Cases analysis

Case Note: Judgement of the Supreme Court in the Essar Steel Case

By a judgment dated November 15, 2019, the Supreme Court of India in the case of Committee of Creditors of Essar Steel India Limited v. Satish Kumar Gupta and Others delivered its final verdict on the acquisition of Essar Steel India Limited under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016. The proceedings under the IBC in relation to the acquisition of Essar Steel lasted for more than two years and laid down precedents on several questions arising out of the then newly introduced insolvency legislation in India. This paper is a comment on this judgment. It critically analyses the decision of the Supreme Court and the impact of the judgment on insolvency law in India.


Tata-Mistry Case: A Bittersweet Victory for the Tata Group

On March 26, the Supreme Court delivered its verdict in a matter that has grabbed headlines for more than four years. Two prominent business groups, historically inter-connected with each other in multiple ways, have engaged in a no-holds-barred battle that by all accounts will be a significant marker in the history of corporate India. It started at a board meeting of Tata Sons on Oct. 24, 2016, when Cyrus Mistry was removed by the board of directors from his position as executive chairman. This led to a series of cascading events that ultimately ended up in the courts.


IBC: Supreme Court of India Endorses the Fresh Start on a Clean Slate Principle

The Supreme Court of India in the Essar Steel case held that allowing claims apart from those covered in a resolution plan to survive after approval of a resolution plan militates against the rationale of Section 31 of the IBC. The Supreme Court recognized that a successful resolution applicant should be given an opportunity to take over and run the business of the corporate debtor on a clean slate. Subsequently, the legislature introduced Section 32A of the IBC to provide that a corporate debtor shall not be prosecuted for an offence committed prior to the corporate insolvency resolution process, subject to certain conditions. Recently, the Supreme Court dismissed a writ petition challenging the constitutional validity of Section 32A of the IBC. The Supreme Court issued an unequivocal declaration of the need to give the successful resolution applicant a fresh start.


Defining Control: Future Retail vs. Amazon

The recent interpretation of “control” by the High Court of Delhi in a litigation between Future Retail and Amazon has once again focused attention on the perennial question of what constitutes control. As described in more detail in the note, this question cannot be considered in abstract; it must be considered in the context of a specific legislation or policy and the objective it seeks to achieve. The relevant provisions of the FDI policy, which provide the context in this case, may not have been correctly appreciated.


Supreme Court of India Clarifies ‘What is Arbitrable’ under Indian Law and Provides Guidance to Forums in Addressing the Question

In the recent spate of amendments to the Arbitration & Conciliation Act, 1996 (the “Arbitration Act”), one issue remained overlooked – whether a particular dispute can be referred to arbitration or whether such dispute is exclusively reserved for adjudication by a court. For almost a decade, the sole guidance to courts deciding this question was the test formulated by the Supreme Court of India (the “Supreme Court”) in Booz Allen and Hamilton Inc v. SBI Home Finance Ltd. & Others (2011) 5 SCC 532 (“Booz-Allen Test”). However a closer look at the rulings of the Supreme Court over the last few years reveal that the Booz-Allen Test has failed to withstand the test of time – the ‘nature of rights’ principle on which the test is predicated has been found inadequate to conclusively determine the question of arbitrability. Recently, the Supreme Court revisited this question in Vidya Drolia & Others v. Durga Trading Corporation 2019 SCCOnLine SC 358 (“Vidya Drolia”) and proposed a four-fold test to determine arbitrability under Indian law. The Supreme Court also issued guidance to forums adjudicating this issue.


Pre-Arbitration Steps: Contractually Prescribed Pre-Arbitration Mediation, Emergency Awards and Court Ordered Interim Relief

In drafting arbitration agreements and at the preparatory stages of an arbitration, important determinations are required as to any procedures that must precede the invocation of an arbitration (i.e., contractually prescribed pre-arbitral steps) and measures that a party may require to secure in advance any potential award that may be rendered in an arbitration.
The determinations regarding pre-arbitral steps and interim measures are riddled with intricacies of the applicable law(s) and contractual requirements, any applicable rules of arbitration and the strategic objectives intended to be achieved through the arbitration.
This note, first published by LegalEra, discusses some pre-arbitral interim measures that can be helpful in securing an award, considerations as to choosing the forum to approach for these measures and the issues presented when such measures are required before a contractually prescribed pre-arbitral procedure (such as mediation or conciliation) is completed. In that context, the considerations that apply at the time of drafting an arbitration agreement are also discussed briefly.


Enforcement of Foreign Awards granting a Put Option despite objections under the FEMA

A ‘put option’ is a clause agreed in a contract whereby one party has the right (not an obligation) to sell its shares in a company to another person at an agreed price. Such price need not be an absolute number recorded in the contract and could be in the form of an agreed formula or may be left to determination by an expert (pre-agreed or subject to future agreement) using financial data as of an agreed date. A put option works as a means of exit for investor shareholders. Subject to a valid exercise of the put option and correctness of the valuation, once a put option is exercised, it entails a contractual obligation on the party upon which such option is exercised to purchase the shares at such price and acquire the shares.
This note seeks to briefly discuss the treatment of objections to enforcement of foreign awards on grounds that the put option clause granted through the foreign award violates the foreign exchange laws of India.


Avoidable Transactions under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code: Key Considerations

For the success of any insolvency regime, it is critical that distressed companies are prevented from takings measures which could hamper recovery to creditors in the event insolvency proceedings were to commence. Such protective provisions assume particular importance in the Indian context, where companies are often closely held by promoter groups who may seek to transfer value from assets through opaque structures to other group companies for their own benefit. Accordingly, the National Company Law Tribunal (the “NCLT”) is empowered to undo any such transaction to protect the interests of creditors and other stakeholders under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (the “IBC”).

Recently, in the matter of Anuj Jain Interim Resolution Professional for Jaypee Infratech Limited v. Axis Bank Limited and others (“Jaypee Infratech”), the Supreme Court of India clarified certain key aspects in respect of preferential transactions under Section 43 of the IBC. Such preferential transactions are one of the four categories of “avoidable” transactions (i.e., those which may be annulled or disregarded) under the IBC, the others being undervalued, extortionate and/or fraudulent transactions.

This note briefly discusses the different types of avoidable transactions under the IBC, the guidance issued by the Supreme Court on certain aspects of such transactions in Jaypee Infratech and a few key considerations for parties to mitigate the risk of their transactions falling within the ambit of such avoidable transactions.


COVID 19: Revised default trigger under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused widespread disruption of businesses and daily life. As governments across the world struggle to contain the pandemic, a number of regulatory and policy measures are being implemented by the Government of India to minimize the impact of the disruption caused to several classes of persons and corporate bodies.

A recent measure is the increase in the threshold for default by corporate debtors under Section 4 of the Insolvency & Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (the “Code”) from INR 100,000 to INR 10,000,000 and a potential suspension of certain key provisions of the Code. These measures may have some positive and certain unintended consequences of concern to stakeholders.


COVID-19: Coping with the Pandemic and the Changing Regulatory Regime in India

The outbreak of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has caused widespread disruption of businesses and daily life. As governments across the world struggle to contain the pandemic, a number of measures are being implemented aimed at minimizing its spread. In India, such measures are increasingly taking the form of mandatory social distancing through the imposition of a series of restrictions. As the situation evolves, the requirement for further restrictions is being constantly evaluated by governments and new measures are being implemented. The pandemic and the resulting measures raise a host of legal issues and concerns for businesses. This update analyzes certain legal and regulatory concerns arising in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent restrictions.