Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Company Law Tribunal, Mumbai Bench: The Coram of Janab Mohammed Ajmal (Judicial Member) and V. Nallasenapathy (Technical Member),  decided the issue of whether the Resolution Plan could be shared with the employees of Jet Airways.

Who all are the applicants?

Pilots of Jet Airways (Corporate Debtor) were represented by a Union named National Aviators’ Guild, Maintenance Engineers of the Corporate Debtor under the umbrella of Jet Aircraft Maintenance Engineers’ Welfare Association, Bhartiya Kamgar Sena (BKS) and Jet Airways Cabin Crew Association (JACCA) respectively representing 70% of the ground staff and the majority of the Cabin Crew of the Corporate Debtor and All India Jet Airways Officers’ and Staff Association, they all sought a direction to Respondent (Resolution Professional) to furnish each of the entities/applicants a full copy of the entire Resolution Plan approved by the CoC.

Reasoning | Why do the applicants want to know the details of Resolution plan?

Applicants state that they are unaware of the details of the Resolution Plan and hence they needed to know what was provided under the RP for its members and employees.

Vital concern of the applicants is with regard to the terms and conditions of the Resolution Plan. Further, it has been added that any revival plan, for that matter, both in terms of employment and provision for outstanding wages/dues, is vital for their sustenance and mutual benefit.

Some of the employees have lingered on the rolls of the Corporate Debtor despite the financial hardships and difficulty it entailed.

Adding to the above, it has also been stated that natural justice demands that the applicants remain aware of the Plan and how it is going to take care of their interests or adversely affects them.

Applicants would be the most affected by the orders of this Authority approving or rejecting the Resolution Plan. Thus, it becomes imperative that the Applicants are made privy to the Resolution Plan before it is considered.

Further, the applicants claimed that the Resolution Plan could not be held to be confidential as far as the employees of the Corporate Debtor were concerned.

It is settled law that the interest of the Corporate Debtor is of utmost importance and should be scrupulously protected. 

In view of the above stated, the present application has been filed.

Respondent submitted that the IP Regulations mandate the Resolution Professional to ensure and maintain the confidentiality of the information related to the Insolvency Resolution Process since it contains sensitive information and could only be presented to the CoC.

Analysis, Law and Decision

Bench observed that the applicants interest in the Resolution Plan revolves around the payment/recovery of their dues such as remuneration/wages, other perquisites including terminal benefits if any.

What does Regulations 9 & 22 of the CIRP Regulation lay down?

The stated provision lays down the procedure for the workmen and employees to submit their claims before the IRP/RP.

Regulation 22 of the IP Regulations mandates that an Insolvency Professional must ensure that the confidentiality of the information relating to the insolvency resolution process, liquidation or bankruptcy process is maintained at all time.

Hence, Tribunal held that in view of the above-discussed provisions, the reluctance and refusal of the respondent in sharing the copy of the Resolution Plan with the applicants cannot be faulted.

Natural Justice

Recourse to principles of natural justice and audi alteram partem can be taken when the provisions made in a statute fall short of the requirement and the constitutional validity of the Code has been upheld by the Supreme Court in Swiss Ribbons v. Union of India (2019) 4 SCC 17.

Adjudicating Authority cannot digress from the express provisions of the Statute and act in the manner not provided thereunder or sanctioned by the statute.

Tribunal further explained that in view of express provisions in relation to the Resolution Plan, it is clear that the statutory mandate requires that the Resolution Plan can only be presented to the CoC for its approval and presented before the Adjudicating Authority for its satisfaction in approving the same.

Code or the Regulations thereunder do not contemplate presentation or supply of the Resolution Plan or a copy thereof to any other body or entity. 

Bench agreed with the decision in Anil N. Surwade v. Prashant Jain (IA No. 1033 of 2020 in C.P. (IB) No. 1799 of 2018 decided on 28-09-2020).

“…workmen being at par with the secured creditors are also entitled to privileges of a member of CoC would be fallacious and would go against the grain of the intent and purpose of the Code. “

Bench also added that the applicants are Operational Creditors and Supreme Court has observed that the role of the Operational Creditors is very limited and confined to the satisfaction of their claims.

Therefore after a wholesome discussion, Tribunal denied any relief to the applicants with a reasoned order.[National Aviators’ Guild v. Ashish Chhawchharia, IA No. 1862/MB/2020, decided on 22-02-2021]


Image credits of the aircraft: Business Today

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT): The Division Bench of Venugopal M (Judicial Member) and Alok Srivastava (Technical Member) held that a demand notice is a forerunner to the commencement of insolvency proceedings against a corporate debtor. Unpaid demand notice is good enough to exhibit the debtor’s inability to pay its debts for bankruptcy proceedings. If a bonafide dispute is established then an ‘Insolvency’ petition is not the appropriate proceeding to determine the validity of a disputed debt.

On being aggrieved with the decision of National Company Law Tribunal, Mumbai, the present Company Appeal was preferred by the appellant.

Appellant submitted that no ‘Demand Notice’ was ever served on the Corporate Debtor/Second Respondent as per Section 8 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code.

Tribunal’s Assessment

Tribunal noted that the appellant’s plea stated that the alleged Demand Notice of the respondent 1 was sent to an address and the same was not registered address of the ‘Corporate Debtor’ as per the master data of the ‘Corporate Debtor’ on MCA website.

Further, it was submitted by the appellant that the Demand Notice was knowingly addressed to the wrong address of the ‘Corporate Debtor’ by respondent 1.

Tribunal expressed that:

As per Section 8 of the I&B Code an Operational Creditor is required to deliver a demand notice on the occurrence of the default within ten days from the receipt of the demand notice, the Corporate Debtor shall bring to the notice of the Operational Creditor ‘the existence of the dispute’, if any, and the record of the pendency of the suit or arbitration proceedings before the receipt of such notice or invoice in relation to such dispute.

While proceeding with discussion in the above matter, Bench also stated that a change in address of the registered office of the ‘Corporate Debtor’ cannot be a ruse for the failure of the party concerned to send/issue a ‘Demand Notice’ as per Section 8 of the I&B Code. In fact, serving the demand notice to the corporate debtor is mandatory.

“If a demand notice payment under the code is issued, the ‘Corporate Debtor’ will appreciate in right earnest the consequences flowing on account of failure to pay the ‘operational debt’. Also, that . after transfer of the case form High Court to Tribunal (in respect of winding up petition) an Operational Creditor is required to submit all information including the details of the proposed Insolvency Professional.”

Tribunal opined that service of ‘Demand Notice’ to the second respondent is mandatory as per Section 8 of the Code.

Further the Bench while making observations in the present matter also added that it cannot be forgotten that the proceedings under Section 138 NI Act pertain to criminal liability for dishonour of cheques issued and do not bar an application under Section 9 of the Code. Likewise, the pendency of proceedings under Order 37 of the civil Procedure Code will not prohibit an application under Section 9 of the Code.

While concluding, the Tribunal held that:

Since the ‘Service of notice’ at the registered address of the ‘Corporate Debtor’ was not established to the subjective satisfaction of the Tribunal and the admitted fact being that the notice sent to the second respondent at its registered office got returned, the said admission of debt and the reference with regard to NI Act that a holder of cheque received the cheque for the discharge either in whole or in part of any debt or other liability will not in any way heighten or improve the case of appellant.

Since the notice as per Section 8 of I&B Code was not served upon the corporate debtor and the same got returned, NCLT’s decision is to be set aside.

Hence NCLT’s order is to be declared as illegal in appointing the ‘Interim Resolution Professional’ declaring moratorium and all other orders passed.  Corporate Debtor is therefore released from all the rigour of law and is allowed to function independently through its Board of Directors.

Before parting, Tribunal granted liberty to the Operational Creditor to issue a fresh notice under Section 8 of I&B Code and on receipt of such notice of service if there is ‘Debt and Default’ to file a fresh application under Section 9 IBC. [Shailendra Sharma v. Ercon Composites, 2021 SCC OnLine NCLAT 3, decided on 13-01-2021]

Op EdsOP. ED.

The preamble of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (IBC) states that, the purpose of IBC is to provide a mechanism for the insolvency resolution of debtors in a time-bound manner in order to enable maximisation of the value of their assets, thereby promoting availability of credit and balance the interests of all the stakeholders. In order to achieve this, Section 14 of IBC has been incorporated, which provides for moratorium, which is a period where no judicial proceedings for recovery, enforcement of security interest, sale or transfer of assets, or termination of essential contracts can be instituted or carried on against the corporate debtor. But since the enactment of IBC, moratorium under Section 14(1) (a) of IBC has come under scrutiny and the courts have laid down multiple interpretations and exceptions to the same.

It is in light of the objectives of IBC and the interpretations to Section 14(1) (a) of IBC, that the notice issued by the Supreme Court of India in Malayan Banking Berhad v. Ushdev International Ltd[1]. is of vital importance. In the present case, the counsel of Malayan Banking Berhad submitted that, the point of contention before the Supreme Court of India was that the moratorium imposed under Section 14(1) (a) of IBC would only be applicable in civil suits filed “against the Corporate Debtor” and as the suit before the Bombay High Court was filed “by the Corporate Debtor i.e. Ushdev International Ltd.”, therefore, the Moratorium under Section 14(1) (a) of IBC would not be applicable.

Brief Facts Leading up to the SLP

Malayan Banking Berhad had filed a review petition before the Bombay High Court titled, Malayan Banking BHD v. Ushdev International Ltd.[2] seeking review of the order dated 07th July, 2019 passed by the Bombay High Court in Notice of Motion filed by Malayan Banking Berhadin, a suit initiated by Ushdev International Ltd. During the pendency of the Notice of Motion, a petition against Ushdev International Ltd. under IBC was admitted by the NCLT, Mumbai, thereby initiating CIRP against Ushdev International Ltd. and imposing Moratorium. In lieu of the same, the Bombay High Court vide order dated 07th July, 2019, adjourned the proceedings under the Notice of Motion, sine die.

Malayan Banking Berhad, challenged the order dated 07th July, 2019 vide the aforesaid review petition, wherein the Bombay High Court vide order dated 16th September, 2019 held that, the Notice of Motion would fall within the term “proceeding” as contemplated under Section 14(1) (a) of IBC, as it is a proceeding seeking rejection of the Suit filed by the corporate debtor, which is under CIRP and Moratorium. It was also observed that, the submission of Malayan Banking Berhad that, moratorium does not stay all the proceedings is erroneous. Hence, the Bombay High Court upheld the order dated 07th July, 2019. The order dated 16th September, 2019 passed in the review petition was challenged before the Supreme Court of India and the Supreme Court of India was pleased to issue notice.

Ambiguity in the Legal Position

The contentions of Malayan Banking Berhad as noted in the notice issued by the Supreme Court of India, sheds light on the fact that there exists an ambiguity in the legal position relating to the applicability of Moratorium upon the adjudication of proceedings filed by the Corporate Debtor, as the judicial trend reflects a conflicting and divergent view.

When majority of the petition(s) filed under Section(s) 7, 9 or 10 of IBC before the NCLT, are admitted, moratorium under Section 14(1) (a) of IBC is always imposed, against the proceedings filed or to be instituted by or against the corporate debtor. It is to be noted that, Section 14(1)(a) of IBC specifically states that proceedings “against the Corporate Debtor” are to be stayed, despite the same proceedings filed “by the Corporate Debtor” are also stayed. It was with regards to this ambiguous legal position that Malayan Banking Berhad had filed the SLP before the Supreme Court of India.

This question had come up for interpretation before the Delhi High Court in Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd. v. Jyoti Structures Ltd.[3] , wherein the Single Judge laid down the factors needed to determine the applicability of moratorium to proceedings filed by the Corporate Debtor. The factors were:

  1. “The nature of the proceedings has to be considered; and
  2. it has to be observed whether such proceedings are in the favor of the Corporate Debtor or against the Corporate Debtor.[4]

If the answers to the factors are in favor of the Corporate Debtor then staying such proceedings during moratorium would cause harm to the Corporate Debtor and would also be against the objectives of IBC. The Single Judge was of the considered view that the application of moratorium should not be used to impose a blanket stay on all proceedings, rather in proceedings initiated by the Corporate Debtor, it should be considered if the continuation of the proceeding would benefit the Corporate Debtor. It was also observed that, a proceeding would not be prohibited under Section 14(1) (a) of IBC, unless it has the effect of endangering, diminishing, dissipating or adversely impacting the assets of Corporate Debtor.

The Single Judge was of the opinion that, the legislative intent was to restrict the meaning and applicability of moratorium under Section 14(1)(a) of IBC to proceedings filed against the Corporate Debtor and not to proceedings filed by the Corporate Debtor, which is evident from the narrow construction of the phrase “against the Corporate Debtor” in Section 14(1)(a) of IBC as compared to the wider phrase “by or against the Corporate Debtor” as under Section 33(5) of IBC.

Recently, the Delhi High Court in SSMP Industries Ltd. v. Perkan Food Processors Pvt. Ltd.[5] was called upon to decide on whether the adjudication of a suit filed by the Corporate Debtor and counter-claim filed in the same could be carried on during moratorium imposed under Section 14(1) (a) of IBC. The Single Judge relied upon the reasoning of the  Delhi High Court in Power Grid Corporation of India (Supra) and did not stay the adjudication of the suit and counter-claim, holding that the assets of the Corporate Debtor were not under any threat till the adjudication of the counter-claim and Section 14 of IBC can only be triggered at the stage when the counter-claim is adjudicated upon and the amount to be paid/recovered has been determined or when the execution proceedings are filed against the Corporate Debtor and these were subject to the prevalent situation. The Single Judge was also of the considered opinion that, with regards to the applicability of moratorium on proceedings filed by the corporate debtor, it has to be observed, whether the purpose and intent behind the imposition of moratorium is being satisfied or defeated and a blinkered approach cannot be followed, whereby the Court stays the proceedings and refers the defendant to the NCLT/RP for filing its claims.

A similar reasoning is also found in Jharkhand Bijli Vitran Nigam Ltd. v. IVRCL Ltd. (Corporate Debtor)[6] , wherein the NCLAT was called upon to adjudicate on the issue, whether a claim filed by the Corporate Debtor and a counter-claim filed in the same arbitral proceedings could be heard, during the Moratorium period. The NCLAT allowed the claim of the Corporate Debtor along with the counter claim to be heard by the arbitral, as there is no bar regarding the same under IBC and held that, if it is found that the Corporate Debtor is liable to pay a certain amount, then in such case, no recovery can be made during the period of moratorium.

From the aforesaid cases, it can be observed that, there is an ambiguity with regards to the proceedings filed by the corporate debtor and their adjudication during moratorium, where one school of thought is of the opinion that the moratorium covers all proceedings filed by or against the corporate debtor, but on the other hand the other school of thought is of the view that due to the restrictive wordings of Section 14(1) (a) of IBC and due to the objectives of moratorium, it is only applicable upon proceedings filed against the corporate debtor and when it comes to proceedings filed by the corporate debtor, moratorium should be applicable only after considering the benefit to the corporate debtor.

The Balancing Act

The interpretation put forward by the Delhi High Court and the NCLAT in the aforesaid cases, does raise a pertinent issue with regards to the interpretation and applicability of the phrase “against the corporate debtor” as under Section 14(1)(a) of IBC. Upon prima facie reading it would appear that the legislative intent was to restrict the applicability and meaning of moratorium as under Section14(1) (a) of IBC and this interpretation would also benefit the Corporate Debtor, its corpus and the creditors. Despite the clear advantages to this interpretation, there are a few drawbacks too, which are:

  1. If the proceedings filed by the corporate debtor are allowed to continue, it might delay the entire process and the statutorily mandated time lines;
  2. if the proceedings are allowed to continue, it could cause financial stress in the form of additional litigation expenses; and
  3. if the Courts are called upon to observe whether a proceeding is in favour or against the Corporate Debtor, it is as good as pronouncing an assessment based on a preliminary understating of the proceeding, which could be detrimental to the parties involved and might lead to situations of overlapping of judicial powers and functions.

If the interpretation is to be carried out and applied, certain stringent checks/factors would be needed to be put in place, such as the factors delineated by the Delhi High Court and in addition to those some other factors such as, the status/stage of the proceeding should also be considered and a stringent timeline should be imposed for completion of adjudication of the pending proceedings, etc. Thereby balancing the positives and the drawbacks.

Conclusion

The interpretation would definitely help the corporate debtor and would also be in line with the objectives of IBC, but without stringent judicial guidelines to determine which proceedings should be stayed and which shouldn’t, it could be detrimental to everyone involved. A balanced approach with stringent guidelines to be followed to determine whether the proceedings filed by the corporate debtor can be adjudicated upon during the moratorium period is needed, as the same would have a positive impact on the corporate debtor, its creditors and related parties. It remains to be seen how the Supreme Court of India deals with the issue and settles the position. But, for now, the interpretation of staying all the proceedings filed by or against the corporate debtor, seems to be the way.


Advocate at Bombay High Court and National Company Law Tribunal, Mumbai.

[1] 2020 SCC OnLine SC 1068

[2] 2016 SCC OnLine Bom 6962 

[3] 2017 SCC Online Del 12729

[4] ibid

[5] 2019 SCC Online Del 9339

[6] 2018 SCC Online NCLAT 296.

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT): The Bench of Justice Venugopal M. (Judicial Member) and V.P. Singh (Technical Member) and Shreesha Merla (Technical Member), while addressing the present Company Appeal observed that:

No penalty can be saddled either under Section 65(1) or (2) of the Code without recording an opinion that a prima facie case is established to suggest that a person ‘fraudulently’ or with malicious intent for the purpose other than the resolution of Insolvency or Liquidation or with an intent to defraud any person has filed the Application.

The instant appeal emanates from the Order passed by National Company Law Tribunal Delhi whereby application under Section 7 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code 2016 was admitted.

Factual Matrix

Corporate Debtor is a builder of High-End Project wherein a flat was booked for a total sale consideration of Rs 3,80,10,000. 

Respondents were the second purchasers of the above-stated flat booked vide Agreement Buyer Agreement. As per Agreement, the completion period was 36 months plus six months as a grace period, i.e. February 2015.

Appellant contended that after adjusting the payments made by the Original buyer, the respondent paid a total sum of Rs 2,75,55,186 as against the total cost of the flat as Rs 3,80,10,000. The last payment was made by the respondents on 26-08-2013, and after that, despite several reminders, no payment was made.

Respondents opted for a Construction linked plan but failed to pay the instalments on time.

Appellants submitted that the respondents are defaulters. Therefore, Corporate Debtor was constrained to cancel their allotment.

Respondents initiated the proceedings under Section 7 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code against the appellant.

Appellant pleaded that the proceedings initiated by respondents 1 and 2 are against the provisions of the Code and have been done so, to pressurise the Corporate Debtor.

Further, respondent 1/Homebuyer submitted that as per the Agreement, possession was to be handed over within 36 months from the date of commencement of the construction or execution of the Agreement, whichever is later.

Despite the assurances, the Appellant failed to deliver the possession of the said unit to the Respondents. Therefore, the Respondents/Financial Creditor had filed the Application under Section 7 of the Code.

NCLT observed that the Corporate Debtor did not hand over the possession of the flat to the Financial Creditor as the construction work could not be completed within the stipulated time and there was no proof of extension of time by the Authority concerned. A debt of more than Rs 1 lakh was due and payable, which the Corporate Debtor failed to pay.

In view of the above circumstances, application wad admitted by NCLT and the same has been challenged in the instant appeal.

Issues for Consideration:

  1. Whether the Corporate Debtor has committed default in not completing the Construction of the flat in time and handing over possession of the same in terms of Agreement?
  2. Whether Financial Creditor/Home Buyer committed default in making payment of the instalments as per ‘ABA’ under construction link Plan?
  3. Whether the Application under Section 7 of the Code is filed fraudulently with malicious intent for the purposes other than for the Resolution of Insolvency or liquidation, as defined under Section 65 of the I&B Code, 2016?
  4. Whether the application is barred by limitation?

Analysis and Decision

On considering the above-stated issues, Bench observed that the Corporate had committed default in completing the construction work of the flat n time and failed to deliver the possession on the stipulated date as per the Agreement.

In a reply to a notice, Corporate Debtor himself admitted that unlike other builders who have abandoned the project and stopped the work, it is completing the Project which is at the final stage where flooring and finishing work is underway.

It was observed from the Agreement that under the Construction linked payment plan, it is mandatory to issue demand notice for instalments in the commencement of respective stages of Construction by speed post or courier.

In the instant case, there was no evidence to show that the demand notice at the respective stages of Construction was ever sent to the Allottee. Whereas, Clause 2.18 of the Agreement makes it mandatory to send the Notice to the Allottee under Construction linked plan. No compliance of conditions of Clause 2.17 and 2.18 were made in the instant case.

Hence, in the present case, it is difficult to ascertain as to when Instalment became due, at the start of the respective stage of the Construction.

Bench observed that:

Mandatory condition of issuing Notice through speed post or courier to the Allottee, at every stage of Construction as per Agreement has not been followed.

Hence, it cannot be concluded that the allotted committed any default in paying the instalment when due and the fact that the flat was to be delivered latest by 2nd week of February 2016, but construction work was still going on in the year 2018 also cannot be denied.

Justification for Invoking Section 65 of the Code

In accordance with the Supreme Court decision in Pioneer’ Urban Land Infrastructure v. Union of India, (2019) 8 S SCC 416, Corporate Debtor has the responsibility to furnish the details of default. It was held that:

“Under Section 65 of the Code, the real estate developer can also point out that the insolvency resolution process under the Code has been invoked fraudulently, with malicious intent, or for any purpose other than the resolution of Insolvency. The Allottee does not, in fact, want to go ahead with its obligation to take possession of the flat/Apartment under RERA, but wants to jump ship and really get back, by way of this coercive measure, monies already paid by it. The Allottee does not, in fact, want to go ahead with its obligation to take possession of the flat/Apartment under RERA, but wants to jump ship and really get back, by way of this coercive measure, monies already paid by it.”

Bench stressed upon the point that Section 65 of the Code is not meant to negate the process under Section 7 or 9 of the Code. Penal action under Section 65 can be taken only when the provision of the Code has been invoked fraudulently, with malicious intent.

In the Supreme Court decision of Swiss Ribbons (P) Ltd. v. Union of India, (2019) 4 SCC 17, it was held that:

“…in order to protect the corporate debtor from being dragged into the corporate insolvency resolution process mala fide, the Code prescribes penalties.”

Hence, from the above discussion, it is clear that

the Code provides stringent action under Section 65 against the person who initiates proceedings under the Code fraudulently or with malicious intent, for the purpose other than the resolution of Insolvency or liquidation under the Code.

Requirement for levying penalty under Section 65 IBC is that a ‘prima facie’ opinion is required to be arrived at that a person has filed the petition for initiation of proceedings fraudulently or with malicious intent.

While parting with the decision, Tribunal held that the Real Estate Developer failed to prove that Allottee is a speculative Investor and is not genuinely interested in purchasing the flat and initiated proceeding under the Code to pressurise the Corporate Debtor.

Thus, Tribunal found no justification to invoke Section 65 of the I&B Code against the Allottee.

Decision

NCLT’s order requires no interference. [Amit Katyal v. Meera Ahuja, 2020 SCC OnLine NCLAT 748, decided on 09-11-2020]

Legislation UpdatesRules & Regulations

The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) notified the following Amendment Regulations, 2020:

(a) the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (Insolvency Resolution Process for Corporate Persons) (Fifth Amendment) Regulations, 2016

(b) the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (Liquidation Process) (Fourth Amendment) Regulations, 2020

(c) the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (Information Utilities) (Amendment) Regulations, 2020

2. The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (Code) enables a financial creditor (FC), among others, to initiate corporate insolvency resolution process (CIRP) against a corporate debtor (CD). The FC, along with the application, is required to furnish “record of the default recorded with the information utility or such other record or evidence of default as may be specified”. In exercise of this power, the IBBI amended the Regulations to specify two ‘other record or evidence of default’, namely, (a) certified copy of entries in the relevant account in the bankers’ book, and (b) order of a court or tribunal that has adjudicated upon the non-payment of a debt.

3. The Code defines financial information to mean certain records and ‘such other information as may be specified’. In exercise of this power, the IBBI amended the Regulations to specify public announcement made under the Code as financial information. It mandated the Information Utilities to disseminate the public announcement to its registered users, who are creditors of the CD undergoing insolvency proceeding. This is in addition to publishing the public announcement in the newspapers and websites as required in the Regulations.

4. The Regulations provide that the Interim Resolution Professional (IRP) / Resolution Professional (RP) shall verify every claim and thereupon maintain a list of creditors and update it. He is required to file the list of creditors with the Adjudicating Authority (AA) and display it on the website, if any, of the CD. The IBBI amended the Regulations to require the IRP/RP to submit the list of creditors on an electronic platform for dissemination on its website. This will improve transparency and enable stakeholders to ascertain the details of their claims at a central place.

5. The resolution plan usually provides payment of debts to the creditors of the CD. In the interest of transparency, the IBBI amended the Regulations to require the RP to intimate each claimant the principle or formulae for payment of debts under a resolution plan, within 15 days of the order of the AA approving such resolution plan.

6. The Code envisages early closure of the liquidation process so that the assets of the CD are released for alternate uses expeditiously. However, the process takes longer where the liquidation estate includes a ‘not readily realisable asset’. To facilitate quick closure of the liquidation process, the IBBI amended the Regulations to enable the liquidator to assign or transfer a ‘not readily realisable asset’ to any person in consultation with the stakeholders’ consultation committee. For this purpose, “not readily realisable asset” means any asset included in the liquidation estate which could not be sold through available options and includes contingent or disputed assets, and assets underlying proceedings for preferential, undervalued, extortionate credit and fraudulent transactions. Thus, a liquidator shall attempt to sell the assets at the first instance, failing which he may assign or transfer an asset to any person, in consultation with the stakeholders’ consultation committee, and failing which he may distribute the undisposed of assets amongst stakeholders, with the approval of the AA.

7. There may be a creditor who may not be willing to wait for the completion of the liquidation process for realisation of his debt. The IBBI amended the Regulations to enable a creditor to assign or transfer the debt due to it to any other person in accordance with the laws for the time being in force dealing with such assignment or transfer.


Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India

[Press Release dt. 13-11-2020]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT): The Bench of Justice Bansi Lal Bhat (Acting Chairperson) and Justice Anant Bijay Sing (Judicial Member) and Kanthi Narahari (Technical Member) set aside the Adjudicating Authorities decision while establishing whether a pre-existing dispute existed between the parties.

The instant appeal was filed against the order of the National Company Law Tribunal, New Delhi wherein the application filed under Section 9 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 by the respondent was admitted.

Pre-Existing Dispute

Aggrieved by the above, suspended director of the Corporate Debtor filed the present appeal challenging the admission and initiation of Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process against the Corporate debtor for the reason that there is a pre-existing dispute between the Corporate Debtor and the Operational Creditor.

Brief facts

Corporate Debtor invited tender in carrying out electrical works and respondent/Operational Creditor was assigned the same. In terms of the agreement and Letter of Intent, the payment terms were specifically incorporated therein.

In terms of LOI, a specific mention the time of completion is the essence of the contract and milestones were accordingly incorporated. The work was to be completed within 120 days. However, the work was delayed and the same was communicated by the Operational Creditor.

Further, it was submitted that the Operational Creditor has not completed the work and the Corporate Debtor time and again reminded Operational Creditor to complete the work by pointing out the defects.

Issue for Consideration

Whether there is an existence of dispute prior to the issuance of Demand Notice dated 11-04-2019 or not?

Bench noted that various email were exchanged between the parties. Respondent addressed to the appellant whereby it had been stated that the project was delayed much beyond the original schedule leading to enhanced overheads and stated that they needed funds to source materials with respect to work progress.

Deficiency in Service

Tribunal opined that the Adjudicating Authority instead of taking technical objection that the email dated 29-04-2019 may not be a response to the demand notice issued by respondent, however, the contents raised by the appellant should have been taken into consideration for the purpose of deciding the issue to elucidate any pre-existing dispute keeping in view of the trail of exchange of e-mails regarding deficiency in service.

Letters/e-mails of respondent dated 29-12-2018:

“Dear Sir,

We are handing over Electrical Works, Documents Details at Triumph Resort 336/1A, village Calwaddo, Benaulim, Goa- 403716.”

From the perusal of correspondences between the Appellant and Respondent, Appellant/Corporate Debtor submitted that the Respondent did not complete the project in time thereby the Project got delayed thereby they suffered losses. On the other side, the stand of Respondent/Operational Creditor that they completed the project and handed over to the Appellant/Corporate Debtor, however, Appellant/Corporate Debtor failed to pay bills even after completion of the project.

Bench stated that it is unequivocal that there exists a dispute between the parties prior to the issuance of Demand Notice dated 11-04-2019.

Adjudicating Authority instead of taking a technical objection that the Appellant/Corporate Debtor did not respond to the Demand Notice issued by the Respondent/Operational Creditor within the statutory period of 10 days as contemplated under Section 8(2) of IBC, should have analysed the documents placed before it, before taking such objection.

Tribunal observed that it is bound by the Supreme Court decision in, Mobilox Innovations (P) Ltd. v. Kirusa Software (P) Ltd., (2018) 1 SCC 353, wherein it was held that:

“…Within a period of 10 days of the receipt of such demand notice or copy of invoice, the corporate debtor must bring to the notice of the operational creditor the existence of a dispute and/or the record of the pendency of a suit or arbitration proceeding filed before the receipt of such notice or invoice in relation to such dispute [Section 8(2)(a)]. What is important is that the existence of the dispute and/or the suit or arbitration proceeding must be pre-existing i.e. it must exist before the receipt of the demand notice or invoice, as the case may be.”
Another Supreme Court decision was referred to, Innoventive Industries Ltd. v. ICICI Bank, (2018) 1 SCC 407, wherein it was decided that the dispute must exist before the receipt of the Demand Notice or Invoices as the case may be.
In Gajendra Parihar v. Devi Industrial Engineers,  2020 SCC OnLine NCLAT 274, Bench was of the view that existence of dispute prior to the issuance of Demand Notice, the Application under Section 9 IBC is not maintainable and once there is the existence of such dispute, the Operational Creditor gets out of the clutches of the Code.

Decision

Bench held that in view of the email/letters there existed a dispute prior to the Demand Notice.

Exchange of e-mails/correspondences, as referred above, clearly establishes that there is a pre-existing dispute between the parties regarding completion of the work and the Appellant/Corporate Debtor continuously made complaints regarding non-completion of work and deficiency in services, thereby loss caused to the Appellant/Corporate Debtor.

Hence, the Adjudicating Authority ought not to have admitted the application under Section 9 of IBC filed by the respondent.

Bench reiterated that,

Code is a beneficial legislation intended to put the Corporate Debtor on its feet and it s not a mere money recovery legislation for the Creditors.

In view of the above discussion, initiation of Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process is quashed and set aside.

While remitting back the matter to Adjudicating Authority, the tribunal directed Interim Resolution Professional/ Resolution Professional will hand over the assets and records to the Corporate Debtor/Promotor/Board of Director. [Umesh Saraf v. Tech India Engineers (P) Ltd.,  2020 SCC OnLine NCLAT 677, decided on 19-10-2020]

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National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT): Full Bench of Justice Bansi Lal Bhat (ACJ) and Justice Anant Bijay Singh (Judicial Member) and Dr Ashok Kumar Mishra (Technical Member), while addressing the present application observed that,

A Resolution Applicant whose Resolution Plan stands approved by Committee of Creditors cannot be permitted to alter his position to the detriment of various stake holders after pushing out all potential rivals during the bidding process.

Appellant emerged as the Successful Resolution Applicant in the Insolvency Resolution Process of Astonefield Solar (Gujarat) Pvt Ltd. (Corporate Debtor) assailed the impugned order rejecting the withdrawal application of its resolution plan and cancellation/ revocation/ return/ refund of the Performance Bank Guarantee, on the ground that there is no legal basis or justification for holding that an application for withdrawal of a Resolution Plan post-approval is not maintainable.

Withdrawal of Resolution Professional

Resolution Professional submitted that the appeal is not maintainable in view of the same being squarely covered by the decision of the Appellate Tribunal in

Committee of Creditors of Educomp Solutions Ltd. v. Ebix Singapore Pte. Ltd., Company Appeal (AT) (Insolvency) No. 653 of 2020, wherein it was held that after approval of the resolution plan by the committee of creditors, the adjudicating authority has no jurisdiction to entertain the application withdrawal filed by the resolution applicant and that adjudicating authority cannot enter into the arena of majority decision of the CoC.

Analysis & Decision

Adjudicating Authority was of the view that it had no jurisdiction to permit the withdrawal of a Resolution Plan, which had been duly approved by the Committee of Creditors. Issue of similar nature was sub-judice before the Supreme Court.

Resolution Plan

Before approval of a Resolution Plan by the Committee of Creditors, the Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process passes through various stages.

I&B Code provides for insolvency resolution in a time-bound manner, the object sought to be achieved, inter alia, being maximization of value of assets of corporate persons and balancing the interests of all stakeholders.

Commercial Wisdom

Further, the bench also stated that primacy is given to the Committee of creditors empowered to take a business decision in regard to the feasibility and viability of a Resolution Plan based on their commercial wisdom.

CIRP Process | Bidding Process

This process is in the nature of a bidding process where, based on consideration of the provisions of a Resolution Plan with regard to the financial matrix, the capacity of the Resolution Applicant to generate funds, infusion of funds, upfront payment, the distribution mechanism and the period over which the claims of various stakeholders are to be satisfied besides the feasibility and viability of the Resolution Plan, a Resolution Applicant emerges as the highest bidder (H1) eliminating the Resolution Plans of Resolution Applicants, which are ranked H2 and H3.

Further, approval of a Resolution Plan by CoC would be binding on the corporate debtor and all the stakeholders only after the Adjudicating Authority passes an order under Section 31 of the I&B Code approving the said plan, it does not follow that the Successful Resolution Applicant would be at liberty to withdraw the Resolution Plan sabotaging the entire Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process.

The said move of Resolution Applicant may push the Corporate Debtor into disastrous consequences wherein the Corporate debtor may be liquidated.

There is no express provision in the I&B Code allowing a Successful Resolution Applicant to stage a U-turn and frustrate the entire exercise of Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process.

“Provision for submission of a Performance Bank Guarantee by a resolution applicant while submitting its resolution plan, as required under the amended provisions of IBBI [Insolvency Resolution Process of Corporate Persons] Regulations, 2016 is a step in this direction, but may not be deterrent enough to prevent a Successful Resolution Applicant from taking a U-turn.”

Tribunal opined that the sanctity of the resolution process needs to be maintained and the Resolution Applicant whose Resolution Plan is approved by the CoC cannot be permitted to withdraw the same.

In view of the above, the appeal was dismissed. [Kundan Care Products Ltd. v. Amit Gupta, 2020 SCC OnLine NCLAT 670, decided on 30-09-2020]

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National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT): A Bench of Justice Venugopal M., Member (Judicial) and Balvider Singh and Ashok Kumar Mishra, Members (Technical) dismissed an appeal filed against the order of the National Company Law Tribunal. Chandigarh, whereby the resolution plan submitted by the appellant was rejected and liquidation of the Corporate Debtor was directed to be initiated.

The Corporate Debtor had filed a petition under Section 10 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016, for initiation of the corporate insolvency resolution process. The application was submitted by the NCLT and Resolution Professional was appointed. On the expiry of the period for completion of the insolvency resolution process, the Resolution Professional filed an application seeking liquidation of the Corporate Debtor. The appellant (Resolution Applicant) submitted before the NCLT that the resolution plan submitted by them was not duly considered. Per contra, the Resolution Professional submitted that no resolution plan was approved by the Committee of Creditors.

After hearing both the parties, the NCLT order liquidation of the Corporate Debtor. Aggrieved thereby, the appellant preferred the instant appeal.

The Appellant Tribunal noted certain facts including that the suspended Director of the Corporate Debtor has been operating the bank accounts of the Resolution Applicant as authorised signatory. The Resolution Applicant also had various transactions with the Corporate Debtor such as transfer of assets, sale of goods and rental income from the Resolution Applicant. Considering these facts, the Appellate Tribunal held that it was established that the appellant (Resolution Applicant) was a related party and was not eligible as per Section 29-A of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code.

Accordingly, the Appellate Tribunal found no merit in the appeal filed by the Resolution Applicant and dismissed the same. [Global Business Corpn. v. Punjab National Bank, 2020 SCC OnLine NCLAT 95, decided on 23-01-2020]

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National Company Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT): The Bench of Justice A.I.S Cheema, Member (Judicial), Kanthi Narahari, Member (Technical) and V.P. Singh, Member (Technical), allowed an appeal filed against the order of the National Company Law Tribunal, New Delhi, whereby it had admitted the petition under Section 9 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (for initiation of Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process), filed by the Operational Creditor  against the Flywheel Logistics Solutions (P) Ltd. (Corporate Debtor).

The material fact to note is the Operational Creditor provided freight services to the Corporate Debtor and dues were pending which were not paid by the Corporate Debtor. Hence, the Operational Creditor issued a Demand Notice under Section 8 and, subsequently, initiated the corporate insolvency resolution process. The appellant (shareholder) of the Corporate Debtor) contended that the Demand Notice served by the Operational Creditor relates to a separate corporate entity.

The question of law that arose for consideration was: “Whether the demand notice issued under Section 8 of the I & B Code 2016, against the corporate debtor, for the dues of sister concern/group company, can be treated as a valid notice?

On perusal of record, the Appellate Tribunal noted as admitted that the invoices were issued by the Operational Creditor against “Flywheel Logistics (P) Ltd.”. which was different from the Corporate Debtor, “Flywheel Logistics Solutions (P) Ltd.”. It was on record that two were different corporate entities, having different CIN Number and different registered addresses. The Appellate Tribunal observed: “It is also on record that the mandatory primary requirement for filing a petition under Section 9 of the ‘Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016’ is the service of the Demand Notice under Section 8 of the Code. The demand notice should have been served along with the copy/bill(s) / invoice(s) on the ‘Corporate Debtor’. But in the present case, the Bill / Invoice was raised against, Flywheel Logistics Private Limited, having CIN No. U60200DL2009PTC192531, whereas the mandatory demand notice under Section 8 of the ‘IBC’ has been served against the ‘Flywheel Logistics Solutions Pvt. Ltd.’ having CIN No. U60232DL2015PTC288609.”

In such circumstances, the Appellate Tribunal held that the Demand Notice issued against the Corporate Debtor was not a valid notice under Section 8 IBC. Accordingly, the appeal was allowed and the impugned order passed by the NCLT, New Delhi was set aside. [Anil Syal v. Sanjeev Kapoor, 2019 SCC OnLine NCLAT 630, decided on 08-11-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT), New Delhi: The 3-Judge Member Bench comprising of Justice S.J. Mukhopadhaya (Chairperson) and Justice A.I.S Cheema (Judicial Member) and Kanthi Narahari (Technical Member), while pronouncing an order in regard to the “Jet Airways” setback addressed the following question:

“Whether separate proceeding(s) in ‘Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process’ against common ‘Corporate Debtor’ can proceed in two different countries, one having no territorial jurisdiction over the other?”

Further, noting the fact that separate ‘Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process’/ liquidation proceedings have been initiated against Jet Airways (India) Limited — ‘Corporate Debtor’, the one in India and another in Netherland, the point of determination as framed was,

“Whether by a Joint Agreement between the ‘Resolution Professional’ of ‘Corporate Debtor’ in India and Administrator in Netherland, as may be approved  by Appellate Tribunal, one proceeding in India can proceed for maximization of the asset of ‘Corporate Debtor’ and balancing all stakeholders, including Indian/Offshore/Creditors/Lenders”?

State Bank of India-Respondent 1, was represented by Ramji Srinivasan, Senior Advocate along with Counsel Karan Khanna.

It was directed to Respondent 1 that it may file a reply suggesting a procedure that may be followed in the facts and circumstances of the case, without any conflicting interest of stakeholders of both the countries.

Tribunal directed case for admission on 21-08-2019.

NCLAT also stated that during the pendency of the appeal, appellant administrator and Respondent 2 – ‘Interim Resolution Professional’ will cooperate with each other. It will be open to the appellant administrator to collate the claims of offshore creditors including ‘Financial Creditors’, ‘Operational Creditors’ and other stakeholders and forward their details to Respondent 2-‘Resolution Professional’ for purpose of preparing the Information memorandum with approval of ‘Committee of Creditors’.

Counsel, Sumant Batra who appeared on behalf of appellant administrator assured that-

  • Appellant Administrator will cooperate in the proceedings in India;
  • Will not sell, alienate, transfer, lease or create any 3rd party interest on the offshore movable and immovable assets of ‘Corporate Debtor’.

In respect to the above undertaking by an appellant administrator, the impugned order dated 20-06-2019 passed by NCLT, so far as it relates to the declaration that offshore proceeding is not maintainable, shall remain stayed.

  • Interim Resolution Professional of this country will ensure that ‘Corporate Debtor’ remains a going concern and will take the assistance of the (suspended) Board of Directors, paid directors and employees.
  • Person authorised to sign bank cheques may issue cheques only after Interim Resolution Professional’s authorisation.
  • Bank accounts of Corporate Debtor be allowed to be operated for the day-to-day functioning of the company such as for payment of current bills of suppliers, salaries and wages of paid director, employees’/workmen electricity bills, etc., subject to availability of fund.[Jet Airways (India) Ltd. v. SBI, 2019 SCC OnLine NCLAT 385, decided on 12-07-2019]
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National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT): A Bench of S.J. Mukhopadhaya, Chairperson and Justice A.I.S Cheema, Member (Judicial) and Kanthi Narahari, Member (Technical) upheld the impugned decision whereby the appellant’s (Operational Creditor’s) application under Section 9 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016, filed against the respondent (Corporate Debtor) was rejected.

Operational Creditor’s case was that despite repeated requests, the Corporate Debtor failed to make payments. Per contra, the Corporate Debtor submitted that it was willing to pay the entire amount subject to the condition that the Operational Creditor gets himself registered under the Goods and Services Tax, 2017. The Corporate Debtor also offered a demand draft to the Operational Creditor, which he refused to accept.

Aditya Diwan, Arpit Marwah and Karan Nagpal, Advocates appeared for the Operational Creditor. Per contra, the Corporate Debtor was represented by Y. Suryanarayana, Advocate.

On considering the facts and circumstances, the Appellate Tribunal was of the view that the Operational Creditor initiated the Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process (“CIRP”) with fraudulent and malicious intent for any purpose other than the resolution of insolvency or liquidation and therefore it was clearly covered under Section 65 IBC (fraudulent or malicious initiation of proceedings).

In such view of the matter, the Appellate Tribunal was inclined to interfere with the impugned order. The appeal was, thus, dismissed. [Praveen Kumar Mundra v. CIL Securities Ltd., 2019 SCC OnLine NCLAT 334, decided on 14-05-2019]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT): A Bench of Justice S.J. Mukhopadhaya, Chairperson and Justice A.I.S Cheema, Member (Judicial) and Kanthi Narahari, Member (Technical) allowed the appellant (shareholder of the Corporate Debtor) to pay the total dues of the Operational Creditor after the application filed against it under Section 9 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 was admitted by the the National Company Appellate Tribunal, Bengaluru.

The appellant submitted that though the Section 9 application was admitted against it, however, the Committee of Creditors was not yet constituted. He submitted that he was ready to pay the total dues of the Operational Creditor which brought the application before NCLT.

Three demand drafts brought by the appellant were produced before the Appellate Tribunal, which were directed to be handed over to the Operational Creditor in the discharge of Corporate Debtor’s liability towards it. In view of the fact that the total amount was paid to the Operational Creditor and the Committee of Creditors was not yet constituted, the Appellate Tribunal set aside the impugned order of NCLT admitting the Section 9 application against the Corporate Debtor. [A.P. Abdul Kareem v. Om Industrial Corpn., 2019 SCC OnLine NCLAT 154, Order dated 16-04-2019]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Company Law Tribunal, Mumbai: The Bench of Bhaskara Pantula Mohan, Member (Judicial) and V. Nallasenapathy, Member (Technical) allowed a petition filed by TJSB Sahakari Bank (“the Bankfor admission of an application under Section 7 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 read with Rule 4 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy (Application to Adjudicating Authority) Rules, 2016.

The Bank was a member of the “SVC Bank Consortium” that sanctioned credit facilities to the Unimetal Castings Ltd. (“Corporate Debtor”) on 25-2-2013. The Bank sought initiation of Insolvency Resolution Process against the Corporate Debtor under Section 7 on the ground of default in repayment of the loan to the extent of more than Rs 6.38 crores.

Aditya Pimple, Advocate instructed by MAG Legal representing the Corporate Debtor raised various contentions to oppose the application of the Bank. One of the contentions related to applicability of Limitation Act, 1963 was that the claim of the Bank was barred under Article 137. For this, he relied on a recent judgment in B.K. Educational Services (P) Ltd. v. Parag Gupta and Associates, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1921 wherein the Supreme Court clarified that the Limitation Act, 1963 is applicable to Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016. It was submitted that the date of alleged default was 30-06-2015 (the date on which Corporate Debtor’s account was declared a Non-Performing Asset). Furthermore, since the petition was filed on 23-8-2018, i.e., after more than 3 years of the date on which the cause of action arose (and also the right to apply accrued), therefore it was barred by limitation.

Per contra, Nausher Kohli, Advocate instructed by DSK Legal who appeared for the Bank, submitted that the Bank’s name and loan was shown in the balance sheet of the Corporate Debtor for the Financial Year ending 2017. This according to hi was an acknowledgement of liability. And therefore, it was contended that the debt was not barred by limitation even when the insolvency application was filed after 3 years from the date of default.

The tribunal noted that the Corporate Debtor did not dispute the fact the loan was shown as a liability in its balance sheet. It was observed, ” when the liability is shown in the balance sheet, that is a clear acknowledgement of debt by the Corporate debtor. There are umpteen numbers of judgments to say that the debt shown in the balance sheet is an acknowledgement of liability.” In such a view, the Tribunal held that the contention of the Corporate Debtor would not hold water. Having been satisfied that the Corporate debtor defaulted in making a payment towards its liability to the Bank, the Tribunal allowed the petition and admitted the bank’s application filed under Section 7 IBC. [TJSB Sahakari Bank Ltd. v. Unimetal Castings Ltd., CP (IB)-3622/I&BP/MB/2108 dated 25-01-2019]

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National Company Law Tribunal, Mumbai: The Bench of V.P. Singh, Member (Judicial) and Ravikumar Duraisami, Member (Technical) ordered for prosecution to be lodged against the Corporate Debtor / Corporate Applicant on the ground that it suppressed material information while filing a petition under Section 10 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016  for initiating corporate insolvency resolution process.

The matter had reached upto the stage of the Resolution Professional filing the application for approval of the Resolution Plan by NCLT. During arguments, one of the Financial Creditors, IDBI Bank, brought to NCLT’s notice that the Bombay High Court had already ordered winding-up of the Corporate Debtor and this material fact was suppressed while filing the petition under Section 10.

Extensive arguments were made by both the sides and reliance was placed on various Supreme Court decisions. S. Purohit, Advocate appeared for the Corporate Debtor. On the other hand, Advocates Shavey Mukri along with Nishitha Manbiar  and Almira Lasrado of IndiaLaw represented IDBI Bank; Advocates Ashish and Priyanak Upadhyaya of Ethos Legal Alliance represented SBI Global Factors (P) Ltd.; Advocate Sugatya Chaudhary represented Axis Bank; Nikhil Rajani and Jyoti of V. Deshpande & Co. along with Naman Awasthi, Authorised Signatory represented Edelweiss ARC; Advocates Bhupesh V. Samant and Ganesh Kale represented Saraswat Coop. Bank; Sushmita Gandhi and Anamika of HSA Advocates represented ICICI Bank (all creditors). Another creditor, Ramkumar Birendrakumar (P) Ltd. was represented by Counsel Subir Kumar and Priyanka Sinha of A&P Partners.

The question before NCLT was whether disclosure of the Bombay High Court’s order was material for applying under Section 10 for initiation of corporate insolvency resolution process?

NCLT noted that the Corporate Debtor was fully aware that the company stood wound up by the order of the High Court. According to NCLT, this fact was without an iota of doubt, a material fact for presenting a petition under Section 10. Further, relying on Forech (India) (P) Ltd. v. Edelweiss ARC, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 87, NCLT observed that a Corporate Debtor is barred from filing a Section 10 petition after passing of liquidation orders in winding-up proceedings. The act of the Corporate Debtor in suppressing the information known to it to be material for filing Section 10 petition was held to be punishable under Section 77(a) IBC. Accordingly, the Registrar of Companies, Mumbai was directed to lodge prosecution against the Corporate Debtor under Section 77(a). Furthermore, cost of Rs 10 lakhs was imposed on Corporate Debtor and the petition was dismissed. [Amar Remedies Ltd., In re, 2019 SCC OnLine NCLT 1, Order dated 29-01-2019]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT): A Bench comprising of Justice S.J. Mukhopadhaya, Chairperson and Justice Bansi Lal Bhat, Member (Judicial) dismissed an appeal filed against the order of National Company Law Tribunal, Bengaluru dismissing appellant’s application under Section 9 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016.

The appellant had filed a petition under Section 433(e), 434(1) and 439 of Companies Act, 1956 before the Karnataka High Court. The petition was transferred pursuant to rule 5of the Companies (Transfer of Pending Proceedings) Rules, 2016 to NCLT. The petition was treated as an application under Section 9 of the I&B Code by the appellant. Demand Notice under Section 8(1) was issued. After hearing the parties, NCLT dismissed the application on the ground of pre-existing dispute. Aggrieved thereby, the present appeal was filed.

Raghavendra M. Bajaj, Advocate for the appellant submitted that the Corporate Debtor had agreed to pay dues by 5 different times. But the Corporate Debtor claimed the existence of ‘dispute’. It raised objections regarding non-completion of project within time and completion of the same in haste with defects.

The Appellate Tribunal noted that the objections were raised by the Corporate Debtor much prior to the filing of petition under Companies Act. It was held that such disputes cannot be decided by NCLT but only by a civil court of competent jurisdiction on basis evidence. Therefore, as there existed a dispute raised prior to filing of petition under Sections 433(e) and 434(1) of Companies Act, it was held that the application under Section 9 of I&B Code was not maintainable. [Yash Technologies (P) Ltd. v. Base Corpn. Ltd., 2019 SCC OnLine NCLAT 1, dated 03-01-2019]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT): A Bench comprising of Justice A.I.S. Cheema, Member (Judicial) and Balvinder Singh, Member (Technical) dismissed an appeal filed against the order of National Company Law Tribunal (Mumbai) whereby it had admitted application filed by Operational Creditor under Section 8 read with Section 9 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 for initiation of Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process against Corporate Debtor.

Appellant was the Managing Director of Corporate Debtor. His submissions as to existence of dispute as contemplated under the code were not accepted. The main point considered by the Appellate Tribunal was regarding the non-observance of the provision of serving of notice by the Adjudicating Authority (NCLT) before admitting the application. It was argued by the appellant that absence of service of notice by the Adjudicating Authority itself violates principles of natural justice. Reliance was placed upon Starlog Enterprises Ltd. v. ICICI Bank Ltd., 2017 SCC OnLine NCLAT 13 and Mass Metals (P) Ltd v. Sunflag Iron and Steel Co. Ltd., 2017 SCC OnLine NCLAT 504. It was also an admitted fact that the appellant received the notice sent under Section 8 of I&B Code but Veritas Legal, Advocates & Solicitors of operational Creditor but it was contended that Veritas Legal was not the filing authority of the application in NCLT and nor was it authorised by any Board Resolution to act on behalf of Operational Creditor.

The Appellate Tribunal was of the view that Corporate Debtor and appellant had knowledge of the legal proceedings and also of the notice. It observed, “When advocate sends the notice, it is on instructions from the client and the same cannot be ignored by saying that the advocate should also forward authority and Resolution of the Company.” In regard to the requirement of notice to be sent by Adjudicating Authority, the Appellate Tribunal observed that the appellant had sufficient notice and still chose not to appear before NCLT. In such a case, the non-observance of the requirement was not fatal to the appellant’s case. Resultantly, it was held that the appeal was sans merit and was thus dismissed. [J.B. Tiwari v. Biostadt India Ltd., 2018 SCC OnLine NCLAT 563, decided on 30-11-2018]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT): A Two-Member Bench comprising of S.J. Mukhopadhaya(Chairperson) and Bansi Lal Bhatt (Member-Judicial), JJ. set aside an order passed by the National Company Law Tribunal (New Delhi) for being violative of principles of natural justice.

NCLAT had admitted the application filed by the respondent (operational creditor) under Section 9 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016. The appellant submitted that the said application was admitted without any notice to the corporate debtor. It was contended that the order impugned was passed in contravention of rules of natural justice.

The Appellate Tribunal, after perusing the record, noted that admittedly the order impugned was passed by NCLT without notice to the corporate debtor which was indeed in violation of principles of natural justice. Furthermore, the parties had already settled the matter between themselves. in such view of the matter, the Appellate Tribunal was the view that in effect, the order impugned passed by NCLT and allotter orders passed pursuant thereof were illegal and therefore were set aside. The application preferred by the respondent under Section 9 was dismissed and NCLT was directed to close the proceedings. The appeal was, thus, allowed. [Rajesh Arora v. Sanjay Kumar Jaiswal, 2018 SCC OnLine NCLAT 837, dated 05-11-2018]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT): A two-member bench comprising of Justice S.J. Mukhopadhaya, Chairperson and Justice Bansi Lal Bhat, Member (Judicial)  dismissed an appeal filed against the order of the National Company Law Tribunal, Chennai whereby the application filed by the Financial Creditor under Section 7 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 was admitted.

Firstly, the appellant (shareholder of the Corporate Debtor) submitted that the respondent is not a Financial Creditor as defined in Section 5(7) read with Section 5(8). However, on facts, the Appellate Tribunal rejected the submission. It was found that the Rajkumar Impex Ghana Ltd. (subsidiary of the Corporate Debtor) had applied for a loan which was provided by Stanbic Bank Ghana Ltd. The Corporate Debtor executed guarantee in favour of the Bank for the said loan. As such, the Bank became a Financial Creditor. Secondly, the admission of application filed by the respondent under Section 7 for initiation of Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process was assailed. It was challenged on the ground that NCLT while admitting the application, did not record reasons in writing.

The Appellate Tribunal rejected the second submission filed by the appellant as well. It observed that application under Section 7 is not a recovery proceeding or proceeding for determining of a claim on merit that can be decided only by a court of competent jurisdiction. An application under Sections 7, 9 or 10 of the Code not being a money claim or suit and not being an adversarial litigation, NCLT is not required to write a detailed decision as to which are the evidence relied upon for its satisfaction. NCLT is only required to be satisfied that there is a debt and default had occurred. In the present case, NCLT had held that a prima facie case was made out by the applicant. As such, NCLT expressed its satisfaction about existence of debt and default. Thus, the appeal was dismissed holding it to be sans merit. [V.R. Hemantraj v. Stanbic Bank Ghana Ltd.,2018 SCC OnLine NCLAT 451, dated 29-08-2018]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT): A two-member bench comprising of Justice S.J. Mukhopadhaya, Chairperson and Justice Bansi Lal Bhat, Member (Judicial), dismissed an appeal filed against the judgment of National Company Law Tribunal, New Delhi whereby Respondents 1 and 2 were held to be Financial Creditors.

Factual matrix of the case is that the said respondents were the erstwhile Directors of the Corporate Debtor company. They extended loan to the Corporate Debtor from time to time at an interest of 18% per annum. The question that arose for consideration in this appeal was whether the respondents came within the meaning of Financial Creditors as defined in Section 5(7) and (8) of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016. It is pertinent to note that Section 5(7) defines a Financial Creditor as any person to whom a financial debt is owed and includes a person to whom such debt has been legally assigned or transferred to.

The Appellate Tribunal perused various provisions of the Code and observed that the expression debt defined under Section 3(11) means a liability or obligation in respect of a claim which is due from any person and includes a financial debt and operational debt. Non-payment of such debt which has become due and payable and is not repaid by the Corporate Debtor falls within the mischief default defined under Section 3(12) of the Code. Further, in the present case, the manner and circumstances in which the amount of loan was borrowed by the Corporate Debtor from time to time with stipulated interest, left no room for doubt that the outstanding unsecured debt had all the trappings of a Financial Debt. Hence, the said respondents (erstwhile Directors) were safely held to be Financial Creditors. All the contentions raised by the appellant were repelled holding them sans merit. The appeal was, thus, dismissed. [Rajesh Gupta v. Dinesh Chand Jain,2018 SCC OnLine NCLAT 412, Order dated 09-08-2018]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Company Law Appellate Tribunal:  A two-member bench comprising of S.J. Mukhopadhaya and Bansi Lal Bhat, J., dismissed a company appeal filed against the order of the National Company Law Tribunal which dismissed the appellant’s application filed under Section 7 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code 2016, for initiation of Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process.

The appellant (operational creditor) cited a long list of cases to substantiate its application. The question before the Tribunal was whether an application under Section 7 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code 2016 was maintainable even when the winding up proceedings against the corporate debtor had already been initiated. It was an admitted fact that the Bombay High Court had already ordered the winding of the corporate debtor. Referring to various judgments, the Tribunal, held that an application for initiation of Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process was not maintainable. The Tribunal observed that winding up order is the second stage and corporate insolvency resolution process is the first. Therefore, the order for initiation of the first stage cannot be passed after order directing the compliance of the second stage had already been issued. As a result, the Tribunal dismissed the company appeal preferred by the appellant. [Indiabulls Housing Finance Ltd. v. Sree Ram Urban Infrastructure Ltd., 2018 SCC OnLine NCLAT 282, order dated 30-05-2018]