Posts

Minority shareholders under IBC

-Sikha Bansal

[resolution@vinodkothari.com]

Below we provide a quick snapshot of the extant provisions of the insolvency framework in India vis-a-vis Minority Shareholders, in light of related laws and judicial developments so as to assess their rights and standing in the current insolvency ecosystem –

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Home Buyers under IBC & Case Studies

Ever since the Jaypee and Amrapali cases, home buyers have been under the scanner. From orders of the Hon’ble Supreme Court to multiple amendments in the Insolvency and Bankruptcy  Code, measures have been taken to protect the interest of the home buyers. While earlier, the home buyers were treated as ‘other creditors’, that is, neither operational nor financial, with the landmark ruling in Chitra Sharma v. Union of India, there status as financial creditors was established – the same also found place in the Code by way of amendments in section 7 of the Code.

In this presentation, we discuss the provisions w.r.t. Home Buyers under the Code and a detailed case study of the Amrapali Case and Jaypee Infratech Case.

Home Buyers under IBC & Case Studies

Retrospective Operation of S. 29A & OTS under IBC – Analysing Prospects

– Megha Mittal

[resolution@vinodkothari.com]

The Hon’ble NCLAT vide its order Martin SK Golla v. Wig Associates, 2019[1] has set aside the order of the Adjudicating Authority which had accepted a one-time settlement-cum-resolution plan submitted by a connected person of Corporate Debtor, who later on, after the implementation of section 29A became ineligible to submit a plan. Hence, the question before the Hon’ble Tribunal was whether sec 29A of IBC will be applicable with retrospective effect in section 10 proceedings which were initiated prior to sec 29A came into force?

The Hon’ble NCLAT held that the reason that once CIRP is commenced, provisions as existing on the day of the petition would continue to apply even in the face of amendment brought about by way of 29A- cannot be maintained, and as such the one time settlement-cum-resolution plan, offered by the connected person of the Corporate Debtor cannot be considered good under law.

In this article, along with the issue of retrospective applicability of section 29A and its likely impact on the stakeholders, the Author also delves into the question whether a one-time settlement scheme could tantamount to a resolution plan under the Code.

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Failed Redemption of Preference Shares: Whether a Contractual Debt?

– Sikha Bansal, Partner and Megha Mittal, Associate (resolution@vinodkothari.com)

Preference shares, as the nomenclature suggests, represent that part of a Company’s capital which carries ‘preference´ vis-à-vis equity shares, with respect to payment of dividend and repayment of capital in case of winding up. However, the real position of preference shares may be quite baffling, given that the instrument, by its very nature, is sandwiched between equity capital and debt instruments.  Although envisaged as a superior class of shares, preference shareholders enjoy neither the voting powers vested with the equity shareholders (true shareholders) nor the advantages vested with debenture-holders (true creditors). As such, the preference shareholders find themselves suspended midway between true creditors and true shareholders – hence facing the worst of both worlds[1].

The ambivalence associated with preference shares is adequately reflected in the manner various laws deal with such shares – a preference share is a part of ‘share-capital’ by legal classification[2], but can be a ‘debt’ as per accounting classification[3]; similarly, while a compulsorily convertible preference share is classified as an ‘equity instrument’[4], any other preference share constitutes external commercial borrowing[5] under foreign exchange laws. Needless to say, the divergent treatment is owed to the objective which each legislation assumes.

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Acknowledgement in Balance Sheet – A Fresh Limitation: The Final Word of Law

-Prachi Bhatia 

Legal Intern at Vinod Kothari & Company 

(resolution@vinodkothari.com)

The three-judge bench of the Hon’ble Supreme Court vide its order dated 14th April, 2021, in Asset Reconstruction Limited v. Bishal Jaiswal & Anr[1] (‘ARCIL v. Bishal) has settled the dust around acknowledgment of liability in books of corporate debtor for the purpose of section 18 of the Limitation Act; corollary to the applicability of the section to the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (‘Code’). This comes in tandem with another recent order of the Hon’ble SC in LaxmiPat Surana v. Union Bank of India & Anr[2], wherein too the Apex Court upheld that acknowledgement of debt in the balance sheet would render initiation of the limitation period afresh for the purpose of filing an application under the Code.

In what seems to be the final word of law, the, vide the instant order, the Hon’ble SC further set aside the judgment set aside the Full Bench judgment of the Hon’ble NCLAT in V.Padmakumar v. Stressed Assets Stabilisation Fund[3], (‘V. Padmakumar’), wherein the Appellate Tribunal dismissed the benefit of extension of limitation to the creditors by virtue of the debt’s presentation in the books of the corporate debtor.

In this article, author humbly analyses the order of the Apex Court in ARCIL v. Bishal in light of the catena of preceding judgements both in favour and against the ratio-decidendi in ARCIL v. Bishal.

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Prepack for MSMEs – A Vaccine that doesn’t Work?

– Megha Mittal

(resolution@vinodkothari.com)

The Insolvency and Bankruptcy (Amendment) Ordinance, 2021 (‘Ordinance’)[1] was promulgated on 5th April, 2021 to bring into force the prepackaged insolvency resolution framework for Micro, Small, Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). While the Ordinance put forth the structure of the prepack regime, a great deal was dependent upon the relevant rules and regulations. On 9th April, 2021, the Insolvency and Bankruptcy (Pre-packaged Insolvency Resolution Process) Regulations, 2021 (“Regulations”)[2] as well as the Insolvency and Bankruptcy (Pre-Packaged Insolvency Resolution Process) Rules, 2021 (“Rules”)[3] have been notified with immediate effect.

As one delves into the whole scheme of things, including the complicated provisions of the Ordinance and the even complication regulations, one gets to feel that the prepack framework will act only as a consolation for the MSMEs – while efforts aimed to increase the efficacy of insolvency resolution, the proposed Framework seems to do a little towards this end. In the author’s humble opinion, key elements of prepacks – cost and time efficiency and a Debtor-in-Possession approach, have been diluted amidst the micromanaged Rules and Regulations. In this article, we discuss how[4].

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SC gives purposive interpretation to section 238A of IBC:

Time lost in SARAFESI proceedings can be excluded from limitation period for IBC initiation

-By Sikha Bansal and Urmil Shah [resolution@vinodkothari.com]

The recent ruling of Supreme Court (SC) in Sesh Nath Singh v. Baidyabati Sheoraphuli Co-Operative Bank Ltd., Civil Appeal No. 9198 of 2019 (Ruling) partially addresses the persistent debate on the interplay between the Limitation Act, 1963 (‘Limitation Act’) and the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (‘IBC’).

The central issue involved in the case was – the financial creditor had initiated SARFAESI proceedings against the corporate debtor years back when the default occurred.  Later, while the SARFAESI proceedings were still pending before the High Court (which prima facie viewed that the financial creditor, being a co-operative bank, could not invoke the provisions of SARFAESI), the financial creditor filed for insolvency proceedings under section 7 of IBC against the corporate debtor. Such application was filed after a lapse of 3 years from the default. Hence, the corporate debtor objected the initiation of insolvency on grounds of the application being barred by limitation.

SC, however, read the expression “as far as maybe” as used in section 238A of IBC as a conscious choice of words by the legislature. As such, the words are to be understood in the sense in which they best harmonise with the subject matter and object to the legislation. These words permit a wider, more liberal, contextual, and purposive interpretation by necessary modification.  Therefore, section 5, 14, and even section 18 of the Limitation Act would apply to proceedings under IBC.

The article below notes the important observations of SC, along with the authors’ insights.

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An Odd Scheme: Case for exclusion of schemes of arrangement from scheme of liquidation

Sikha Bansal, Partner

[resolution@vinodkothari.com]

The Article below has also been published on the IndiaCorplaw Blog, see here 

The concerns around section 230 schemes in the background of insolvency proceedings under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (IBC) have been partly addressed with the ruling of Supreme Court (SC) in Arun Kumar Jagatramka v. Jindal Steel and Power Ltd. The SC has held that the prohibition contained in section 29A should also attach itself to a scheme of compromise or arrangement under section 230 of the Companies Act, when the company is undergoing liquidation under the auspices of IBC. Reason being: proposing a scheme of compromise or arrangement under section 230 of the Companies Act, while the company is undergoing liquidation under the provisions of the IBC, lies in a similar continuum.

Earlier, there were several rulings of NCLAT which allowed schemes of arrangement during liquidation – for instance, see S.C. Sekaran, Y. Shivram Prasad, etc. After such rulings, the IBBI (Liquidation Process) Regulations were amended to include Regulation 2B, which also state that “a person, who is not eligible under the Code to submit a resolution plan for insolvency resolution of the corporate debtor, shall not be a party in any manner to such compromise or arrangement.” Read more

SC uses ‘smoke-test’

Classifies persons as ‘related parties’ on the basis of ‘intermingled transactions’ 

-Sikha Bansal & Megha Mittal

(resolution@vinodkothari.com)

While in general, in order to classify a transaction as a related party transaction, one needs to first determine whether the parties involved are ‘related parties’; however, in a recent case Phoenix Arc Private Limited v. Spade Financial Services Limited & Ors.[1] (‘Ruling’), the Hon’ble Supreme Court (‘SC’) has deduced ‘relationship’ between the parties on the basis of the underlying transactions.

The SC has read the definitions of ‘financial creditor’ and ‘related party’ (in relation to the corporate debtor) under sections 5(7) and section 5(24), respectively, of Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (‘Code’), in light of the ‘collusive arrangements’, ‘and ‘extensive history demonstrating interrelationship’ among the parties. Broadly put, it was held that the board/directors of these companies were ‘acting’ under the pervasive influence of common set of individuals, having ‘deeply entangled’ interrelationships. Besides, the SC refused to entertain the entities as financial creditors, as the debt was merely an eye-wash, arising out of sham and collusive transactions.

Therefore, the Ruling, in a way, uses ‘smoke’ to trace if there is a ‘fire’. The presence of collusion, entangled interrelationships, etc. have been seen as indicators suggesting that the parties were in fact ‘related’ and are thus ineligible to occupy seats in the committee of creditors.

This article touches upon the significant aspects of the Ruling, including how this ‘smoke-test’ used by the SC can act as a precedent in interpreting the provisions of the Code, specifically those relating to related parties.

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IBC Passes Another Test of Constitutionality

SC upholds the IBC Amendment Act, 2020

-Megha Mittal

Ishika Basu 

(resolution@vinodkothari.com)

In view of the rising need to fill critical gaps in the corporate insolvency framework like last-mile funding and safeguarding the interests of resolution applicants, certain amendments were introduced by way of the Ordinance dated 28.12.2019[1], which were later on incorporated in the Insolvency Bankruptcy Code (Amendment) Act, 2020 (“Amendment Act”). The amendments inter-alia introduction of threshold for filing of application by Real-Estate Creditors, colloquially ‘Home-Buyers’ and section 32A for ablution of past offences of the corporate debtor, were made effective from 28.12.19 i.e. the date of Ordinance.

While the Ordinance introduced several amendments[2], clarificatory as well as in principles, apprehensions were raised against proviso to section 7 (1), that is, threshold for filing of application by Home-Buyers, the ablution provision introduced by way of section 32A, and clarification under section 11 dealing with the rights of a corporate debtor against another company. As such, various writ petitions were filed under Article 32 of the Constitution, alleging that the aforesaid amendments were in contravention of the fundamental rights viz.  Article 14 which deals with the equality before law and equal protection of law; Article 19(1)(g) deals with fundamental right to trade, occupation, and business; and Article 21 deals with the right to life and personal liberty.

Now, after a year of its effect, the Hon’ble Supreme Court vide it order dated 19.01.2021, in Manish Kumar V/s Union of India, upheld the constitutional validity of the third proviso to section 7(1) and section 32A, setting aside all apprehensions against their insertion.

In this article, the Authors analyses the order of the Hon’ble Supreme Court, with respect to the threshold on filing of application by real-estate creditors, and section 32A.

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