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
“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.
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 –
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.
In a first of its kind, the Hon’ble National Company Law Tribunal, Principal Bench at New Delhi (“NCLT”) vide its order dated 04.11.2019 in the matter of Apeejay Trust v. Aviva Life Insurance Co. India Ltd., has initiated corporate insolvency resolution process against the Corporate Debtor, despite it being a financial service provider under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (“Code”).
In the above pretext, one may recall the order of the Hon’ble National Company Law Appellate Tribunal in the matter of Randhiraj Thakur v. Jindal Saxena Financial Services, wherein the Hon’ble Appellate Tribunal upheld that financial service providers shall not fall within the ambit of the Code. The order of the Hon’ble NCLAT in the said matter has been discussed in our articles “NBFCs and IBC- the Lost Connection” and “State of Perplexity- Applicability of IBC on NBFCs”.
In this article, the author has made a humble attempt to analyse the order of the Hon’ble NCLT based on its facts, observations and the extant law.
The Supreme Court (SC) in the case of Jaiprakash Associate Ltd. & Anr. v. IDBI Bank Ltd. & Anr. dealt with 2 issues. Firstly, whether the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) or National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) can exclude any period from the statutory period in exercise of inherent powers sans any express provision in the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (I&B Code) in that regard. Secondly, whether the bidders can submit revised resolution plan after they were originally rejected by Committee of Creditors (CoC).
Dealing with the first issue, the SC in its order dated November 6, 2019 held that an extraordinary situation had arisen because of the constant experimentation which went about at different level due to lack of clarity on matters crucial to the decision making process of CoC. Besides that, the SC held that the case on hand is a classic example of how the entire process got embroiled in litigation initially before court and adjudicating authorities due to confusion or lack of clarity in respect of foundational processes to be followed by the CoC. Depending upon the uniqueness and unanimity of the stakeholders and resolution applicant to eschew the liquidation of corporate debtor, the SC by exercising its power under Article 142 of the constitution reckons 90 days extended period from the date of this order instead of the date of commencement of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Amendment) Act, 2019.
With regard to second issue, the SC relied on the sub clause (7) of Regulation 36B inserted with effect from 4th July, 2018, dealing with the request for resolution plans. It postulates that the resolution professional may, with the approval of the CoC, reissue request for resolution plans, if the resolution plans received in response to earlier request are not satisfactory, subject to the condition that the request is made to all prospective resolution applicants in the final list. Consequently, applying the principle underlying Regulation 36B(7), the SC found it appropriate to permit the interim resolution applicant to reissue request for resolution plans to the two bidders and/or to call upon them to submit revised resolution plans, which can be then placed before the CoC for its due consideration.
However, the SC has clarified that this order is issued in an exceptional case and it will not be construed as a precedent. Further, the SC made it clear that this order does not answers to the question of law as to whether NCLT or NCLAT has the power to issue direction or order inconsistent with the statutory timelines and stipulations specified in the I&B Code or regulations.
Though the SC has extended the CIRP period in an exceptional case, it is still not sufficient to complete the process within the stipulated time period as there are constant amendments being done for the effective implementation of the I&B Code. The NCLT/NCLAT is burdened with the application for clarification on the various procedures or regulation while the time for resolution flies. There are numerous cases pending before adjudicating authorities whose stipulated time period for the resolution has been surpassed.