IBC and related reforms: Where do MSMEs Stand?

The MSME industry, colloquially referred to as the power engine of the economy has been a focal point of several reforms over the years. The recent reforms w.r.t. MSMEs and the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (“Code’) has altered the stance of MSMEs, both as creditors and debtors. In this article, we shall discuss some significant reforms/ amendments w.r.t. MSMEs (due to COVID, or otherwise), and those under the Code and analyse the cumulative impact of these reforms on the sector in the prevailing scenario

Bringing pre-packs to India: a discussion on the way forward

“Pre-packs”, though yet to be born, have raised the expectations high. Reasons are obvious – the package is supposed to offer a lucrative combination of all the benefits of a ‘reorganisation/resolution plan’ as otherwise available only under formal insolvency proceedings with the added benefit of ‘speed’.

Pre-pack framework, as studies show, is not always contained in the statutory machinery. One of the close examples is UK. There the pre-pack arrangement is guided by insolvency practice statement, rather than a legislative framework.

In the Indian context, with some unique features, our insolvency regime stands differently from other jurisdictions – say, section 29A, and more importantly, section 32A.

Also, we already have certain debt restructuring tools in vogue – schemes of arrangement, and the apex bank’s framework for resolution of stressed framework. So, how do we welcome pre-packs, such that it serves the intended purpose? Surely enough, the pre-pack framework has to imbibe all the ‘good things’ which a formal insolvency framework has, and also offer something ‘over and above’ the existing options of debt restructuring.

The article sees these aspects and proposes what can be the optimal way of adopting pre-packs in India.

 

Implications of IBC Ordinance, 2020- Quick Round up

Resolution Division, 

(resolution@vinodkothari.com)

The President today signed in the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 [‘Ordinance’] to implement the already-talked-about abatement of IBC filings for the period of the COVID disruption, and accordingly, amend the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 [‘Code’]. We analyse the Ordinance in quick bullet points –

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Forced Contributions to Infructuous Liquidations: Understanding Regulation 2A

-Megha Mittal

(resolution@vinodkothari.com)

Since its inception, the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (“Code”), along with its regulations, has been subject to many reforms, some aimed at establishing new legal principles and some for removing difficulties faced during the insolvency resolution and/ or liquidation process; one such reform was the introduction of Regulation 2A[1] in the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (Liquidation Process) Regulations, 2016 (“Liquidation Regulations”), which provides for contribution by financial creditors of the corporate debtor to contribute towards liquidation costs, if so called upon by the liquidator.

In this article, we shall briefly understand the backdrop in which the said provision was introduced, throw light upon the extant provisions and then address the elephant in the room- is it obligatory upon the financial creditors to make such contribution when sought by the liquidator?

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MCA need not be mandatorily impleaded in applications: NCLAT sets-aside directions issued by of Principal Bench

Megha Mittal

(resolution@vinodkothari.com)

The Hon’ble National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (‘NCLAT’), vide its order dated 22nd May, 2020[1] set aside the directions issued by the Hon’ble Principal Bench for impleadment of Ministry of Corporate Affairs (‘MCA’) as a respondent-party to all applications filed under the Companies Act, 2013 and the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016.

This comes in light of the order dated 22nd November, 2019 of the Hon’ble National Company Law Tribunal, Principal Bench of New Delhi (‘NCLT’/ ‘Principal Bench’), in the matter of Oriental Bank of Commerce v. Sikka Papers Ltd. & Ors[2], wherein the Hon’ble NCLT directed that “…In all cases of Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, and Company Petition, the Union of India, Ministry of Corporate Affairs through the Secretary be impleaded as a party respondent so that authentic record is made available by the officers of the Ministry of Corporate Affairs for proper appreciation of the matters..”(‘Impugned Directions’). The said requirement was directed to be made applicable in all benches of NCLT, pan-India.

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Ease of Exit of Businesses in India

‘Doing business’ is not only about seamless starts or how less cumbersome the journey can be – it is also about the certainty of freedom to exit, as and when needed. As such, a sound framework for exit is quintessential for businesses – viable or non-viable. A company might opt to liquidate itself voluntarily, or go for a scheme of merger or amalgamation or even striking off. At the same time, it must be noted that exit may not be always voluntary – sometimes, it may be forced upon the business, for example, in case of insolvent companies, creditors may prefer to liquidate the entity rather than drag it as a going concern. Some of the important considerations in making a choice are – solvency of the company, position of assets and liabilities, extent of judicial involvement, extent of flexibility in the conduct of the process, professional involvement, time involved, and costs. With the judicial authorities being clogged with cases, we may need to reinvent the infrastructural framework and take steps to make the exit process easier. The article discusses the aspects as above.

  1. This Article has been published in the April, 2020 issue of Chartered Secretary, issued by the Institute of Companies Secretaries of India, available at- https://www.icsi.edu/media/webmodules/linksofweeks/ICSI-April_2020.pdf

Cross Border Mergers

As the global economy becomes more and more intertwined, the trend of cross border mergers and amalgamations have accelerated..

In the presentation below, we discuss the concept of Cross border mergers in light of the extant provisions, and its practical aspects- Click here

An audio presentation of the same is also available at- https://youtu.be/jHVIajr2q00

Recent Reforms in Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code

-Sikha Bansal & Megha Mittal

(resolution@vinodkothari.com

The past year has seen several reforms and amendments in the insolvency framework, be it enforcement of provisions for individual insolvency, or inclusion of FSPs under the insolvency regime. Additionally, Committees have been actively working on two extremely relevant aspects which presently the Code does not provide for- Group Insolvency and Cross Border Insolvency.

In our presentation (link given below) we have tried to collate the recent amendments and the workings of the Committee reports so as to provide a one-stop reference for  reforms as on Mar’20- see here

 

 

COVID and Insolvency Reforms – Trends and Expectations

An entity/individual is amenable to committing a default during the disaster period. Therefore, in such difficult times, it becomes important to save businesses, which can later save the economy. The Indian Government and the judiciary have undertaken several intermittent measures with respect to insolvency regime.

As the authorities try to provide all possible relief amidst the ongoing crisis, what we need is probably a holistic mitigation framework to deal with all possible problem areas – as we can see for other countries as well. Countries across the globe have promulgated relaxations under their respective insolvency laws, both personal and corporate. In general, the insolvency and winding up proceedings have the same trigger event, which is default. A cursory reading of the amendments/propositions with respect to insolvency laws across countries would indicate a certain level of commonness in the measures, e.g.  there is a moratorium on presumption/determination of default, increase in the minimum limit of default, etc.

An important thing to note is that the relaxations do not extend to entities which had been in default before the event of disaster – that is, a disaster cannot be an excuse to cover a default which did not happen because of the disaster. Therefore, a pre-existing default is not saved from the COVID mitigation laws. Country-wise study of reforms with respect to insolvency laws are in the detailed article below.

In view of the worldwide reforms and the imminent necessity, we are of the view that certain basic amendments in law can help, for instance, the definition of ‘default’ under s. 3(12) may be amended as to exclude default occurring during the disaster period. Alternatively, a proviso can be inserted under s. 4(1) and s. 78 to provide that a default occurring during such period as the Central Government may, by notification, specify, being period associated with a national disaster, shall not be treated as a default for the purpose of the said sections. “Disaster” shall have the meaning as ascribed thereto in section 2 (d) of the Disaster Management Act, 2005.

Incidental amendments may also be necessary in the SARFAESI Act. The definition of default under s. 2(1)(j) of the said Act can be defined so as to provide that a default occurring during such period as the Central Government may, by notification, specify, being period associated with a national disaster, shall not be treated as a default for the purposes the above clause.

The aspects as above have been discussed in detail in the article below.

Washout of Prior-period Claims in Resolution Plans: Rajasthan HC closes the door for pre-CIRP claims after revival of Corporate Debtor

Megha Mittal & Shreya Jain

resolution@vinodkothari.com

Colloquially referred to as a ‘rebirth’, a resolution plan is the revival route for the corporate debtor, free of its past liabilities and dues, paid in accordance with the approved plan. Having said so, it might be noted that resolution plans assume the status of a statutory binding contract once approved by the adjudicating authority. Recently, the Hon’ble Rajasthan High Court, in Ultra Tech Nathdwara Cement Ltd., (formerly known as Binani Cements Ltd.) vs. Commissioner, Central Goods And Service Tax and Central Excise Commissionerate and Ors.[1], held that no demands can be raised by any statutory body, for a period prior to the approval and finalization of resolution plan, after the resolution plan is successfully implemented.

The details of the case have been discussed below.

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