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.


Will the CCI’s Market Study on Private Equity Investments Provide Clarity for Minority Investments?

In light of the growing trend of private equity (“PE”) firms acquiring minority stakes in multiple firms in the same sector, the Competition Commission of India (the “CCI”) has recently announced a market study to analyse the incentives and rights associated with such minority investments, and their impact on competition in India. There is a lack of clarity around situations in which a PE investor is required to notify a proposed minority acquisition to the CCI, and it is hoped that the CCI’s proposed market study will inform improvements to this framework, in order to bolster certainty and investor confidence. In this context, this note provides an overview of the existing Indian merger control framework vis-à-vis ‘minority acquisitions’, including the uncertainty currently surrounding the notifiability of such transactions, and suggests a possible way forward.


Beneficial Ownership: A Comparative Analysis

Since April 2020, prior regulatory approval has been required for all investments from countries that share land borders with India, including where the beneficial owner of an investing entity is situated in or is a citizen of any such country. The threshold for beneficial ownership has remained unclear and can arguably be triggered even if a single share of an investing entity is beneficially held by an investor from one of the restricted bordering countries (which include China). This has created uncertainty not only regarding inflow of new investments in the start-up sector but also beneficial ownership in a private equity fund. While other Indian laws prescribe certain tests for beneficial ownership, these are not consistent. This note examines the concept of “beneficial ownership” under certain Indian laws as well as the definition in the United Kingdom and the United States, and suggests next steps in the context of Indian foreign investment regulations.


One year of the CCI’s ‘Green Channel’ route for deemed approval of combinations

The Competition Commission of India (the “CCI”) recently commemorated the completion of the first year of the ‘Green Channel’ approval route for combination filings in India, by way of which, combinations which meet certain criteria are deemed to be approved upon filing a valid short form notification (Form-I) with the CCI. This unique approval route was introduced by the CCI with effect from 15 August 2019, for facilitating speedy clearance of transactions, and balancing the ease of doing business in India with appropriate regulatory oversight for such combinations. Since its introduction, almost one-fifth of the combinations notified to the CCI have availed of this route.
This note analyses certain issues relating to the implementation of this route, some of which have subsequently been addressed by the guidance issued by the CCI through its updated ‘Notes to Form-I’. While some issues remain to be clarified, it is hoped that going forward, these will be resolved through CCI’s further guidance and decisional practice, and facilitate a wider and more certain use of the deemed approval route.


Impact of COVID-19 on Proceedings under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016

This note, first published on the National Law School Business Law Review blog, discusses recent amendments to the [Indian] Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which inter-alia temporarily prevent creditors from initiating insolvency proceedings against corporate debtors. While the proposed changes are a step in the right direction, the Government should also consider the impact of the pandemic on pending proceedings as well as alternative mechanisms to restructure debt and resolve defaults in a cost-effective manner to preserve value.


SEBI Order: AstraZeneca Pharma and the Elliott Group

In connection with a proposed delisting of shares of AstraZeneca Pharma India Limited (AZPIL) in 2014, the SEBI recently issued an order dated June 5, 2020 under Sections 11(1), 11(4) and 11B of the Securities and Exchange Board of India Act, 1992, holding that:
(i) AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals AB Sweden (AZPAB), the promoter of AZPIL, and the Elliott Group (a group of related foreign institutional investors that collectively held a significant shareholding in AZPIL) colluded with each other to get the shares of AZPIL delisted and influence the delisting price of such shares without considering the interests of the retail shareholders of AZPIL; and
(ii) The conduct of AZPAB and the Elliott Group amounted to a manipulative and fraudulent trade practice under the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Prohibition of Fraudulent and Unfair Practice Relating to Securities Market) Regulations, 2003.
The SEBI questioned the conduct of AZPAB and the Elliott Group and concluded that there existed a ‘meeting of minds’ between AZPAB and the Elliott Group prior to the delisting announcement. This note analyses the SEBI’s order.


The Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2020: Decriminalizing offences under the Companies Act, 2013

Governmental authorities in India have, from time to time, implemented various measures to facilitate ease of doing business for companies operating in India including, inter alia, by way of amendments to the Companies Act, 2013 (the “Act”). In the past 1 (one) year, these reforms have focused on introducing new mechanisms for swift adjudication of offences, and decriminalization and rationalization of criminal penalties, particularly in relation to minor, technical or procedural non-compliances under the Act.

The objective of decriminalization and recategorization of offences that was introduced by the Companies (Amendment) Act, 2019 is now sought to be augmented by the Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2020 (the “CAB 2020”) which was recently presented in the Lok Sabha on March 17, 2020. CAB 2020 has, amongst other matters, proposed amendments in respect of decriminalization of various compoundable offences and rationalization of penalties prescribed under the Act. CAB 2020 is currently awaiting legislative consideration.

In this note, we discuss the continuing efforts of the Indian governmental authorities towards streamlining the processes for dealing with certain non-compliances under the Act, and analyze if the critical changes proposed by CAB 2020 for further decriminalization of offences and alteration of penalties under the Act is a step in the right direction.


COVID-19: Implications on the Data Protection Framework in India

The outbreak of COVID-19 and its development into a pandemic has led governments across the world to take extraordinary measures to protect their residents. The Central Government and various State Governments in India, along with public-health authorities, not-for-profit organizations and corporates, are collecting, tracking, and using information about individuals to slow down the spread of COVID-19; however, since a large proportion of such information could be categorized as ‘personal data’ or ‘sensitive personal data’ its use is subject to the data protection laws in India. It is, therefore, essential that a balance is struck between an individual’s right to privacy and public interest at large. Separately, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, corporates are also required to implement aberrant measures to safeguard their employees and extended workforce. In this regard, the collection of personal data by corporates will need to be undertaken in compliance with the requirements of data protection laws in India.

This note discusses the use of technology platforms by the Government of India to curtail the spread of COVID-19 and the obligations of corporates in India in relation to their employees or business, in each case, in the context of the legal framework for data protection in India.


COVID-19: Certain Issues to Consider for Listed Indian Companies

While corporations across the globe brace for the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their business, operations and financial results, listed companies need to be mindful of additional compliance requirements and responsibilities. This note discusses certain considerations which are relevant for listed Indian companies in the current COVID-19 scenario in relation to (i) periodic disclosures and reporting; (ii) board and shareholder meetings; (iii) impact on financial results and annual report; (iv) trading when in possession of UPSI and during trading window closure; (v) fund-raising; and (vi) duties of directors. As a practical matter, these considerations will continue to be relevant even in the future while tackling the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic or other crisis situations.