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Synopsis of Amendments made to the Companies Act, 2013 in the year 2019 and allied Action Points

The Ministry of Corporate Affairs (the MCA) in the month of January & February 2019 has issued the following amendments notification under the Companies Act 2013 (the Act):

(a) Changes in Companies (Significant Beneficial Owners) Rules 2018 to identify individuals/entities having significant control over the affairs of a company

(b) Companies (Incorporation) Rules, 2014 mandating all the companies incorporated prior to 31 December 2017 to upload all their particulars of various compliances including details of registered office in Form INC 22A Active.

(c) Specified Companies (Furnishing of information about payment to micro and small enterprise suppliers) Order, 2019, mandating all the companies who receives goods or services from MSME and the payment for which is not made within 45 days from the date of acceptance or the date of deemed acceptance of goods or services from MSME to report such transactions in MSME Form I.

(d) Changes in Companies (Acceptance of Deposits) Rules, 2014 mandating all companies to file a return of deposits in Form DPT 3 with the MCA, furnishing information about filing the transactions that have not been considered as a deposit or both under the Companies (Acceptance of Deposits) Rules 2014 (Deposit Rules).

The action points under these notifications are as below:

Sl. No Particulars Summary of Notification Form to be filed Due date
1. The Companies (Significant Beneficial Owners) Amendment Rules 2019[1] Who shall disclose?

Every individual, who acting alone or together, or through one or more persons or trust, possess one or more of the following rights in a company shall be deemed to be a significant beneficial owner (SBO):

·  holds indirectly, or together with any direct holdings, at least 10% of the shares or voting rights;

·   has the right to receive or participate (by virtue of their indirect and/or direct holdings) is not less than 10% of the total distributable dividend or any other distribution; or

· has the right to exercise significant influence or control (through their indirect holdings only) on the company.

However, individuals directly holding shares of the company in their own name or hold or acquires a beneficial interest in the share of the reporting company under subsection section 89 (2) of the Act and necessary reporting is made is not be considered to be a significant beneficial owner.

Further, an individual is considered to hold a right or entitlement indirectly in the reporting company, if he satisfies any of the following criteria, in respect of a member of the reporting company, namely:

·  If the member is a body corporate (Indian or foreign) – the individual holding majority stake in that body corporate or majority stake in the ultimate holding company of such body corporate member

·  If the member is a HUF – the individual who is the Karta of the HUF

· If the member is a partnership entity – the individual is a partner or holding a majority stake in a body corporate which is a partner or majority stake in the ultimate holding company of such body corporate which is a partner

·  If the member is a trust – the individual who is a trustee (discretionary or charitable trust), a beneficiary (Specific trust), Author/settlor (revocable trust)

· If the member is a pooled investment vehicle or an entity controlled by the pooled investment vehicle – the individual who is a general partner or investment manager or Chief Executive Officer where the investment manager of such pooled vehicle is a body corporate or a partnership entity

What needs to be done?

· To send notice of this requirement to all non-individual members who hold not less than 10% of its Shares, or voting rights, or right to receive or participate in the dividend or any other distribution payable in a financial year seeking information in Form BEN-4.

·  The company to identify any such individual who is an SBO and obtain a declaration of significant beneficial ownership in Form No. BEN-1.

 Non-applicability of this requirement:

These rules shall not apply if the shares of a reporting company are held by the following entities:

· Investor Education and Protection Fund

· Holding Reporting Company of the Reporting Company (however, details of such holding company have to be filed in Form No. BEN-2)

·  the Central Government, State Government or any local Authority

·  any entity controlled by the Central Government or by any State Government or Governments or partly by the Central Government and partly by one or more State Governments;

· Investment Vehicles such as mutual funds, alternative investment funds (AIF), Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), Infrastructure Investment Trust (InVITs) regulated by the Securities and Exchange Board of India;

· Investment Vehicles regulated by Reserve Bank of India, or Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India, or Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority.

(a) Form BEN-1

(b) Form BEN-2

(c) Form BEN-4

 

(a) Form BEN-1- on or before 9 May 2019

(b) Form BEN-2- within 30 days from the date of receipt of Form BEN-1

(c) Form BEN-4- To be sent to seek information in Form BEN-1.

 

2. Companies (Incorporation) Amendment Rules, 2019[2] Applicability:

Every Company incorporated on or before the 31 December 2017 shall file the particulars of the Company and its registered office, in e-Form INC-22A_ACTIVE (Active Company Tagging Identities and Verification)

Pre-requisites

The Company before filing Form INC 22A Active shall ensure that it has filed the following pending forms as may be applicable:

(a) Form AOC-4- Filing of Financial statements for the previous financial year;

(b) Form MGT 7- Filing of Annual Return (e-Form MGT-7) for the previous financial year;

(c) Form DIR 12 & MR 1 as may be applicable for the purpose of appointment of whole-time company secretary. This is mandatory for the Companies whose paid-up capital is more than 5 Crore.

Non-Applicability

The following companies are not required to filed Form INC 22A Active:

1.    Companies which have been Struck off or

2.    Under the process of striking off or

3.    Under Liquidation or

4.    Amalgamated or

5.    Dissolved

Consequences of non-filing

The Company will be marked as Active non-compliant and MCA would not allow filing the following forms unless the Form INC-22A Active is filed:

a.   Form SH-7 (Change in Authorised Capital)

b.   Form PAS-3 (Change in Paid-up Capital)

c.   Form DIR-12 (Changes in Director except for cessation)

d.   Form INC-22 (Change in Registered office)

e.   Form INC-28 (Amalgamation, De-merger)

Form INC 22A Active On or before 25 April 2019.
3. The requirement of filing of MSME Form-I[3]  

With a view to support the growth of and to protect the interest of MSME’s, the MCA has issued a notification dated 22 January 2019, mandating all the Specified Companies[4], whose supply of goods or services from registered MSME and the respective payments to these registered MSME suppliers exceed 45 days from the date of acceptance or the date of deemed acceptance of the goods or services, shall file the Initial Return in MSME Form I with Ministry of Corporate Affairs

 Details required to be collected from the MSME suppliers before filing the return with the MCA

Following details are required to be collected from MSME for the purpose of filing the said form:

1. Certificate of Registration issued by the Ministry of Micro Small and Medium Scale Enterprises to the MSME to ensure that the concerned entity is an MSME.

2. Financial years to which the amount relates

3. Name of the MSME

4. PAN of MSME

5. Amount due

6. Date from which amount is due

7. Total outstanding amount due as on date of notification of this order (i.e. 22 January 2019)

8.    Reason for delay

Filing of Half yearly return

Every company who receive goods or services from MSME and whose payments to MSME suppliers exceed forty-five days from the date of acceptance or the date of deemed acceptance of the goods or services as per the provisions of the MSME Act 2006 shall file the half-yearly returns for the period ended April to September and October to March every year.

 

MSME Form I Within 30 days from the date of Notification of the said Form[5]

 

Due date for filing half yearly return

1.    For the period from April to September- On or before 31st October every year

2.    For the period from October to March- on or before 30th April of every year

4. The Companies (Acceptance of Deposits) Amendment Rules, 2019[6] Every Company shall have to file Form DPT 3 providing particulars of transaction that has not been considered as deposit[7] or both. Thus, all companies other than Government Companies will have to file Form DPT-3 also for transactions that are listed under Deposit Rules.

 Further the companies in its annual financial statements, are required to disclose about the money received from Directors (in case of companies other than private companies) and money received from Directors or relatives of Directors (in case of private companies only).

 

Form DPT 3 On or before 22 April 2019

Author: Ashwin Bhat, Junior Partner at NovoJuris Legal.

[1] Source: http://www.mca.gov.in/Ministry/pdf/CompaniesOwnersAmendmentRules_08020219.pdf

[2] Source: http://www.mca.gov.in/Ministry/pdf/CompaniesIncorporationAmendmentRules_21022019.pdf

[3] Source: http://www.mca.gov.in/Ministry/pdf/MSMESpecifiedCompanies_22012019.pdf

[4] ‘Specified companies’ means, all the Companies who receives goods or services from MSME and if the payment is not made within 45 days from the date of acceptance or the date of deemed acceptance of goods or services.

[5] MSME Form I is yet to be notified by the MCA

[6] Source: http://www.mca.gov.in/Ministry/pdf/AcceptanceDepositsAmendmentRule_22012019.pdf

[7] Transactions provided in Rule 2 of the Deposit Rules

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Determination of Significant/Ultimate Beneficial Ownership under the Indian Laws and Laws of other jurisdictions

The global scenario was riddled with the issue of money laundering, bribery, corruption, insider trading, tax fraud, terrorist financing and other illegal activities. These global issues were suggested to be combated by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an inter-governmental body established in 1989. The FATF was set up with the objective to lay down standards and promulgate efficient execution of legal, operational and regulatory measures for combating these.

The Guidance on Transparency and Beneficial Ownership released in October 2014 (which can be accessed at http://www.fatf-gafi.org/media/fatf/documents/reports/Guidance-transparency-beneficial-ownership.pdf) (“Recommendations”), noted that corporate entities such as companies, trusts, foundations, partnerships and other types of legal persons and arrangements enter into an array of activities, both entrepreneurial and commercial in nature. The Recommendations note that these entities have been misused on more than one instance in various money laundering, bribery, corruption, insider trading, tax fraud, terrorist financing and other illegal activities. An exposure of some of these activities became widely known as “The Panama Papers”. These entities made it easier to convert and camouflage the income received from these activities as a part of the revenue stream of the corporate entities and the FATF operates to unmask this camouflage and promote transparency.

The Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) notified the provisions surrounding disclosure of Significant Beneficial Ownership on 6 June 2018. In addition to notifying the provisions under the Companies Act, 2013 (Act), the MCA notified the Companies (Significant Beneficial Owners) Rules, 2018 (“Rules”) on June 13, 2018. Section 90 of the Act read with the Companies (Significant Beneficial Owner) Rules, 2018 are notified with an intent to ensure adequate, accurate and timely information on the beneficial ownership of companies to the regulatory authorities and to identify and verify the identity of the individuals who ultimately own and control a corporate entity.

Legal Framework under Indian Laws

Framework under the Companies Act

The intent of Section 90 of the Companies Act, is to determine the identity of the person behind the curtain who is having a significant ownership of the company and is essentially controlling the management and daily affairs of the company. (For a more detailed reading regarding the applicable rules and the intricate nuances, please refer to our earlier post, which can be accessed here.  

Reading of the Act and the Rules together, every person who, while acting alone or together or through one or more persons or through a trust, hold beneficial interest of not less than 10% of the shares in the company with the names of such owners not being entered in the register of members of the company as the holder of such shares would qualify as significant beneficial owners and are required to make a declaration to the company in which significant beneficial ownership is held. The declaration should specify the nature of beneficial interest by way of Form No. BEN-1. The Company is under an obligation to make a filing of Form No. BEN-2 on receipt of the declaration received by the significant beneficial owner within 30 (thirty) days of receipt of the declaration. The Company is under an additional obligation to maintain a register of significant beneficial owners and keep them open for inspection by shareholders of the Company. The availability of register for inspection is in line with the original intent of promoting transparency regarding the structure of companies. The onus of disclosure regarding significant beneficial ownership has been laid primarily on natural persons holding, either directly or indirectly, independent of their domicile or residential status. The company can serve a notice seeking information under Form BEN-4. The person on whom the notice has been served is required to revert to the company within 30 days of receipt of notice. Wherein the company is not satisfied with information provided or person fails to furnish required information, is entitled to apply to the Tribunal within 15 days of expiry of the period mentioned in the notice.

Framework under other Indian legislations

The identification and reporting of significant beneficial ownership is an issue that has been earlier dealt with under other legislations as well before the Act and Rules. The various legislations that it has been dealt with under earlier are:

Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA): The PMLA puts an onus on the banks, financial institutions and intermediaries for the identification of beneficial owners of their clients. The PMLA defines a beneficial owner as “an individual who ultimately owns or controls a client of a reporting entity or the person on whose behalf a transaction is being conducted and includes a person who exercises ultimate effective control over a juridical person.”

SEBI Guidelines: The concept of beneficial ownership has been dealt under the SEBI guidelines by way of Master Circulars release by SEBI which are:

a. SEBI Master Circular No. CIR/ISD/AML/3/2010 dated December 31, 2010: This Master Circular puts a mandatory onus on all registered intermediaries to obtain all information about their clients and additionally are required to identify and verify the identity of persons who beneficially own or control the securities account as part of their Client Due Diligence policy.

b. SEBI Master Circular No. CIR/MIRSD/16/2011 dated August 22, 2011 and MIRSD/SE/Cir21/2011 dated October 5, 2011: This Master Circular mandates the identification of beneficial owners by way of Prescribed uniform Know Your Client (KYC) requirements for the securities markets.

c. SEBI Master Circular No. CIR/MIRSD/2/2013 dated January 24, 2013: This Master Circular provides uniform guidelines on identification of BO, based on Government of India’s consultation with regulator.

RBI Master Direction on KYC, 2016 (Master Direction) and Rule 9 of the PML (Maintenance of Records) Rules, 2005: The Master Direction defines a beneficial owner as “a natural person(s), who, whether acting alone or together, or through one or more juridical person, has/have a controlling ownership interest or who exercise control through other means”. The Master Direction defines controlling ownership interest as ownership of/entitlement to more than 25 per cent of the shares or capital or profits of the company and control as the right to appoint majority of the directors or to control the management or policy decisions including by virtue of their shareholding or management rights or shareholders agreements or voting agreements.

Legal framework under other jurisdictions[1]

Jurisdiction Term used Governing legislation Definition
United Kingdom Person with significant control Companies Act, 2006[1] Designated ‘person with significant control’ (PSC) defined as individual who holds directly or indirectly more than 25% of shares/voting rights in company; has right to appoint or remove majority of board of directors; or has right to exercise/actually exercises significant influence or control over company/trust/ firm.
United States of America Beneficial Owner FinCEN’s Beneficial

Ownership Rules[2]

Any individual who, directly or indirectly, owns 25 percent or more of the legal entity customer; and One individual who has “significant responsibility to control, manage, or direct the legal entity.
Brazil Final beneficiary The Brazilian Federal

Revenue’s Normative

Instruction[3]

An individual that holds control or significantly influences the legal person to be registered, which occurs when the individual (i) holds, directly or indirectly, percentage superior to 25% of the corporate capital of such person or (ii) holds or exercises great influence, directly or indirectly, on the corporate deliberations and has the power to appoint the majority of the managers of the legal entity, even without controlling it.
European Union Beneficial Owner European Commissions

Anti-Money Laundering

Directive[4]

Any natural person who ultimately owns or controls customer, and/or natural person on whose behalf transaction or activity is conducted.

[1] Section 790C read with Schedule 1A of the Companies Act, 2006

[2] Section 1010.230(d), FinCEN’s Beneficial Ownership Rules

[3] Article 8, The Brazilian Federal Revenue’s Normative Instruction 1634

[4] Paragraph 13, Directive (EU) 2015/849 of the European Parliament and of the Council, 20 May 2015

Key Differences between Indian and legislations from other jurisdictions

Key Points of Legislations under other jurisdictions Indian Legislation Differences
United Kingdom i.    Individual who holds directly or indirectly more than 25% (twenty-five) of shares/ voting rights in company;

ii.   has right to appoint or remove majority of board of directors; or

iii.  has right to exercise/ actually exercises significant influence or control over company/ trust/ firm.

i.    the natural person who holds 10% (ten) of the share capital of the Company;

ii.   who exercises significant influence;

iii.  control through other means

The provisions in UK and India differs in:

i.    the threshold of the shareholding percentage.

ii.   An additional qualification regarding the right to appoint or remove majority of board of directors in the UK legislation.

United States of America i.    Individual who, directly or indirectly, owns 25 percent or more of the legal entity customer; and

ii.   One individual who has “significant responsibility to control, manage, or direct the legal entity.

The point of difference between the US and Indian provisions is the threshold of the share holding percentage.
Brazil Individual that holds control or significantly influences the legal person to be registered, which occurs when the individual:

i.    holds, directly or indirectly, percentage superior to 25% of the corporate capital of such person or

ii.   holds or exercises great influence, directly or indirectly, on the corporate deliberations and has the power to appoint the majority of the managers of the legal entity, even without controlling it.

The points of difference between the Brazil and Indian provisions are:

i.    the threshold of the share-holding percentage.

ii.   The Indian provision lays an emphasis on the concept of control whereas in the Brazilian provision, a person may be deemed as a final beneficiary if influence is exercised even without there being the presence of control.

European Union Any natural person who ultimately owns or controls customer, and/or natural person on whose behalf transaction or activity is conducted.

The key point of difference between the EU provision and the Indian provision is that where a prescribed threshold has been provided under the Indian law, the EU legislation lacks one. The EU lays an emphasis on who the ultimate owner behind the corporate veil is without prescribing a minimum threshold as a qualification.

From the comparison elucidated above, it can be seen that the threshold for determination of significant beneficial ownership is more stringent in India as compared to the legislations of other jurisdictions. The lower threshold increases the scrutiny of ultimate ownership. It would help if there is clarity on “exercising control through other means” constitute.

Author: Mr. Spandan Saxena

 

[1] Disclaimer: It is recommended that the reader refer the laws of the analyzed jurisdictions and consult a person who is an expert in the following jurisdictions. The aforementioned jurisdictions have merely been used for an analytical purpose and do not constitute a legal opinion in any manner whatsoever.

[2] Section 790C read with Schedule 1A of the Companies Act, 2006

[3] Section 1010.230(d), FinCEN’s Beneficial Ownership Rules

[4] Article 8, The Brazilian Federal Revenue’s Normative Instruction 1634

[5] Paragraph 13, Directive (EU) 2015/849 of the European Parliament and of the Council, 20 May 2015

Significant Beneficial Ownership: Who is the real owner of the shares?

The recent changes to Section 90 of Companies Act, 2013, is to determine the identity of the person behind the curtain who is having a significant ownership of the company and is essentially controlling the management and daily affairs of the company. The Ministry of Corporate Affairs notified the Companies (Significant Beneficial Owners) Rules, 2018 (“Rules”) on 13 June 2018. These Rules were made in exercise of powers provided under Section 90 of the Companies Act, 2013 (Act) which was notified on 6 June 2018.

At present, there are two separate definitions for the determination of a significant beneficial owner. The first, as per Section 90 of the Act, an individual who holds at least 25 (twenty-five) percent of beneficial interest in the company would be categorised as a significant beneficial owner. Such individual can hold beneficial interest either alone or together or through one or more persons, with such person or persons including person resident outside India, or a trust, with such trust including a trust outside India.

The second definition of significant beneficial ownership has been provided under the Rule 2(e) of the Rules, which ascribes the categorisation of a significant beneficial owner to an individual. However, a major deviation under the Rules from Section 90(1) is that the threshold provided for an individual being classified as a significant beneficial owner is 10 (ten) percent in contrast to the threshold of 25 (twenty-five) percent prescribed under the Act. Moreover, the definition as per the Rules provide for an additional condition that the name of such individual who is holding beneficial interest should not be entered in the register of members.

Both definitions have deemed a necessary condition that an individual must be holding beneficial interest in the company to be deemed as a significant beneficial owner. The term beneficial interest has been defined under Section 89(10) as the right of entitlement of a person alone or together with any other person, indirectly or directly, through any contract or arrangement, to exercise any or all rights attached to the shares; or to receive or participate in any dividend or any such distribution in respect to shares held.

Despite the contradiction in the threshold for determination of significant beneficial ownership in a company, the threshold specified in the Rules would be considered as the applicable threshold. This is because Section 90 of the Act provides that the beneficial interest should not be less than 25 (twenty-five) percent or any other percentage as may be prescribed. Therefore, the threshold of 10 (ten) percent as prescribed under the Rules would be the final threshold percentage to determine significant beneficial ownership.

The application of the Rules extends to companies which has shareholders apart from individuals and natural persons with such shareholders holding beneficial interest in the company as per prescribed limits. The application of these rules however, does not extend to holding of shares in instances of pooled investment vehicles or investment funds such as AIFs (Alternative Investment Funds), Real Estate Investment Trusts, Mutual Funds, Infrastructure Investment Trusts.

The Rules elucidate that a beneficial interest would include right of entitlement held either alone or jointly with another person, be it directly or indirectly under any contract or arrangement. The right of entitlement would include the right to exercise any or all rights attached to such shares and receive or participate in any dividend or other distribution. Beneficial owners would be such persons holding a beneficial interest.

The rules deem significant beneficial owners to be such individuals, who while acting alone or together or through one or more persons or through a trust, hold beneficial interest of not less than 10% of the shares in the company with the names of such owners not being entered in the register of members of the company as the holder of such shares.

In cases where the beneficial interest is possessed by persons other than individuals or natural persons, the significant beneficial ownership would be determined as follows:

  1. Where the member is a company – the significant beneficial owner would be the natural person who holds 10 (ten) percent of the share capital of the Company or who exercises significant influence or control in the company through other means.
  2. Where the member is a partnership firm – the significant beneficial owner would be the natural person who holds 10 (ten) percent of the share capital or has entitlement of not less than 10 (ten) percent of profits of the partnership.
  3. Where no natural person can be identified – where no natural person is identifiable for a company or a partnership firm, the senior management official of the entity would be deemed as the significant beneficial owner.
  4. Where the member is a trust through a trustee – for the purpose of identifying the significant beneficial owner, the process would include identification of the author of the trust, trustee, the beneficiaries with not less than ten per cent. interest in the trust and any other natural person exercising ultimate effective control over the trust through a chain of control or ownership.

The Rules explicitly exempt the applicability of certain funds and investment vehicles that are registered under the SEBI Act. The Rules however, do not deal with the funds that are foreign based and not registered under the SEBI Act. Therefore, if an Indian company has a foreign fund as an investor and has an ownership qualifying under the definition of a significant beneficial owner, it is not clear whether such foreign fund would be required to make a declaration.

The filing compliance under the rules are as follows:

  1. A declaration is required to be filed to the company in which significant beneficial ownership is held within 90 days of commencement of the rules and in case of any change in the significant beneficial ownership, declaration is to be made to the company within 30 days of such change under Form BEN-1.
  2. The company is required to file Form BEN-2 with respect to such declaration within 30 days of receipt of declaration under Form BEN-1.
  3. A company is required to maintain a register of significant beneficial owners under Form BEN-3.
  4. The company can serve a notice seeking information under Form BEN-4. The person on whom the notice has been served is required to revert to the company within 30 days of receipt of notice. Wherein the company is not satisfied with information provided or person fails to furnish required information, is entitled to apply to the Tribunal within 15 days of expiry of the period mentioned in the notice.

As per the Rules, the companies were required to make a filing of Form BEN-2 on receipt of Form BEN-1 within 30 days. However, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) be way of a general circular no. 07/2018 dated 6 September 2018 have clarified that the 30-day time limit for filing Form BEN-2 would commence from the date of the e-form being available on the MCA-21 portal rather than with 30 days of receipt of declaration by the company under Form BEN-1. The MCA further clarified that no additional fee would be applicable subject to the case that the company makes the filing of Form BEN-2 within 30 days of the form being available on the MCA-21 portal.

Source: http://www.mca.gov.in/Ministry/pdf/CompaniesSignificantBeneficial1306_14062018.pdf

http://www.mca.gov.in/Ministry/pdf/GCCircularBen_10092018.pdf

Jurisprudence of Corporate Criminal Liability of Directors

Gone are the times when the world viewed Indian Companies as ‘family businesses’. With time, the structures adopted in Indian companies have grown increasingly specialized and complex, with specific directors being nominated to take charge of specified activities of the Company. As we will see, the provisions for making the direction and management of a company liable are mostly deeming provisions. However, there can be an opinion amongst stakeholders while dividing duties amongst the board members that in case criminal liability arises against the company then the director nominated for overlooking that aspect of its business shall also be held criminally liable. The legal approach, though, is a little more complex than that.

This article is a disambiguation in this regard, and through the following paragraphs an understanding of the theoretical framework, the legislative intent and the judicial interpretations in developing the standards to impose criminal liability on directors will be discussed. As companies have grown with time, so have statutory provisions and the understanding with respect to corporate actions which amount to criminal offences, and who is deemed liable for it.

Laying the Theoretical Framework: Corporate Criminal Liability

The recognition of the company as a separate legal entity is the basic cornerstone of laws relating to corporate liability around the world. However, courts struggled in attempting to fasten liability over companies for acts which were considered criminal offences. The courts had historically struggled on two main fronts in this regard (1) to assign mens rea, i.e. a criminal intent factor to fictional entities such as companies, and (2) to punish corporates where statutory punishments were mostly corporal in nature, i.e. requiring punishment via imprisonment.

On the face of this need, emerged the doctrine of corporate criminal liability, which basically enables the courts to single out individuals responsible for criminal acts committed in the name of companies. For offences which did not require the proof of mens rea, the simple answer that courts came up with was to introduce a modified version of the Doctrine of Vicarious Liability through which the controlling persons of the company would be made liable[i]. But soon company directors were also brought to answer for the criminal acts for which criminal intent was also necessary to be proven[ii]. This was called the theory of ‘Identification’ or ‘Attribution’, a modified form of vicarious liability, where for the purpose of the criminal act, the person in control of the affairs of the company (that is to say its directors and managers) and the company were considered one and the same.

Earlier, the courts in India only recognized that companies can act through their managers and directors, but the law as it stands now however, consolidates the position that companies are as culpable as any living person and can be prosecuted and punished for the same, this is governed by two major decisions in this regard. First is the case of Standard Chartered Bank v. Directorate of Enforcement[iii] wherein the constitution bench of the Supreme Court held that a company can be prosecuted and convicted for an offence requiring minimum imprisonment. And secondly, in Iridium India Telecom Ltd. v. Motorola Inc[iv], wherein the issue was whether a company could be held liable under Section 420 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, the Apex Court answered in the affirmative and clarified further, that even if the offence would require the proof of mens rea, a company can be made liable to the act as the guilty mind of the person in control of the company’s affairs is ‘attributed’ to the company as well.

Director’s Liability under India’s Legislative Framework

The Companies Act, 1956 employed the concept of “officer who is in default”, to impose the liability for defaults by a company over officers responsible for its management. However, penalties under the Companies Act, 1956 were seen as largely ineffective against cases of serious internal frauds committed by the promoters and senior management of companies. But, with the enactment of the Companies Act, 2013 ( the “Act”), came also the statutory recognition of the duties of a director, such as exercise of due and reasonable care, skill, diligence, and independent judgement.  Earlier, by virtue of their positions, only the MD, whole-time directors, and company secretaries used to fall within the scope of “officer who is in default”, but the Act has significantly expanded this scope to include any person who would, in the given scenario, have had superintendence/ control/ direction/ management over the affairs of the company. Under the Act, independent directors can also be made answerable for lapses in performing their duties. The Act also includes the elements of knowledge and intent in determining who is an officer who is in default. Moreover, section 447 of the Act, which deals with fraud, makes persons liable who act or abuse their position with intent to deceive, to gain undue advantage, or to injure the legitimate interests of others (company/ shareholders/ creditor/ persons) whether or not there is wrongful gain or loss. Nevertheless, it is necessary to prove intent and knowledge in most cases.

Apart from the Companies Act, 2013, offences by companies are also stipulated under various other legislations. These provisions extend the liability for contravening the provisions under the relevant statute to companies, and the persons in charge of and responsible for the conduct of the business of the company. Further, these provisions typically provide for a non-obstante clause which stipulates that if it is proved that the director, manager, secretary or other officer of the company connived, consented to the offence or can be attributed to the negligence, then such director, manager, secretary or other officer shall also be deemed guilty and proceeded and punished accordingly.

Some of the legislations that contain the above-mentioned provision would be as follows:-

  • the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981;
  • the Water (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1974;
  • the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002;
  • the Securities Contracts (Regulation) Act, 1956;
  • the Securities Exchange Board of India Act, 1992;
  • the Competition Act, 2002; and
  • the Income Tax Act, 1961.

The question that arises basis the above discussion, then, is whether any person simply designated as an officer in default by the Company, can be held criminally liable.

In Sunil Bharti Mittal v. Central Bureau of Intelligence[v] the Supreme Court gave recognition to the theory of attribution/ identification in determining whether a director or person in charge of the company can be prosecuted for an offence by the company. The court stated that the person upon whom the acts of the company must be attributed must be the ‘alter-ego’ of the company, that is the degree of identity between the acts of the company and the ‘directing mind and will’ of the responsible persons must be high enough for the courts to infer them as one and the same. Moreover, just because a person is at the helm of the affairs, that would not make him/her liable for crimes requiring intent. In this case, the Supreme Court held that the special court was right to not accept charge sheet against the managing director just because he was the head of the company.

The discerning criteria thus is whether the proof of intent is required to prove an offence. An officer who is in default for contraventions which do not require proof of intent, may, thus, be prosecuted by virtue of his/her position, but the same is simply not tenable in offences where proof of intent is required.

An example of a statute which allows the nomination of person-in-charge for the obligations under a legislation is under section 66 of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006,. The provision in this enactment state that a director or manager can be nominated to be responsible for any contraventions of the provisions of the respective enactments.

It is to be noted, that only when the legislation permits the nomination of the responsible director, and such nomination is made before the commission of the offence, only then a director specifically nominated for offences under an act can be prosecuted, even if there is no direct intent[vi].

Hence,

The thumb rule is thus that unless it is specifically provided in a statute, a director may be made criminally liable only if there is existing proof of intent against the director. The directors must ensure that they diligently avoid the commission of such offences in the name of the Company, the onus shall nevertheless remain upon them to prove that the offence was committed without their knowledge or consent[vii].

The laws are changing in their focus from structural to functional aspects of the companies in determining criminal liability, for example, the 2018 amendment to the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 brings forth a stricter provision for liability of any director/manager/other officer who “acted in consent or connivance” with the commercial organization (which includes a company) in the commission of an offense under the legislation. The position of the officer in the company would thus be less important to fasten the liability, and whether the company had standards/code of conducts in place to demand the level of diligence and care from its officers in preventing the offence from being committed will also be a factor under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.

It is now more important than ever that companies must actively develop standards of accountability from each level of key people responsible within the organisation and adopt procedures which prevent such conduct in the first place.

[i] Queen v. Great North of England Railways Co., [1846] 9 QB 315; State v. Morris & Essex Rail Co., 23 N.J.L. 360 (1852); Commonwealth v. Proprietors of New Bedford Bridge, 68 Mass (2 Gray) 339 (1854)

[ii] New York Central and Hudson River Rail Road Co. v. United States, 212 US 431 (1909); Moussell Brothers Ltd. v. London & North West Railway Co Ltd, [1917] 2 KB 836; Lennard’s Carrying Co Ltd v. Asiatic Petroleum Co Ltd, [1915] AC 705

[iii] AIR 2005 SC 2622

[iv] (2011) 1 SCC 74

[v] AIR 2015 SC 923

[vi] R. Banerjee v. H.D. Dubey, MANU/SC/0731/1992

[vii] Ministry of Agriculture v. Mayhco Monsanto Biotech (India) Limited, (2016) 137 SCL 373 [CCI]

Author: Avaneesh Satyang

 

Regulatory Update: Companies Act, 2013 for KYC of Directors

The Ministry of Corporate Affairs (the MCA) vide its notification dated 5 July 2018, has notified the Companies (Appointment and Qualification of Directors) fourth Amendment Rules, 2018 which shall come into force with effect from 10 July 2018.

The MCA shall be updating its registry and conducting KYC of all Directors through a new e-form DIR-3 KYC. As immediate step, the e-form DIR-3 KYC shall have to be compulsorily filed on or before 31 August 2018 by:

  • Every Director (whether Indian or Foreign) who has been allotted Director Identification Number (DIN) on or before 31 March 2018 and whose DIN is in ‘Approved’
  • Every person having DIN irrespective of whether he holds any Directorship.
  • All disqualified Directors.

Going further, every individual who has been allotted DIN as on 31st March of a respective financial year shall have to file the e-form on or before 30th April of the following financial year.

Filing Fees for e-form DIR-3-KYC (as per the Companies (Registration Office and Fees) Third Amendment Rules 2018) which shall come into effect from 10th July, 2018):

Due dates Filing Fees
i)         Fees payable till 31st August, 2018 for DIR-3-KYC for current financial year (2018-19) Nil
ii)       Fees payable on or after 1st September, 2018 for current financial year (2018-19) Rs. 5000
iii)      Fees payable till 30th April of every financial year (i.e. from FY 2019-2020 onwards) for DIR-3-KYC as at 31st March of immediate preceding financial year Nil
iv)     Fees Payable in delayed cases Rs. 5000

The MCA will mark all approved DINs as ‘Deactivated’ if the e-form is not filed within the aforementioned due dates citing reason as ‘Non-filing of DIR-3 KYC’. The deactivated DIN shall only be activated after the e-form DIR-3-KYC has been filed with MCA with the additional fees.

Few important points to remember while filing the e-form:

  • Income Tax PAN, in case of Indian nationals and Passport, in case of Foreign Nationals is mandatory.
  • A Unique Personal Mobile Number and a Personal Email ID shall have to be mandatorily provided in the e-form and the same would be verified by a One Time Password (OTP).
  • The e-form should be filed by every Director using his own DSC. Thus, it is mandatory for every Director to have a valid DSC.
  • The e-form should be duly certified by a Practising Chartered Accountant or a Practising Company Secretary or a Practising Cost Accountant.

Immediate Action Plan:

  • Apply for DSC of all Directors (renewing expired DSCs as well as applying for fresh ones)
  • As attachments:
    1. Proof of Identity: PAN/Passport/Aadhar
    2. Proof of Address: Passport/Aadhar Card/Voter Identity Card/Driving License

MINISTRY OF CORPORATE AFFAIRS: NOTIFICATION OF COMPANIES (PROSPECTUS AND ALLOTMENT OF SECURITIES) AMENDMENT RULES 2018

The MCA vide its notification dated 7 May 2018 has amended Companies (Prospectus and Allotment of Securities) Rules 2014 and done away the requirement of detailed list of contents of the prospectus following suggestions from the stakeholders that offer documents are becoming too long, too detailed, and repetitive as also too difficult to understand.

Rule 3 of the Companies (Prospectus and Allotment of Securities) Rules 2014  relating to information to be stated in the prospectus, Rule 4of the Companies (Prospectus and Allotment of Securities) Rules 2014 relating to reports to be set out in the prospectus, Rule 5 of the Companies (Prospectus and Allotment of Securities) Rules 2014  relating to other matters and reports to be stated in the prospectus and Rule 6 of  the Companies (Prospectus and Allotment of Securities) Rules 2014 relating to period for which information to be provided in certain cases stands omitted.

Source:

http://www.mca.gov.in/Ministry/pdf/CompaniesProspectusRules_07052018.pdf

MINISTRY OF CORPORATE AFFAIRS: NOTIFICATION OF COMPANIES (APPOINTMENT AND QUALIFICATION OF DIRECTORS) SECOND AMENDMENT RULES 2018

The MCA vide its notification dated 7 May 2018 has amended Companies (Appointment and Qualification of Directors) Rules 2014 by Companies (Appointment and Qualification of Directors) Second Amendment Rules 2018 expanding the scope of qualifications of independent directors.

Rule 5 (2) requires that none of the relatives of an independent director is indebted to the company, its holdings, subsidiary or associate company or their promoters, or directors or has given a guarantee or provided any security in connection with the indebtedness of any third person to the company, its holdings, subsidiary or associate company or their promoters, or directors of such holding company, for an amount of Rupees Fifty Lakhs at any time during the 2 immediately preceding financial years or during the current financial year.

Source:

http://www.mca.gov.in/Ministry/pdf/AppointmentDirectorsRules_07052018.pdf