 crisis ­ manifesting in the form of accelerated collateral calls on the Repo
markets against troubled financial institutions- the "run on the repo markets".293

There is an additional issue involved with permitting unrestricted close out netting and collateral
liquidation. A counterparty which has in its possession collateral of a troubled company is often tempted
to liquidate such collateral at fire sale prices in the market. While, from a firm stand point such behavior
may be rational in that the selling firm earns more by liquidation than by holding off from liquidating,
rapid reduction of asset prices cause a negative externality in the market - especially where market
participants are obliged to adopt mark-to-market accounting principles and re-value the assets on their
books on a periodic basis. In conditions of market stress with depressed asset prices, fire sales of
financial collateral, further reduces the value of these assets and calls into question the solvency of all
institutions holding these assets on their balance sheet ­ again, a lesson painfully learnt in the financial
crisis.294

Safe Harbour provisions also distort the incentives of contractual counterparties by reducing incentives
of counterparties to monitor the financial health of the debtor closely. As a corollary poorly managed
debtors also have an incentive to grow quickly relying on the short term financing provided by financial
counterparties (in the repo markets etc.) who are not incentivized to monitor the debtor. Given
unrestricted close out netting and right to liquidate collateral in the event of insolvency, contractual
counterparties of a failing debtor are looking to the value of the collateral and their exposures in making
credit decisions rather than looking at the underlying financial health of the debtor. This induces
increased risk taking by debtors, increase in the size of poorly monitored and highly leveraged debtors
and increased systemic risk in the financial system.295

In spite of the above arguments, academics who are critical of the Safe Harbour provisions do not
advocate their wholesale repeal.296 In particular, many critics recognize the key function Safe Harbour
provisions play in ensuring the liquidity of cash and cash-like collateral (such government securities).
However, many question the unthinking extension of the Safe Harbour provisions to a wide variety of
financial contracts (at the extreme, extremely illiquid sub-prime mortgages backed securities) and call
for a principled debate on the scope and extent of such provisions especially given their path dependent
history. 297

7.3. POST-2008 RESPONSES TO SAFE HARBOUR PROVISIONS

The legal and regulatory response to the Global Financial Crisis acknowledged the crisis accelerating
effects induced by the Safe Habour provisions in the run up to the insolvency of Lehman Brothers and
the bail out of AIG. However, no jurisdiction has yet taken the step of enacting a wholesale repeal of

293
      Gorton and Metrick, "Securitized Banking and the Run on the Repo " (2009).
294
      Roe.
295
      Ibid.
296
      David A Skeel and Thomas H Jackson, "Transaction Consistency and the New Finance in Bankruptcy" (2011).
297
      Morrison.


                                                       120
the Safe Harbour provisions. Wide ranging proposals to amend the Safe Harbour provisions of the US
Bankruptcy Code have been made by some lawmakers in the US and the effect of such a repeal is being
studied by the US Bankruptcy Institute.298 However no wholesale repeal has been successful in any
jurisdiction yet. Instead, steps have been taken with the aim of making certain limited inroads into the
scope and extent of Safe Harbour provisions and targeting the most deleterious effects of Safe Harbour
provisions.

The Financial Stability Board, as part of its "Key Attributes of Effective Resolution Regimes for
Financial Institutions" has set out certain limited changes which are required to be made to Safe Harbour
provisions in the interests of efficient and speedy resolution of financial institutions. The FSB
recognizes that:

"In the case of a SIFI, the termination of large volumes of financial contracts upon entry into resolution
could result in a disorderly rush for the exits that creates further market instability and frustrates the
implementation of resolution measures aimed at achieving continuity. The Key Attributes (see Key
Attribute 4.3) stipulate that, subject to adequate safeguards, entry into resolution and the exercise of
any resolution powers should not constitute an event that entitles the counterparty of the firm in
resolution to exercise early termination rights provided the substantive obligations under the contract,
including payment and delivery obligations, and provision of collateral, continue to be performed.
Should early termination rights nevertheless be exercisable, the resolution authority should have the
power to stay temporarily such rights where they arise by reason only of entry into resolution or in
connection with the use of resolution powers and provided that the substantive obligations under the
contract, including payment and delivery obligations, and provision of collateral, continue to be
performed."299

The FSB has also set out the scope and content of such "temporary stay" power of the resolution
authority and the safeguards which must be exercised by the resolution authority. Such a temporary
stay, although only applying in respect of a financial institution constitutes a significant departure from
the principles underpinning the Safe Harbour provisions. In recommending this approach, the FSB
appears to have been clearly led by the experience of the Lehman insolvency and the AIG bailout during
the 2008 crisis.

7.4. THE SEBI PROPOSAL

SEBI submitted a proposal to the BLRC (the "SEBI Proposal") which require amendments to be made
to the SCRA with the aim of (a) ensuring priority rights for Clearing Corporations in the collateral
posted with them by Clearing Participants and (b) ensuring Settlement Finality in the capital markets.
This section will consider both elements of the SEBI proposal in the international regulatory context
and discuss the legislative changes proposed by SEBI in order to implement the proposal. A copy of
the proposal is enclosed as Annexure - 1 to this Report.

The necessity to ensure the priority of the rights of clearing corporations and other financial market
infrastructure providers ("FMIs") has been recognized in their international regulatory response to the


298
      Financial Times, "Plans afoot to narrow US Safe Harbour Statutes" (2013).
299
      Financial Stability Board, ""Key Attributes of Effective Resolution Regimes for Financial Institutions" (2014).


                                                         121
2008 financial crisis. In fact, the requirement to have OTC derivatives contracts mandatorily traded on
exchange and centrally cleared was one of the essential articulated tenets of the G20 summit at
Pittsburgh which set out the internationally coordinated response to the 2008 financial crisis.

The Principles of Financial Market Infrastructures published by CPSS-IOSCO300 contain several crucial
principles which are considered to be essential in order to establish and operate efficient FMIs whilst
minimizing systemic risks in the financial system. FMIs include the systems that clear, settle and record
financial transactions in the financial system and thus include clearing corporations, settlement systems
and trade repositories. The CPSS-IOSCO Principles highlight "Legal Risks" as one of the key risks
faced by FMIs and require a very high level of legal certainty to be established in the operations of
FMIs.

In the particular context of priority over clearing member collateral, the CPSS-IOSCO Principles state:

"In addition, the legal basis should provide certainty, where applicable, with respect to an FMI's
interests in, and rights to use and dispose of, collateral; an FMI's authority to transfer ownership rights
or property interests; and an FMI's rights to make and receive payments, in all cases, notwithstanding
the bankruptcy or insolvency of its participants, participants' customers, or custodian bank. Also, the
FMI should structure its operations so that its claims against collateral provided to it by a participant
should have priority over all other claims, and the claims of the participant to that same collateral
should have priority over the claims of third-party creditors."

"If an FMI relies on a title transfer, including transfer of full ownership, it should have a high degree
of certainty that the transfer is validly created in the relevant jurisdiction and will be enforced as agreed
and not recharacterised, for example, as an invalid or unperfected pledge or some other unintended
category of transaction. An FMI should also have a high degree of certainty that the transfer itself is
not voidable as an unlawful preference under insolvency law."

"Netting arrangements should be designed to be explicitly recognised and supported under the law and
enforceable against an FMI and an FMI's failed participants in bankruptcy. Without such legal
underpinnings, net obligations may be challenged in judicial or administrative insolvency proceedings.
If these challenges are successful, the FMI and its participants could be liable for gross settlement
amounts that could drastically increase obligations because gross obligations could be many multiples
of net obligations."

"The rules, procedures, and contracts related to an FMI's operation should be enforceable in all
relevant jurisdictions. In particular, the legal basis should support the enforceability of the participant-
default rules and procedures that an FMI uses to handle a defaulting or insolvent participant, especially
any transfers and close-outs of a direct or indirect participant's assets or positions (see also Principle
13 on participant-default rules and procedures). An FMI should have a high degree of certainty that
such actions taken under such rules and procedures will not be voided, reversed, or subject to stays,
including with respect to the resolution regimes applicable to its participants. Ambiguity about the
enforceability of procedures could delay and possibly prevent an FMI from taking actions to fulfil its
obligations to non-defaulting participants or to minimise its potential losses. Insolvency law should
support isolating risk and retaining and using collateral and cash payments previously paid into an

300
  The Committee on Payment and Settlement Systems (CPSS) and the International Organization of Securities
Commissions (IOSCO)

                                                    122
FMI, notwithstanding a participant default or the commencement of an insolvency proceeding against
a participant."

All the above requirements are clearly intended at extending a version of the Safe Harbour provisions
discussed earlier to the operation of FMIs. The international regulatory consensus being, that given that
FMIs are clearly systemically important institutions by definition and given the concentration of
financial exposures in such FMIs, the costs of introducing such Safe Harbour provisions in respect of
FMIs (if any) are far outweighed by the benefits of ensuring legal and operational certainty in the
functioning of FMIs.

The statement in the CPSS-IOSCO Principles extracted above which states: "An FMI should have a
high degree of certainty that such actions taken under such rules and procedures will not be voided,
reversed, or subject to stays, including with respect to the resolution regimes applicable to its
participants" may appear to be contradictory with the FSB Key attributes discussed earlier. However,
both the CPSS-IOSCO Principles and the FSB key Attributes address this apparent contradiction by
clarifying that the temporary stay under the FSB Key Attributes will only apply to termination rights or
other actions taken by contractual counterparties "based solely upon the entry into resolution or the
exercise of resolution powers". If the financial institution in resolution fail to meet any payment or
delivery obligation, the FSB Key Attributes clearly envisage a situation where the FMI is permitted to
enforce its termination or other rights against a clearing member.

Another aspect of the issue is worth highlighting. In order for the priority rights of FMIs and the FMI
related Safe Harbour provisions to work robustly, it may be necessary that the Safe Harbour provisions
applying to other market participants be restricted. As discussed, negative externalities such as
depreciation of asset prices as result of fire sales in the context of all market participants exercising their
rights to liquidate collateral actually diminish the capacity of FMIs to deal with the insolvency of a
clearing member in an orderly manner. Similar arguments can be made in respect of each of the other
rights afforded by the Safe Harbour provisions to non FMI market participants. This is an issue that is
worth considering in the context of amending the laws in order to provide for legal certainty for FMI
operation.

In respect of Settlement Finality, the CPSS-IOSCO Principles state as follows:

"Settlement finality
3.1.6. There should be a clear legal basis regarding when settlement finality occurs in an FMI in order
to define when key financial risks are transferred in the system, including the point at which transactions
are irrevocable. Settlement finality is an important building block for risk-management systems (see
also Principle 8). An FMI should consider, in particular, the actions that would need to be taken in the
event of a participant's insolvency. A key question is whether transactions of an insolvent participant
would be honoured as final, or could be considered void or voidable by liquidators and relevant
authorities. In some countries, for example, so-called "zero-hour rules" in insolvency law can have the
effect of reversing a payment that appears to have been settled in a payment system.26 Because this
possibility can lead to credit and liquidity risks, zero-hour rules that undermine settlement finality
should be eliminated. An FMI also should consider the legal basis for the external settlement
mechanisms it uses, such as funds transfer or securities transfer systems. The laws of the relevant
jurisdictions should support the provisions of the FMI's legal agreements with its participants and
settlement banks relating to finality."


                                                     123
In view of the above, the BLRC agrees with the SEBI proposal to amend the SCRA as specified in
Annexure -1. The Government may also consider if similar protections should be available for other
FMIs as well. Given the systemic issues linked to such provisions (as discussed in Section 7.3 above),
the law on insolvency resolution of banks and financial institutions may provide for the interplay
between such settlement and netting provisions and the resolution rules applicable to such banks and
financial institutions. In particular, such law may clarify, in line with the FSB Key Attributes that any
rights which are vested in the FMIs and which purport to take effect solely as a result of a financial
institution entering into resolution will not be exempted from the temporary stay.
__________________

Recommendations:

       i.   The BLRC agrees with the SEBI proposal to amend the Securities Contracts Regulation
            Act, 1956 ("SCRA") to provide for certain safe harbours (provisions on settlement and
            netting) for certain financial contracts, which provide exemptions from the normal
            operation of insolvency law as specified in Annexure 1.

Questions for Consideration:

      ii.   What should be nature and scope of Safe Harbour provisions for the proposed Insolvency
            Code?




                                                  124
8. INSOLVENCY RESOLUTION OF MSMES
As per a report of the International Finance Corporation of the Word Bank Group301, "Proprietorship
is the most commonly adopted ownership structure (94.5 percent of all MSMEs)" among MSMEs. The
report goes on to state that other ownership structures include partnerships and cooperatives (1.2%),
and companies (0.8%). These figures seem to be corroborated by the Damodaran Committee Report for
Reforming the Regulatory Environment for Doing Business in India (appointed in response to the
`Doing Business Report, 2012' of the World Bank), which notes that "97% of MSMEs are
proprietorship firms or partnerships and do not have an adequate recourse for winding up the business
under the Companies Act. Similarly, there are no bankruptcy laws akin to those prevailing in developed
countries to facilitate the winding up of uneconomic units in an orderly fashion"302 These figures are
further corroborated by a representation received by the BLRC from the ` Chamber of Small Industry
Associations'. Given that most MSMEs in India operate in the form of sole proprietorships, their
insolvency resolution is largely dependent on personal insolvency laws (which have proved to be very
ineffective in practice). Although the RBI has issued instructions to banks on revival of sick micro and
small enterprises or MSEs, the said guidelines do not apply to medium enterprises. In order to
effectively address issues relating to insolvency of MSMEs, the personal insolvency regime needs be
substantively reformed. Although issues relating to personal insolvency shall be covered in detail in the
final report of the BLRC, it would be useful to provide a brief overview of the personal insolvency
regime here to highlight some of the key areas of concern.

8.1. PERSONAL INSOLVENCY LAWS

Personal insolvency is primarily governed under the Presidency Towns Insolvency Act, 1909 and the
Provincial Insolvency Act, 1920. Though these are central laws, it should be noted that both these Acts
have a number of state amendments. The substantive provisions under the two Acts are largely similar.
There have not been any substantial changes to this regime over the years and it has proved to be largely
ineffective practice, being costly and time consuming.303

Under both the Acts, an individual must be determined to be insolvent before the substantive provisions
become applicable.304 In order to be declared an insolvent, the individual must be a debtor, a category
that includes judgement debtors.305 A creditor or debtor can petition to have a debtor declared insolvent
if he owes at least 500 rupees.306 Further, in case of a petition by a creditor, the insolvent should have

301
  Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Finance in India, A Research Study on Needs, Gaps and Way Forward
(November 2012).
302
  Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Report of the Committee for Reforming the Regulatory Environment for Doing
Business in India (2013).
303
   See D E Solan, `How Consumer Bankruptcy Reforms can Help Save Microfinance in India' (2011) 13 Oregon
Review of International Law 317; A Feibelman, `Consumer Finance and Insolvency Law in India: A Case Study',
(2010) 36 Brooklyn Journal of International Law 75 (hereinafter referred to as "Feibelman") .
304
      Feibelman.
305
   Section 2(b), Presidency Towns Insolvency Act 1909; Section 2(a), Provincial Insolvency Act 1920;
Feibelman.
306
   See Sections 12, 14, Presidency Towns Insolvency Act 1909; Sections 9-10, Provincial Insolvency Act 1920;
Feibelman.

                                                    125
committed an `act of insolvency' within three months before the presentation of the petition.307 An `act
of insolvency' includes transferring all of most of one's assets, taking action to defeat or delay one's
creditors, filing a petition of insolvency, giving notice to creditors that one is not going to pay an
obligation, having property sold in execution of a court decree, or failing to respond to a creditor's
notice of insolvency.308

The courts are given considerable powers under these Acts. A petition for declaring insolvency cannot
be withdrawn without permission of the court.309 The court has the authority to dismiss petitions filed
by debtors or creditors that do not conform to the statutory requirements, if it determines that the debtor
has the capacity to pay his obligation or if it finds that the petition has been filed to harass or intimidate
the debtor.310 Usually after the debtor has been adjudged an insolvent, the courts have the power to stay
other proceedings affecting an insolvent's property and efforts to collect obligations of the insolvent or
allow them to continue.311

The creditors submit claims against the debtor to the court, and the presiding court is given broad
authority to determine the assets of the debtor that are available to creditors, subject to the property that
is exempt from recovery.312 The unsecured property of the insolvent vests in the court or an official
receiver/ assignee appointed by the court.313 The debtor is given an opportunity to make a proposal of
composition to his creditors, which must be accepted by the creditors and then approved by the receiver
or court.314 Priority is given to government claims, certain administrative costs, and obligations owed
to landlords.315

Where the debtor's assets cannot satisfy his obligations, he can apply within a certain period after being
adjudged an insolvent for the discharge of debts under certain circumstances.316 The court makes the
determination and discharges are subject to considerable judicial discretion, including the grant of
conditional discharge.317 A discharge would be granted only if the debtor fully satisfies the requirements


307
   See Sections 12 Presidency Towns Insolvency Act 1909; Sections 9-10, Provincial Insolvency Act 1920;
Feibelman.
308
      See Section 9, Presidency Towns Insolvency Act 1909; Section 6, Provincial Insolvency Act 1920; Feibelman.
309
      Sections 13(8), 15(2), Presidency Towns Insolvency Act 1909; Section 14, Provincial Insolvency Act 1920.
310
   Section 13(4), Presidency Towns Insolvency Act 1909; Section 25, Provincial Insolvency Act 1920;
Feibelman.
311
      Section 18, Presidency Towns Insolvency Act 1909; Section 29, Provincial Insolvency Act 1920; Feibelman.
312
  Sections 26, 36, 46, 52, Presidency Towns Insolvency Act 1909; Sections 28(5), 33, 34, Provincial Insolvency
Act 1920; Feibelman.
313
      Section 17, Presidency Towns Insolvency Act 1909; Section 28 Provincial Insolvency Act 1920; Feibelman.
314
   Sections 28-30, Presidency Towns Insolvency Act 1909; Sections 38-39 Provincial Insolvency Act 1920;
Feibelman.
315
      Section 49, Presidency Towns Insolvency Act 1909; Section 61, Provincial Insolvency Act 1920.
316
      Section 38, Presidency Towns Insolvency Act 1909; Section 41, Provincial Insolvency Act 1920; Feibelman.
317
      Section 38, Presidency Towns Insolvency Act 1909; Section 41, Provincial Insolvency Act 1920; Feibelman.

                                                       126
set by the court and/or official receiver.318 In addition, the court has the power to refuse discharge in a
number of cases, such as when a debtor has previously received a discharge or if the court determines
that the debtor has brought on or contributed to his insolvency due to a number of reasons.319 Finally,
certain obligations are non-dischargeable, such as government obligations, debts as a consequence of
fraud or arising from criminal penalties.320

The personal insolvency regime in India has not seen many substantive changes over the years and has
proved to be very ineffective in practice. Studies indicate that the Indian system is prone to delays, and
does not provide sufficient incentives for the debtors or the creditors to initiate proceedings. Moreover,
the system remains inaccessible for a large section of the society due the costs associated with initiating
proceedings and does not facilitate rehabilitation of the insolvent individual. The present law on
personal insolvency provides considerable powers to the courts on various matters, which require
detailed adjudication at several stages. For instance, the moratorium (that suspends individual
enforcement rights) can only be imposed after a court `declares' that the concerned person is insolvent.
If the assets of a bankrupt individual are not sufficient to discharge his obligations, the law permits
discharge of the outstanding obligations in certain circumstances that are again subject to the discretion
of the courts. Such provisions requiring adjudication at the early stages of the proceedings subject the
system to considerable delays. Further, the jurisdiction for most insolvency petitions in the country lies
with the district courts or sub-ordinate courts under such district courts (under the Provincial Insolvency
Act 1920), which are already overburdened.

8.2. THE RBI'S EXISTING FRAMEWORK

A Working Group on Rehabilitation of Sick SMEs was set up by the RBI in 2008 that looked at issues
related to rehabilitation of sick micro and small enterprises and suggested remedial measures for the
rehabilitation of such enterprises321. The report of the RBI Working Group looked at the available data
on sick MSEs as well as the causes for such sickness. It concluded that market issues, management
issues, diversion of funds, technical obsolescence, delayed or inadequate working capital, wilful default
or diversion of funds and delayed realisation of receivables were the major causes of sickness among
MSEs. It noted that depending on the viability of the entity, there was a need to have an efficient and
swift exit mechanism providing for recovery of dues for lenders for terminally ill entities, and timely
and effective rehabilitation for viable entities. The report envisaged that such rehabilitation could be
by way of renegotiation of loans, induction of fresh funds, business restructuring, change of
management, etc.

The RBI has issued new guidelines for revival and rehabilitation on sick micro and small enterprises (it
does not cover medium enterprises) that incorporate several recommendations of the Working Group
Report.322 The RBI guidelines require bank branches to intervene and take remedial action when early


318
      Feibelman.
319
      Sections 38-9, Presidency Towns Insolvency Act 1909; Sections 41-2 of Provincial Insolvency Act 1920.
320
      Section 45, Presidency Towns Insolvency Act 1909; Section 44, Provincial Insolvency Act 1920; Feibelman.
321
      Report of Working Group on Rehabilitation of Sick SMEs (2008).
322
      RBI Guidelines for Rehabilitation of Sick Micro and Small Enterprises, RBI/2012-13/273, 1 November 2012.


                                                       127
signs of sickness are detected. The said guidelines also require a viability study to be conducted on
concerned units and allow only such units to be rehabilitated that are viable or at least potentially viable.
The guidelines exclude units that have become sick on account of wilful mismanagement and wilful
default. However, the RBI guidelines still use the outdated concept of net worth erosion as one of the
criteria for determination of sickness. In addition to this, the RBI has also advised banks to put in place
a `one-time settlement scheme' for recovery of non-performing loans to MSEs.323


8.3. A STATUTORY ADMINISTRATIVE MECHANISM FOR RESTRUCTURING OF MSME
        DEBTS

As mentioned above, effective insolvency resolution of MSMEs requires large scale reforms to the
personal insolvency regime. The proposed Insolvency Code will be a comprehensive law that will not
only cover companies and other forms of business enterprises, but also provide a detailed and modern
framework (and institutions) for resolution of personal insolvencies. It is expected that an efficient
mechanism for resolving personal insolvencies will not only benefit insolvent sole proprietorships and
individuals but also the lenders by providing a predictable system of collective recovery. However,
developing such a comprehensive code and its operationalization through appropriate institutions will
require time. The BLRC is of the opinion that in the given circumstances, it will be appropriate to
suggest a measure that alleviates the situation of MSMEs under financial distress, but does not
undermine the long term reform of introducing an Insolvency Code. The BLRC notes that a key concern
among MSMEs under financial distress is that the banks are too quick to initiate recovery proceedings
against MSMEs in the event of a default (irrespective of the viability of the entity). Although the RBI
guidelines discussed above require banks to address this concern by exploring different restructuring
alternatives after conducting a viability study, anecdotal evidence suggests that many banks continue to
initiate recovery proceedings notwithstanding whether the unit is viable or not. Further, such RBI
guidelines are not applicable to medium enterprises. Moreover, RBI's CDR framework only applies
for accounts involving multiple banks with an outstanding total debt of INR 10 crore or more.
Consequently, a medium enterprise under financial distress that has availed of credit facilities under
INR 10 crore is left with no recourse for out-of-court debt restructuring.

Notwithstanding the above discussion, rescue mechanisms involving courts/tribunals or administrators
and liquidators can be very costly. Most MSMEs typically have very few assets (especially the service
enterprises). In many cases involving small businesses, the cost of such court/tribunal driven
proceedings can be disproportionate to the size of the assets under consideration. In view thereof, the
BLRC is proposing the following administrative mechanism for restructuring of MSME debts and
recommending that it be given statutory status. The proposed mechanism, if implemented effectively,
will provide much needed relief to viable MSMEs under financial distress without involving the
crippling costs associated with formal rescue mechanisms involving administrators and courts/tribunals.
Moreover, the proposed mechanism will require banks to explore such restructuring for viable
businesses only, and is not intended to allow unviable MSMEs to continue operating for extraneous
considerations. The MSME community must also realise that an insolvency mechanism that allows
unviable businesses to continue operating at the cost creditors will only harm their own interests. The
rational reaction of the creditors to an insolvency law that facilitates unviable businesses to continue
operating will be to either stop or reduce lending or increase the cost of lending. Therefore, a pro-debtor
rescue regime that does not protect the interests of creditors adequately may significantly increase the


323
      RBI Guidelines for Credit delivery to the Micro and Small Enterprises Sector, RBI/2008-09/467, May 4, 2009.

                                                        128
cost of capital for MSMEs. Given that other modes of raising finance (like public issuances in capital
markets) are not easily accessible for them, MSMEs with limited assets will find it extremely difficult
to raise any finance in such a situation.

The Proposal

The BLRC proposes an administrative mechanism for resolving financial distress of viable MSMEs.
Such mechanism can be operationalized through bodies called `Committees for Distressed Micro, Small
and Medium Enterprises' to be established by the banks at such centres as may be considered necessary
by the board of directors of the banks to ensure reasonable access to its eligible MSME customers. The
composition of the Committee, the terms of appointment of its members, the manner of filling
vacancies, and the procedure to be followed in the discharge of the Committee's functions can be as
prescribed by the Central Government, in consultation with the RBI. The eligibility criteria and the
grounds for filing an application and the time limits for filing such application will be in accordance
with the norms prescribed by the RBI. Any eligible MSMEs under financial distress or a concerned
bank will be able to initiate proceedings before such Committees for the formulation of a `Corrective
Action Plan'. A Corrective Action Plan or CAP shall mean a plan to resolve financial distress in a
micro, small or medium enterprise to arrive at an early and feasible solution to preserve the economic
value of the underlying assets as well as the loans under consideration in such manner as may be
prescribed by the RBI (a CAP could also include an action for recovery). At the time of making an
application, or at the time of submitting its first representation to the Committee (whichever is earlier)
the MSME will be required to disclose all its liabilities as on the date of such application or response
(as the case may be), including the liabilities owed to the Government and other unsecured creditors.
This will enable the Committee to take the interests of such other creditors into account while
formulating a scheme of revival.

As per a report on Financing of MSMEs prepared by the International Finance Corporation in 2012,
"Microenterprises are found to have a finance relationship with a single bank, while small and medium
enterprises are found to have finance relationships with more than one bank (average of two financial
institutions per enterprise)". In case of an application involving multiple banks, the Committee of the
lead bank will decide the matter. In such cases, the Committee will also have representatives from other
banks in accordance with norms prescribed by the RBI. The rules governing the interrelation among
banks in such cases will also be prescribed by the RBI. Until the Committee decides on an application
or the implementation of a CAP, (a) the concerned bank/banks and the MSMEs shall not initiate any
legal proceedings against each other and (b) all legal proceedings relating to the recovery of debt shall
be stayed (in a manner as may be specified). A decision of the Committee to initiate recovery action
could also be subject to a review process on limited grounds.

The above mechanism can be given statutory status by introducing an amendment to the Micro Small
and Medium Enterprises Development Act, 2006 ("MSMED Act"). The amendment will also empower
the RBI to issue regulations for smooth operation of the mechanism.


8.4. VOLUNTARY AUCTIONS FOR SMALL BUSINESSES

A small business seeking rescue protection could be subjected to voluntary auction of the entire
business. The proceeds of the auction could be distributed among the different stakeholders in the same
order of priority as provided for in the liquidation/personal insolvency regime. Auctions, either as pre-


                                                   129
packs or in bankruptcy, have been utilized under the Swedish bankruptcy system with success- they
have been found to be a speedy, low-cost bankruptcy procedure.324 Under the Swedish system, firms
filing for bankruptcy are mandatorily auctioned off under the supervision of a court-appointed trustee,
either as a going concern or piecemeal. With sufficient regulatory oversight, a bankruptcy auction
process could be considered as rescue tool for small businesses in India (especially where the businesses
are closely held or run by families and have a limited number of creditors). In this regard, it would be
crucial to establish a framework which facilitates the development of a market for the sale of businesses,
through measures for safeguarding stakeholder interests, promoting accurate financial reporting and
valuation of businesses. Developing such a framework will also require time and can be addressed as
part of the Insolvency Code.
______

      Recommendation:

        i.   The Ministry of Small Medium and Micro Enterprises should consider implementing the
             proposal discussed in 8.3 above by introducing an amendment to the MSMED Act.

      Questions for Consideration:

        i.   What outcomes should be considered for reforming the personal insolvency regime in
             India?
       ii.   Should the proposed Insolvency Code provide for a separate insolvency processes for small
             businesses like voluntary auctions?




324
   Karin Thorburn, Bankruptcy auctions: costs, debt recovery and firm survival, Journal of Financial Economics
58 (2000) 337-368


                                                    130
                                             ANNEXURE 1

       SEBI PROPOSAL FOR AN AMENDMENT IN THE SECURITIES CONTRACT REGULATION ACT


PRIORITY RIGHT FOR CLEARING CORPORATIONS AND SETTLEMENT FINALITY

In case of bankruptcy of clearing members, the collaterals/assets they have kept with the clearing
corporations as mandated under the securities laws shall not be subject to any other claim.

RATIONALE

1. The clearing corporations provide novation and counterparty guarantee. Therefore, their rights need
   to get precedence over rights of others in the collateral of clearing members. Priority rights for
   clearing corporations to the collaterals, deposits and the assets of clearing member in case of
   winding up or insolvency of a clearing member, therefore become essential.

2. The Committee on Payment and Settlement Systems (CPSS) and the International Organisation of
   Securities Commissions (IOSCO) principles for Financial Market Infrastructures (FMI) including
   clearing corporations require that there should be a sound legal basis for all material aspects of an
   FMI's activities. Two such aspects are the determination of point of settlement finality and right of
   FMI on collateral in case of participant default. The participant in case of clearing corporations are
   clearing members.

3. Principle 1 of Principles for FMI requires that there should be a sound legal basis for the rights and
   interests of an FMI to use and dispose of collateral deposited by its participants even in case of
   bankruptcy of the participants. As per the principle ­

    "the legal basis should provide certainty, where applicable, with respect to an FMI's interests in,
    and rights to use and dispose of, collateral; an FMI's authority to transfer ownership rights or
    property interests; and an FMI's rights to make and receive payments, in all cases,
    notwithstanding the bankruptcy or insolvency of its participants, participants' customers, or
    custodian bank"

4. Principle 8 of Principles for FMI requires Central Counterparties (CCPs) to define the point of
   settlement finality. The requirements of the principle are as follows:

    "1. An FMI's rules and procedures should clearly define the point at which settlement is final.
    2. An FMI should complete final settlement no later than the end of the value date, and preferably
    intraday or in real time, to reduce settlement risk. An LVPS or SSS should consider adopting RTGS
    or multiple-batch processing during the settlement day.
    3. An FMI should clearly define the point after which unsettled payments, transfer instructions, or
    other obligations may not be revoked by a participant."

5. In this regard, RBI has enshrined legal basis for the above two aspects for its payment and settlement
   systems in the Payment and Settlement Systems Act, 2007 (PSS Act). Section 23(4) of the Act
   states the following:-


                                                  131
      "(4) Where a system participant is declared by a court of competent jurisdiction as insolvent or
      is dissolved or wound up, then notwithstanding anything contained in the Companies Act, 1956
      or the Banking Regulation Act, 1949 or any other law for the time being in force, the order of
      adjudication or dissolution or winding up, as the case may be, shall not affect any settlement that
      has become final and irrevocable and the right of the system provider to appropriate any
      collaterals contributed by the system participant towards its settlement or other obligations in
      accordance with the rules, regulations or bye-laws of such system provider.
      Explanation- For the removal of doubts, it is hereby declared that the settlement, whether gross
      or net, referred to in this section is final and irrevocable as soon as the money, securities, foreign
      exchange or derivatives or other transactions payable as a result of such settlement is
      determined, whether or not such money, securities or foreign exchange or derivatives or other
      transactions is actually paid."

6. The following aspects are desirable to protect the clearing and settlement system in securities
   market from legal risks associated with bankruptcy.-

         Settlements in accordance with the Rules, Bye-laws and Regulations of a clearing
         corporation/stock exchange before any bankruptcy order (declaring any client or stock broker
         or clearing member or the clearing corporation itself as bankrupt) should be final, and any
         bankruptcy order should not have the effect of reversing such settlements, unwinding of
         netting and recalculation of net positions.
         Settlement of trades which are executed in order to terminate or close out/square off open
         positions, post the order of bankruptcy, should also be final and irrevocable.
         Payment and settlement obligations in the event of bankruptcy should be determined by
         clearing corporation by way of netting only, so that only a net claim be demanded or a net
         obligation be owed.
         A recognised clearing corporation should have the first right over the collaterals, deposits and
         other monies in whatever form contributed (and not over all assets) by a client or trading
         member or clearing member towards its settlement or other obligations and any order of
         bankruptcy should not affect such right of clearing corporation However, any excess collateral
         left after defraying the settlement or other obligations should be returned to the defaulter or
         official liquidator, as the case may be.

7. The above treatment to the liabilities of failing brokers etc., may possibly be achieved by proposing
   an amendment to the Securities Contracts (Regulation) Act, 1956 and which will be in line with
   PSS Act. This is necessary to ensure settlement finality with respect to transactions in stock
   exchanges and priority of rights of clearing corporations/clearing houses in settlements in order to
   rule out all other claims such as court orders, execution petitions, claims by creditors, claims by
   stock brokers etc. which would vitiate the settlement process. Draft text of the proposed amendment
   under consideration of Government is enclosed. This Committee may kindly consider
   recommending such an amendment on priority.

8. Proposed Amendment to the Securities (Contract) Regulation Act, 1956

1. (1) This Act may be called the Securities Contracts (Regulation) (Amendment) Act, 2015.
   (2) It shall be come into force on the date of its publication in the Official Gazette.



                                                   132
2. In the Securities Contracts (Regulation) Act, 1956, -

        (i) in section 2, after clause (c) the following clause shall be inserted, namely,-
        "(ca) "netting" means the determination by clearing corporation of net payment or delivery
        obligations of the clearing members of a recognised clearing corporation by setting off or
        adjustment of the inter se obligations or claims arising out of buying and selling of securities
        including the claims and obligations arising out of the determination by the clearing corporation
        or stock exchange, on the insolvency or dissolution or winding up of any clearing member or
        trading member or client or such other circumstances as the clearing corporation may specify
        in its bye-laws, of the transactions admitted for settlement at a future date so that only a net
        claim be demanded, or a net obligation be owned."

        (ii) after section 20, the following sections shall be inserted, namely-
        "Right of Clearing Corporation.
        20A. Notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force, the right
        of clearing corporation to recover their dues from clearing members, incurred in discharge of
        their clearing and settlement functions, from the collaterals, deposits and the assets of clearing
        members, in case of winding-up or insolvency, as the case may be, of such clearing member,
        shall take precedence over the rights of other persons in such insolvency or winding-up
        proceedings."

        "Settlement and Netting.
        20B. (1) The payment and settlement in respect of transactions in recognized stock exchange
        and recognized clearing corporation shall be determined in accordance with the netting (or
        gross) procedure as per the bye-laws of a recognized stock exchange or recognized clearing
        corporation, as the case may be, with the prior approval of the Securities and Exchange Board
        of India.
        (2) Notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force, a payment
        and settlement referred to in sub-section (1), between the parties thereto, effected as per the
        bye-laws of a recognized stock exchange or recognized clearing corporation, as the case may
        be, shall be final, irrevocable and binding on such parties.
        (3) Where a trading member or a clearing member or an investor client is declared by a court
        of competent jurisdiction as insolvent or is dissolved or wound up, or a liquidator, receiver or
        assignee (by whatever name called), whether provisional or otherwise, is appointed in a
        proceeding relating to insolvency or dissolution or winding up of a system participant, then
        such order of adjudication or dissolution or winding-up, as the case may be, shall not affect any
        settlement that has become final and irrevocable and the right of the recognized clearing
        corporation or recognized stock exchange, as the case may be, to appropriate any collaterals or
        deposits or margins contributed by the said trading member or clearing member or client
        towards its settlement or other obligations in accordance with the bye-laws of such recognized
        stock exchange or recognized clearing corporation, as the case may be.

        Explanation.­ For removal of doubts, it is hereby declared that the settlement, whether gross
        or net, referred to in this section is final and irrevocable as soon as the money, securities or
        other transactions payable as a result of such settlement is determined, whether or not such
        money, securities or other transactions is actually paid."



                                                  133
(4) Where an order referred to in sub-section (3) is made with respect to a clearing corporation
or stock exchange, then, notwithstanding such order or anything contained in any other law for
the time being in force, the payment obligations and settlement instructions between the
clearing corporation and the clearing members including those arising from transactions
admitted for settlement at a future date, shall be determined forthwith by the clearing
corporation, in accordance with the gross or netting procedure, as the case may be, in
accordance with the bye-laws of such clearing corporation, , and such determination shall be
final and irrevocable.

(5) Notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force, the
liquidator, receiver or assignee (by whatever name called) of the clearing corporation, whether
appointed as provisional or otherwise, shall ­

    a) not re-open any determination that has become final and irrevocable;
    b) after appropriating in accordance with the bye-laws of the clearing corporation, the
       collaterals provided by the clearing members towards their settlement or other
       obligations, return the collaterals held in excess to the clearing members concerned.




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