Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a case dealing with companies defaulting a loan of Rs. 48 Crores including interest from Kotak Mahindra Bank, the question relating to the right of a secured creditor to file a winding up petition after such secured creditor has obtained a decree from the Debts Recovery Tribunal [DRT] and a recovery certificate based thereon arose before the bench of RF Nariman and Navin Sinha, JJ. On the issue, the bench said:

“cases like the present one have to be decided by balancing the interest of creditors to whom money is owing, with a debtor company which will now go in the red since a winding up petition is admitted against it. It is not open for persons like the appellant to resist a winding up petition which is otherwise maintainable without there being any bona fide defence to the same.”

The Court said that when it comes to a winding up proceeding under the Companies Act, 1956, since such a proceeding is not “for recovery of debts” due to banks, the bar to jurisdiction contained in Section 18 read with Section 34 of the Recovery of Debts Act would not apply to winding up proceedings under the Companies Act, 1956. It further added:

“As a matter of fact, sub-paragraphs (i) and (iv) of paragraph 18 would show that proceedings before the DRT, and winding up proceedings under the Companies Act, 1956, can carry on in parallel streams. That is why paragraph 18(i) states that a Debts Recovery Tribunal, acting under the Recovery of Debts Act, would be entitled to order sale, and sell the properties of the debtor, even of a company in liquidation, but only after giving notice to the Official Liquidator, or to the Liquidator appointed by the Company Court, and after hearing him.”

Citing Lord Atkin’s judgment in Lissenden v. C.A.V. Bosch, Ltd., [1940] 1 All E.R. 425 at 436-437, where he said that one has not lost one’s right to a second helping because one has taken the first, the Court said that the Bank cannot be said to be blowing hot and cold in pursuing a remedy under the Recovery of Debts Act and a winding up proceeding under the Companies Act, 1956 simultaneously, in fact:

“When secured creditors like the respondent are driven from pillar to post to recover what is legitimately due to them, in attempting to avail of more than one remedy at the same time, they do not “blow hot and cold”, but they blow hot and hotter.”

[Swaraj Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd. v. Kotak Mahindra Bank Ltd., 2019 SCC OnLine SC 92, decided on 29.01.2019]

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) allowed an appeal filed against an order of National Company Law Tribunal (Mumbai).

The respondent preferred an application under Sections 433 and 434 of the Companies Act, 1956 before the Bombay High Court for winding up of the Corporate Debtor pertaining to a debt of Rs 21,63,359. The case was transferred pursuant to Rule 5 of the Companies (Transfer of Pending Proceedings) Rule, 2016 before National Company Law Tribunal (Mumbai). The respondent therein filed Form 5 to treat the same as an application under Section 9 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 for initiation of Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process against the Corporate Debtor. By the order impugned, NCLT admitted the application, passed an order of moratorium and appointed Interim Resolution Professional. The appellant – Director of the Corporate Debtor, challenged the order on the ground that notice under Section 8(1) was issued on the same date when Form 5 was filed.

The Appellate Tribunal perused Section 9 of the I&B Code and observed that an application under Section 9 preferred before the completion of 10 days from the giving of notice under Section 8(1) cannot be entertained and admitted by the Adjudicating Authority. Holding the application under Section  9 as not maintainable on the date on which it was filed, the High Court set aside the order impugned. Resultantly, the order passed by NCLT appointing Interim Resolution Professional, declaring moratorium, freezing of account, etc. were declared illegal. The appeal was, thus, allowed. [Jaya Patel v. Gas Jeans (P) Ltd., 2018 SCC OnLine NCLAT 783, dated 08-10-2018]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI): The whole time member of SEBI,  G.Mahalingam in accordance to the interim order given earlier issued directions under Section 19 of the Securities and Exchange Board of India Act, 1992 and Sections 11(1), 11(B) and 11(4) thereof and regulation 65 of the SEBI (Collective Investment Schemes) Regulations, 1999  to NICL India Ltd. for engaging in Collective Investment Schemes without ‘certificate of  registration’ from SEBI.

NICL  India Ltd. was involved in illegal mobilization of funds from the public through ‘Collective Investment Schemes’, without obtaining the certificate of registration resulting in the contravention of Section 12(1B) of the SEBI Act, 1992 with Section 11 AA and Regulation 3 of CIS Regulations. It has also been stated that NICL was alleged of contravention of Regulation 4(2)(t) of ‘Prohibition of Fraudulent & Unfair Trade Practice Relating to Securities Market Regulations, 2003.

The interim order that had been said to be passed carried certain directions towards the NICL directors and further in reference to that,  they were asked to file reply, if any.  NICL through the further correspondence of letters kept asking for the extension of time to refund the investor’s money.

SEBI received complaints subsequently in which one was from RBI as well, in regard to the ‘mobilization of public fund’, after NICL had claimed to adhered all the stated directives in the interim order.

Therefore, it was noted by the board that, after providing opportunity of personal hearing and absenteeism in that, SEBI had to conclude by stating that ‘Noticees’ that were engaged in the Collective investment scheme had failed to address prima facie conclusions in the interim order, for which the directors of NICL would be liable which further lead SEBI for the issuance of certain directions that involved the winding up of the NICL’s Collective Investment Scheme and certain other directives for refund of the invested funds. [NICL India Ltd., In Re,2018 SCC OnLine SEBI 128, order decided on 21-06-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Hyderabad High Court: While deciding the instant appeal under Section 483 of the Companies Act, 1956 read with Clause 15 of the Letters Patent against the admission of Company Petition No. 231 of 2015, filed for its winding-up under Section 433(e) read with Sections 434(1)(a) and 439 of the Companies Act, 1956, the Division Bench of Sanjay Kumar and Uma Devi, JJ., observed that it would not be true to say that a person who commits a breach of the contract incurs any pecuniary liability, nor would it be true to say that the other party to the contract who complains of the breach has any amount due to him from the other party. Thus no pecuniary liability arises till the Court has determined that the party complaining of the breach is entitled to damages.

The appellant company was awarded a contract by Surana Ventures Limited to set up a 35 MW per annum capacity photo-voltaic cell manufacturing plant at Fab City, Hyderabad. In turn, the appellant company engaged services of several sub-contractors and suppliers for discharging this contractual obligation. The respondent company was one of the sub contractors upon whom a Purchase Order dated 15.04.2011 was placed by the appellant company to manufacture and supply of certain water and waste-water plant components for use in the proposed manufacturing plant. The Purchase Order contained the terms and conditions of the contract as it contemplated that time was the essence of the work and all deliveries/works had to be completed. However Surana Ventures shelved the project in August, 2011 and the contract was frustrated thereafter. As a result the appellant company claimed that it could not proceed further thereafter, in so far as Purchase Order. The respondent company stated that it had invested its entire monies into the project and kept the plant ready and was at the disposal of the appellant company and thus requested them to pay the balance amount. With the appellant denying the liability to pay, the company petition for winding-up the appellant company was presented by the respondent on 01.05.2015. The Company Judge admitted the winding up petition stating that the appellant company’s defense of Surana Ventures shelving the project is unsustainable and did not make any observation on the issue as to whether there was breach of contract by the appellant company in respect of its obligation under the Purchase Order.

The Court observed that the Company Judge lost sight of such an important issue as to the presence of a breach of contract by the appellant company as this was a crucial aspect which was raised by way of a bonafide dispute by the appellant company and required to be addressed at the threshold to assess as to whether the respondent made out a prima facie case for admission of the winding-up petition. The Court also observed that when damages are assessed the Court in the firstly must decide that the defendant is liable and then it proceeds to assess what that liability is. But till that determination there is no liability at all upon the defendant. Noticing the existence of several debatable issues raised by the appellant which were ignored by the Company Judge, the Court thus set aside the order of admission dated 25.10.2017 and dismissed Company Petition No. 231 of 2015. [MW High Tech Projects India Pvt. Ltd. v. M/s. Grauer & Weil (India) Ltd., 2017 SCC OnLine Hyd 409, decided on 06.12.2017]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: In a case dealing with petitions pending admission before the High Court filed under the Companies Act, 1956 where winding up of a company was sought, the Single Bench of S.C. Gupte, J held that every winding up petition under clause (e) of Section 433 which is pending before the High Court and which is not served by the petitioner on the respondent company shall stand transferred to NCLT under Rule 5 of the Companies (Transfer of Pending Proceedings) Rules, 2016.

The petitioners in the present case contended that the petitions having been served on the respondent as required by Rule 26 of the Companies (Court) Rules, 1959, the transfer notification does not apply to them and accordingly, this court retains its jurisdiction over them. It is the case of the respondent that these petitions stand transferred to NCLT as they are covered in the mandate of the notification which confers powers on the Central Government to constitute NCLT and NCLAT for transfer of various proceedings pending before the High Courts to NCLT.

Analysing the submissions put forward by the counsel, the Bench considered the relevant provisions of the Act in light of the facts of the case and held that Rule 26 has no reference to the order of admission of the petition. It further said that if such pending petition is served by the petitioner on the respondent, the petition will continue to be dealt with by this court and the applicable provisions will be the provisions of 1956 Act. Accordingly, the petitions in this case were not transferred to NCLT. Conversely, it implied that unserved pending petitions are to be transferred to NCLT to be governed by the Companies Act, 2013. [West Hills Realty Private Ltd. v. Neelkamal Realtors Tower Pvt. Ltd., 2016 SCC OnLine Bom 10038 , decided on 23.12.2016]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court : While dealing with the issue relating to jurisdiction of BIFR in winding up proceedings, the Court held that winding up proceedings before the Company Court cannot continue after a reference has been registered by the BIFR and an enquiry has been initiated under Section 16 of the SICA

In the present case, the appellants Madura Coats had filed a petition in the Company Court for winding up of Modi Rubbers on the allegation that Modi Rubbers was unable to pay its huge undisputed debts. The Company Court passed an order for winding up of the Company. Modi Rubbers appealed before the Divisional bench of the High Court which had set-aside the order of the Company Court on the pretext that Modi Rubbers had made an application to BIFR- Board of Industrial & Financial Reconstruction under the provisions of Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985 (SICA) and hence should be entitled to the benefits of the provisions of Section 22 of the SICA. The  Court discovered that Modi Rubbers was willing to pay the dues to Madhura Coats in terms of the rehabilitation scheme passed by BIFR. The Court also based it’s reliance on Real Value Appliances Ltd. v. Canara Bank, (1998) 5 SCC 554, where the question was raised that whether on the registration of a reference, the Division Bench of the High Court could pass orders in an appeal against an interim order passed by the Company Court , to which the Court had replied that the SICA is intended to revive and rehabilitate a sick industry before it can be wound up under the Companies Act. The legislative intention is to ensure that no proceedings against the assets of the company are taken before any decision is taken by the BIFR because if the assets are sold or the company is wound up, it may become difficult to later restore the status quo ante.

The bench comprising of Madan B. Lokur J., finally concluded that the Company Court and the BIFR do not exercise concurrent jurisdiction. Till the company remains a sick company having regard to the provisions of sub-section (4) of Section 20 [of the SICA], BIFR alone shall have jurisdiction as regards sale of its assets till an order of winding up is passed by a Company Court and hence set aside the order passed by the Company Court and upheld the order passed by the Divisional bench of High Court. [Madura Coats Limited v. Modi Rubber Ltd., 2016 SCC OnLine SC 626, decided on 29.06.2016]