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Meetings are indispensable
March, 15th 2007

The clown sings in Twelfth Night: `Journeys end in lovers meeting... ' Alas, company meetings are different journeys, which you can't wish away. For, "Meetings are indispensable when you don't want to do anything," as John Kenneth Galbraith reminds.

Don't take them lightly, though. Paula Abdul insists that failing to prepare when going to meetings or auditions, is preparing to fail. Thankfully, here's help for the meeting-hassled to prepare for the inevitable occasions: Company Meetings: Law, Practice & Precedents, by T. K. A. Padmanabhan, from Company Law Institute of India Pvt Ltd (www.cliofindia.com).

"A company is a juristic person having no limbs and soul. Therefore, it becomes necessary for a company to act through some real persons," reads the raison d'tre of meetings.

The author draws up a matrix to dissect meetings into three phases (pre-meeting, meeting, and post-meeting) and four stages calling, holding, recording, and filing. Each stage comprises multiple activities. For example, the `calling' phase has notice and agenda, while `recording' has resolutions and minutes as the component tasks.

An interesting interlude in the chapter on board meeting is the one about frequency. The context is Section 285 of the Companies Act, 1956, which says that board meeting should be held at least once in every three months and at least four such meetings should be held every year. "There is a clear distinction between `every' and `each'," explains a letter of the Department of Company Affairs.

"In modern usage `every' directs attention chiefly to the totality, `each' chiefly to the individuals composing it. In view of this distinction, the expression `every three months' occurring in Section 285 should naturally mean three months taken together... There is no scope of making backward calculation."

As a result of this `hyper-technical interpretation' board meetings have become `a farce and a bald ritual,' rues Padmanabhan. "It is possible to have a meeting on January 1 and June 30... This is not, certainly, the situation envisaged by the statute." He cites the Rishyashringa Jewellery Ltd case, in which the apex court held that the expression `each such stock exchange' meant `every stock exchange'.

The book has a chapter on committee meetings. While any talk about committees can be highly disturbing to most of us, what can be more disturbing is that the Companies Act has not defined `committee'. This, despite the law talking about statutory and optional committees.

Guidance from Ross Perot, on when to appoint to a committee, is this: "If you see a snake, just kill it don't appoint a committee on snakes."

Towards the end of the book is a chapter on cyber meetings, where you'd read, among other things, that tele-immersion is `the ultimate synthesis of media technologies'.

Wonder if that should make meetings more enjoyable. Upsetting any such imagination that we might immerse ourselves in, Thomas Sowell advises, "People who enjoy meetings should not be in charge of anything."

Towards the end of the book is a chapter on cyber meetings, where you'd read, among other things, that tele-immersion is `the ultimate synthesis of media technologies'. Wonder if that should make meetings more enjoyable. Upsetting any such imagination that we might immerse ourselves in, Thomas Sowell advises, "People who enjoy meetings should not be in charge of anything."

Suggested meeting read.

 
 
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