Archive

Author Archive

Land acquisition process can take 50 months

September 6th, 2013 3 comments

The new Land Acquisition Bill has detailed a process for acquiring land.  The process could take up to 50 months.  This will increase the gestation period of projects.  The new time line and the attendant uncertainty at each step will have to be factored in by promoters of projects while computing the costs and feasibility.

The details of the process are given in the Table below.  Some of the processes can be conducted concurrently with others. The processes which need to be done sequentially are shown in bold.  These add up to 50 months (not counting extensions).

Time limits for various steps for Land Acquisition under the new Act

Process Section Time limit
Social Impact Assessment 4(1) last proviso 6 months
Appraisal of SIA by review committee 7(4) and 7(5) 2 months
Examination of land acquisition proposal and SIA by appropriate government 8 No time limit specified
SIA expert group appraisal to Preliminary notification 14 12 months but extendable by appropriate government
Preliminary notification to updating of land records 11(5) 2 months
Preliminary notification to objections 16(1) 60 days
Preliminary notification to R&R survey 17(1) Time limit to be prescribed in Rules
Preliminary notification under section 11 to Declaration under section 20 15 and 20(7) (inconsistency) 12 months (S15)12 months but extendable by appropriate government; also court stay period excluded (S20(7))
Time for compensation claims to be made 22(2) 30 days to 6 months
Declaration to Award 26 12 months but extendable by appropriate government
Correction of Award by Collector 34(1) 6 months
Award to Possession of land by collector  39(1) After ensuring compensation is paid (3 months) and monetary component of R&R paid (6 months).
Time for infrastructure entitlements under R&R 39(1) proviso 18 months after award

Source: PRS

Total Time Limit (assuming no extensions): SIA (6 months) + Expert group appraisal (2 months) + Preliminary notification (12 months) + Declaration (12 months) + Award (12 months) + Possession (6 months) = 50 months.

 

Case not closed – Appointment of judges

September 5th, 2013 2 comments

Parliament is considering a proposal to change the process of appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and High Courts.  A Constitutional Amendment Bill has been introduced in Rajya Sabha that enables the formation of a Judicial Appointments Committee (JAC), and states that the composition and functions of the JAC will be detailed in a law enacted by Parliament.  The appointments will be made according to the recommendations of the JAC.  This body replaces the current process of “consultation” with the Chief Justice of India (CJI) and other senior judges.

An ordinary Bill has also been introduced in Rajya Sabha which seeks to establish the JAC.  The composition of the JAC will be the CJI, the next two judges of the Supreme Court in terms of seniority, the law minister and two eminent persons.  These two eminent persons will be selected by a collegium consisting of the CJI, the prime minister and the leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha.  In case of High Court Judges, the JAC will consult with the chief minister, the governor of the state and the Chief Justice of the High Court.

The new system is widening the selection committee.  It includes representatives of the executive and senior judiciary, as well as two persons who are jointly selected by the executive (PM), judiciary (CJI), and the legislature (leader of opposition).

However, it may be diluting some of the safeguards in the Constitution.  At a later date, the composition of the JAC can be amended by ordinary majority in Parliament.  [For example, they can drop the judicial members.]  This is a significantly lower bar than the current system which requires a change to the Constitution, i.e., have the support of two thirds of members of each House of Parliament, and half the state assemblies.

The 120th Constitution Amendment Bill and the JAC Bill are listed for consideration and passing in Rajya Sabha today.  Given that these Bills propose fundamental changes to the process of appointments to key constitutional bodies, it is important that there be a wide debate.  The Rajya Sabha must refer these Bills to the Standing Committee for careful examination of various issues.

I have written a piece on this issue in the Indian Express today.

 

 

 

 

A balancing Act- The Land Acquisition Bill

August 29th, 2013 5 comments

The Land Acquisition Bill is slated to be taken up for consideration and passing in the Lok Sabha today. The government had circulated an amendment list in the last session of Parliament. In a column in the Financial Express, MR Madhavan discusses the major features of the Land Acquisition Bill and the associated issues that Parliament may need to consider while deliberating on the Bill.

Economic growth and job creation require efficient usage of land resources. It is important that a fair and transparent process for purchase and for acquisition of land is followed. For the purchase of land, a key concern is the authenticity of land titles, and the government has drafted a Land Titling Bill for this purpose. In the case of land acquisition, the following questions need to be addressed. What are the end-uses for which public interests will trump private property rights, and justify acquisition of land from a person who is not willing to part with it? What should be the process followed? Since there is no market mechanism of discovery of prices in these cases, how should compensation be computed? Is there a need to address non-land owners who may be displaced by the acquisition process? Does the acquisition process get completed in a reasonable amount of time, and is there finality to the acquisition? In sum, do both sides—the acquirer and the land owner—perceive the process to be fair?

The current Bill addresses these questions in the following manner. It defines public purpose to include infrastructure projects (as defined by the finance ministry, with some exclusions); projects related to agriculture, agro-processing and cold storage; industrial corridors, mining activities, national investment and manufacturing zones; government administered or aided educational and research institutions; sports, healthcare, transport and space programmes. It also enables the government to include other infrastructural facilities to this list after tabling a notification in Parliament. The significant difference from the current Land Acquisition Act, 1894, is that land cannot be acquired for use by companies unless they satisfy any of the above end-uses.

The Bill includes a requirement for consent of the land owners in some cases. If the land is acquired for use by a private company, 80% of land owners need to give consent. If it is for use by a public private partnership (PPP), 70% of the land owners have to agree to the acquisition. The rationale of having differential consent requirements based on ownership—including the lack of any such requirement if the land is for the use of the government or a public sector undertaking—is not clear. Why should a land owner, who is losing his land care, whether the intended project is to be executed by the government or a private company?

The Bill specifies that the compensation will be computed in the following manner. Three factors are taken into account: the circle rate according to the Stamp Act; the average of the top 50% of sale deeds registered in the vicinity in the previous three years; the amount agreed upon, if any, in case of purchase by a private company or PPP. The higher of these three amounts is multiplied by a factor, which varies from 1 in urban areas to a number between 1 and 2 in rural areas, depending upon the distance from the urban centre. To this amount, the value of any fixed assets such as buildings, trees, irrigation channels etc is added. Finally, this figure is doubled (as solatium, i.e. compensation for the fact that the transaction was made with an unwilling seller). The justification given for the multiplier ranging from 1 to 2 is that many transactions are registered at a price significantly lower than the actual value in order to evade taxes—the moot question is whether such under-reporting is uniform across the country?

The Bill states that all persons who are affected by the project should be rehabilitated and resettled (R&R). The R&R entitlements for each family includes a house, a one-time allowance, and choice of (a) employment for one person in the project, (b) one-time payment of R5 lakh, or (c) inflation adjusted annuity of R2,000 per month for 20 years. In addition, the resettlement areas should have infrastructure such as a school, post office, roads, drainage, drinking water, etc.

The process has several steps. Every acquisition, regardless of size, needs a social impact assessment, which will be reviewed by an expert committee, and evaluated by the state government. Then a preliminary notification will be issued, land records will be updated, objections will be heard, rehabilitation and resettlement survey carried out, and a final declaration of acquisition issued. The owners can then claim compensation, the final award will be announced, and the possession of the land taken. The total time for this process can last up to 50 months. The big question is whether this time frame would hinder economic development and the viability of projects?

The Bill provides for an Authority to adjudicate disputes related to measurement of land, compensation payable, R&R etc, with appeals to be heard by the High Court. There are several restrictions on the land acquired. The purpose for which land is acquired cannot be changed. If land is not used for five years, it would be transferred to a land bank or the original owners. Transfer of ownership needs prior permission, and in case of transfer in the first five years, 40% of capital gains have to be shared with the original owners.

Recent cases of land acquisition have been followed by public protests, and the stalling of the acquisition. Whereas some of these may be driven by political agendas, the old Act was perceived to be unfair to land owners in several ways. The challenge for Parliament is to examine the new Bill and craft the law in such a way that it is fair (and perceived as such) to land owners, while making acquisition feasible and practical for projects that are required for economic development and other areas of public interest.

Does the financing of “Rights” laws impinge on the rights of states

August 20th, 2013 2 comments

In the last decade, some schemes have been recast as statutory entitlements – right to employment, right to education and right to food.  Whereas schemes were dependent on annual budgetary allocations, there rights are now justiciable, and it would be obligatory for Parliament to allocate sufficient resources in the budget.  Some of these rights also entail expenditure by state governments, with the implication that state legislatures will have to provide sufficient funds in their budgets.  Importantly, the amounts required are a significant proportion of the total budget.

There has been little debate on the core constitutional issue of whether any Parliament can pre-empt the role of resource allocation by future Parliaments.  Whereas a future Parliament can address this issue by amending the Act, such power is not available to state legislatures.  Through these Acts, Parliament is effectively constraining the spending preferences of states as expressed through their budgets passed by their respective legislative assemblies.  I have discussed these issues in my column in Pragati published on August 16, 2013.

Possible Parliamentary Rules and their implications for FDI debate

November 22nd, 2012 2 comments

Both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha have seen disruptions this morning on the issue of FDI in multi-brand retail.  The issue may be discussed in Parliament under various procedures.  We have explained these in an Op-Ed in today’s Indian Express.  The summary is given below.

In sum, there are several methods. with different political implications. available to MPs who would like a debate on the FDI issue. A no-confidence motion would question the continuance of the current government. An adjournment motion could censure the government. A motion under Rule 184 or to annul the FDI regulation could require reversal of the policy. A debate under Rule 193 (without a vote) would only require a response from the minister.

The stance taken by various parties will be based on a combination of their views on the issue, the potential costs to the stability of the government under the given procedure, as well as the likely positions that other parties may take. This may guide the choice of procedure adopted by parties that want to raise the issue.

Tags:

Major differences between Lok Pal Bill, 2011 and Jan Lok Pal Bill (Anna version)

August 20th, 2011 8 comments

We wrote a piece for ibnlive.com on the major differences between the government’s Lok Pal Bill, 2011 and the Jan Lok Pal Bill drafted by Anna Hazare’s group.  The note is reproduced below.

 

The streets are witnessing a demand that the government’s Lok Pal Bill be replaced by the Jan Lok Pal Bill (JLP) as drafted by the team led by Anna Hazare.  There are several significant differences between the two bills.  In this note, we describe the some of these differences. (See here for more on the Lok Pal Bill).

 

First, there is a divergence on the jurisdiction of the Lok Pal.  Both bills include ministers, MPs for any action outside Parliament, and Group A officers (and equivalent) of the government.  The government bill includes the prime minister after he demits office whereas the JLP includes a sitting prime minister.  The JLP includes any act of an MP in respect of a speech or vote in Parliament (which is now protected by Article 105 of the Constitution).  The JLP includes judges; the government bill excludes them.  The JLP includes all government officials, while the government bill does not include junior (below Group A) officials.  The government bill also includes officers of NGOs who receive government funds or any funds from the public; JLP does not cover NGOs.

 

Second, the two Bills differ on the composition.  The government bill has a chairperson and upto 8 members; at least half the members must have a judicial background.  The JLP has a chairperson and 10 members, of which 4 have a judicial background.

 

Third, the process of selecting the Lok Pal members is different.  The JLP has a two stage process.  A search committee will shortlist potential candidates.  The search committee will have 10 members; five of these would have retired as Chief Justice of India, Chief Election Commissioner or Comptroller and Auditor General; they will select the other five from civil society.   The Lok Pal chairperson and members will be selected from this shortlist by a selection committee.  The selection committee consists of the prime minister, the leader of opposition in Lok Sabha, two supreme court judges, two high court chief justices, the chief election commissioner, the comptroller and auditor general, and all previous Lok Pal chairpersons.

 

The government bill has a simpler process.  The selection will be made by a committee consisting of the prime minister, the leaders of opposition in both Houses of Parliament, a supreme court judge, a high court chief justice, an eminent jurist, and an eminent person in public life.  The selection committee may, at its discretion, appoint a search committee to shortlist candidates.

 

Fourth, there are some differences in the qualifications of a member of the Lok Pal.  The JLP requires a judicial member to have held judicial office for 10 years or been a high court or supreme court advocate for 15 years.  The government bill requires the judicial member to be a supreme court judge or a high court chief justice.  For other members, the government bill requires at least 25 years experience in anti-corruption policy, public administration, vigilance or finance.  The JLP has a lower age limit of 45 years, and disqualifies anyone who has been in government service in the previous two years.

 

Fifth, the process for removal of Lok Pal members is different.  The government bill permits the president to make a reference to the Supreme Court for an inquiry, followed by removal if the member is found to be biased or corrupt.  The reference may be made by the president (a) on his own, (a) on a petition signed by 100 MPs, or (c) on a petition by a citizen if the President is then satisfied that it should be referred.  The President may also remove any member for insolvency, infirmity of mind or body, or engaging in paid employment.

 

The JLP has a different process. The process starts with a complaint by any person to the Supreme Court.  If the court finds misbehaviour, infirmity of mind or body, insolvency or paid employment, it may recommend his removal to the President.

 

Sixth, the offences covered by the Bills vary.  The government bill deals only with offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act.  The JLP, in addition, includes offences by public servants under the Indian Penal Code, victimization of whistleblowers and repeated violation of citizen’s charter.

 

Seventh, the government bill provides for an investigation wing under the Lok Pal.  The JLP states that the CBI will be under the Lok Pal while investigating corruption cases.

 

Eighth, the government bill provides for a prosecution wing of the Lok Pal.  In the JLP, the CBI’s prosecution wing will conduct this function.

 

Ninth, the process for prosecution is different.  In the government bill, the Lok Pal may initiate prosecution in a special court.  A copy of the report is to be sent to the competent authority.  No prior sanction is required.  In the JLP, prosecution of the prime minister, ministers, MPs and judges of supreme court and high courts may be initiated only with the permission of a 7-judge bench of the Lok Pal.

 

Tenth, the JLP deals with grievance redressal of citizens, in addition to the process for prosecuting corruption cases.  It requires every public authority to publish citizen’s charters listing its commitments to citizens.  The government bill does not deal with grievance redressal.

 

Given the widespread media coverage and public discussions, it is important that citizens understand the differences and nuances.  This may be a good opportunity to enact a law which includes the better provisions of each of these two bills.

 

Tags:

FAQ on Lok Pal Bill

August 11th, 2011 1 comment

We wrote an FAQ on the Lok Pal Bill for Rediff.  See http://www.rediff.com/news/slide-show/slide-show-1-all-you-wanted-to-know-about-the-lokpal-bill/20110808.htm

The full text is reproduced below.

What is the purpose of the Lok Pal Bill?

The Bill seeks to establish an institution that will inquire into allegations of corruption against certain public functionaries.  It establishes the office of the Lok Pal for this purpose.

 

What is the composition of the Lok Pal?

The Lok Pal shall consist of a Chairperson and up to eight members.  The Chairperson, and at least half of the members have to be current or former judges of the Supreme Court or Chief Justices of High Courts.  The other members will have at least 25 years experience in matters related to anti-corruption policy, vigilance, public administration, finance, law and management.

 

Who selects the Lok Pal?

The Selection Committee consists of the Prime Minister, Lok Sabha Speaker, the Leader of Opposition in each House of Parliament, a Union Cabinet Minister, a sitting Supreme Court Judge, a sitting High Court Chief Justice, an eminent jurist, a person of eminence in public life.  The two judges on this Committee will be nominated by the Chief Justice of India.

 

Who comes under the jurisdiction of the Lok Pal?

There are seven categories of persons under the Lok Pal: (a) Prime Minister after demitting office; (b) current and former Ministers; (c) current and former MPs (d) all Group A officers of the central government; (e) all Group A equivalent officers or PSUs and other government bodies; (f) directors and officers of NGOs which receive government financing; (g) directors and officers of NGOs which receive funds from the public, and have annual income above a level to be notified by the government. The speech and vote of MPs in Parliament are exempt from the purview of the Lok Pal.

 

What are the major powers of the Lok Pal?

The Lok Pal has two major wings: investigation wing and prosecution wing.  The Lok Pal can ask the investigation wing to conduct preliminary investigation of any offence alleged to be committed under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.  It can then conduct an inquiry.  If the inquiry concludes that an offence was committed, the Lok Pal can recommend disciplinary action.  It can also file a case in the Special Court.

 

Does the Lok Pal need any prior sanction to initiate any action?

No.  The Bill states that the Lok Pal does not need prior sanction to inquire into an offence, or to initiate prosecution in the special court.

 

What are special courts under this Bill?

The central government is required to constitute special courts to hear and decide cases under this Bill.  The Lok Pal shall recommend the number of such courts.

 

What are the various time limits for conducting inquiry and trial?

All preliminary investigation or inquiry must be completed within 30 days of the complaints (and can be extended for a further three months, with written reasons).  The inquiry is to be completed within six months (extendable by six months).  The trial is to be completed within one year of filing the case.  This time may be extended by three months (and in further periods of three months each time) with written reasons, but the total time should not exceed two years.

 

How can the Lok Pal be removed from office?

The President may make a reference to the Supreme Court, (a) either on his own, or (b) if 100 MPs sign a petition, or (c) if a citizen makes a petition and the President is satisfied that it should be referred.  If the Supreme Court, after an inquiry, finds the charge of misbehaviour was valid against the Chairperson or a Member and recommends removal, he shall be removed by the President.

 

What are the provisions for the expenses of the Lok Pal?

The Bill provides that all expenses will be charged, i.e., the amount will be provided without requiring a vote in Parliament.  The Bill estimates recurring expenditure of Rs 100 crore per annum, and a non-recurring expenditure of Rs 50 crore.  It also estimates a further Rs 400 crore for a building.

 

What are the major differences from the Jan Lok Pal Bill drafted by Team-Anna?

There are several differences.  The composition of the Lok Pal and the selection process are different; the Jan Lok Pal draft included a search committee with civil society members to shortlist the eligible members of the Lok Pal.  The Lok Pal had jurisdiction over the PM, the judiciary and all public servants (only Group A officers in the government Bill); it included the speech and vote of MPs in Parliament; it did not include NGOs.  The Jan Lok Pal Bill provided that the investigation and prosecution wings of the CBI shall report to the Lok Pal for corruption cases.  It also had penalties ranging from six months to life imprisonment (under the government Bill, the maximum imprisonment is derived from the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, and is 7 years).

 

Tags:

FAQ: Why is land acquisition so controversial?

June 1st, 2011 2 comments

The government’s acquisition of land for projects has been facing protests across the country, the violence in Uttar Pradesh being only the latest.

What is Land Acquisition?

Land acquisition is the process by which the government forcibly acquires private property for public purpose without the consent of the land-owner. It is thus different from a land purchase, in which the sale is made by a willing seller.

How is this process governed?

Land Acquisition is governed by the Land Acquisition Act, 1894.  The government has to follow a process of declaring the land to be acquired, notify the interested persons, and acquire the land after paying due compensation. Various state legislatures have also passed Acts that detail various aspects of the acquisition process.

Land is a state subject.  Why is Parliament passing a law?

Though land is a state subject, “acquisition and requisitioning of property” is in the concurrent list. Both Parliament and state legislatures can make laws on this subject.

Is there a new Act being proposed?

The government had introduced a Bill to amend this Act in 2007. That Bill lapsed in 2009 at the time of the general elections. The government has stated its intent to re-introduce a similar Bill, but has not yet done so.

What are the major changes being proposed?

There are significant changes proposed in the 2007 Bill with regard to (a) the purpose for which land may be acquired; (b) the amount of compensation to be paid; (c) the process of acquisition; (d) use of the land acquired; and (e) dispute settlement mechanisms. We explain these briefly below.

Purpose: Currently, land may be acquired for a range of uses such as village sites, town or rural planning, residential purposes for poor or displaced persons, planned development (education, housing, health, slum clearance), and for state corporations.

Land may also be acquired for use by private companies for the above purposes or if the work “is likely to prove useful to the public”.

The 2007 Bill had a narrower list: (a) for strategic naval, military or air force purposes; (b) for public infrastructure projects; and (c) for any purpose useful to the general public if 70% of the land has been purchased from willing sellers through the free market.

Compensation: The current Act requires market value to be paid for the land and any other property on it (buildings, trees, irrigation work etc) as well as expenses for compelling the person change place of residence or business. It explicitly prohibits taking into account the intended use of land while computing market value. The 2007 Bill requires payment of the highest of three items: the minimum value specified for stamp duty, the average of the top 50 per cent by price of land sale in the vicinity, and the average of the top 50 pc of the land purchased for the project from willing sellers. For computing recent land sale, the intended land use is to be used. Thus, agricultural land being acquired for an industrial project will be paid the price of industrial land.

Process of acquisition: Several changes are proposed, including the requirement of a social impact assessment. Any project that displaces more than 400 families (200 in hilly, tribal and desert areas) will require an SIA before the acquisition is approved.

Use of land acquired: The 2007 Bill requires the land acquired to be used for that purpose within five years. If this condition is not met, the land reverts to the government (it is not returned to the original land owners). If any acquired land is transferred to another entity, 80 pc of the capital gains has to be shared with the original land-owners and their legal heirs.

Dispute Settlement: Currently, all disputes are resolved by civil courts, which results in delays. The 2007 Bill sets up Land Acquisition Compensation Dispute Resolution Authority at the state and national levels. These authorities will have the power of civil courts, and will adjudicate disputes related to compensation claims.

Does the proposed Bill address the major issues?

The Bill narrows the uses for which land may be acquired. It also changes the compensation due and links that to the market price for which land is to be used.

There could be significant changes in acquisition for use by private industry. Firstly, they would have to purchase at least 70 pc of the required land from willing sellers (presumably, at fair market price). Second, the compensation amount for the remaining (upto 30 pc of land) could be significantly higher than the current method. This would be at a premium to the average paid to the willing sellers, and it would be based on intended industrial or commercial use which usually commands a higher price than agricultural land.

However, the effect on acquisition for projects such as highways and railways will not be significant, as there is no benchmark for price determination for such use.

This article appeared in Rediff News on May 12, 2011 and can be accessed here.


Tags:

The Companies Bill, 2009

November 16th, 2010 3 comments

All companies are currently governed by the Companies Act, 1956. The Act has been amended 24 times since then. Three committees were formed in the last ten years, chaired by Justice V B Eradi (2001), Naresh Chandra (2002) and J J Irani (2005) to look into various aspects of corporate governance and company law. The Companies Bill, 2009 incorporates some of these recommendations.

Main features
The major themes of the Bill are as follows: It moves a number of issues that are currently specified in the Act (and its schedules) to the Rules; this change will make the law more flexible, as changes can be made through government notification, and would not require an amendment bill in Parliament. On a number of issues, the Bill moves the onus of oversight towards shareholders and away from the government. It also requires a super-majority of 75 percent shareholder votes for certain decisions. The powers of creditors have been enhanced in cases where a company is in financial distress. It has new provisions regarding independent directors and auditors in order to strengthen corporate governance. Finally, the bill increases penalties, and provides for special courts.

Types of companies
The Bill provides for six types of companies. Public companies need to have at least seven shareholders, and private companies between two and 50 shareholders. Charitable companies should have at least one shareholder, may have only certain specified objectives, and may not distribute dividend. Three new types of companies have been defined, which have less stringent provisions. These are one-person companies, small companies (private companies with capital less than Rs 50 million and turnover below Rs 200 million), and dormant companies (formed for future projects, or no operations for two years).

Corporate Governance
The Bill defines the duties of directors and norms for composition of boards. The number of directors is capped at 12. At least one director should be resident in India for at least 183 days in a calendar year and at least a third of the board should consist of independent directors. The Bill also sets guidelines for auditors. Certain related persons such as creditors, debtors, shareholders and guarantors cannot be appointed as auditors. Certain services such as book-keeping, internal audit and management services may not be undertaken by the auditors. Removal of an auditor before completion of term requires approval of 75 percent of the shareholders.

Adjudication
The Bill provides for a National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) to adjudicate disputes between companies and their stakeholders. It also establishes an Appellate Tribunal. The NCLT may ask the government to investigate the working of a company on an application made by 100 shareholders or those who hold 10 percent of the voting power.

Arrangements
All arrangements such as mergers, takeovers, debt split, share splits and reduction in share capital must be approved by 75 percent of creditors or shareholders, and sanctioned by the NCLT.

Standing Committee’s Recommendations
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance has submitted its report, and suggested several significant amendments.

Corporate governance
Substantive matters covered in various corporate governance guidelines should be contained in the Bill. These include: separation of offices of Chairman and Chief Executive Officer; limiting the number of companies in which an individual may become director; attributes for independent directors; appointment of auditors.

Delegated legislation
The Committee noted that the Bill provided excessive scope for delegated legislation. Several substantive provisions were left for rule-making and the Ministry was asked to reconsider provisions made for excessive delegated legislation.

The Ministry has agreed to make some changes to include the following provisions in the Act: the definition of small companies; the manner of subscribing names to the Memorandum of Association; the format of Memorandum of Association to be prescribed in the Schedule; the manner of conducting Extraordinary General Meetings; documents to be filed with the Registrar of Companies.

The Committee recommended that provisions relating to independent directors in the Bill should be distinguished from other directors. There should be a clear expression of their mode of appointment, qualifications, extent of independence from management, roles, responsibilities, and liabilities. The Committee also recommended that the appointment process of independent Directors should be made independent of the company’s management. This should be done by constituting a panel to be maintained by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, out of which companies can choose their requirement of independent directors.

Investor protection
The Ministry, in response to the Committee’s concerns for ensuring protection of small investors and minority shareholders, indicated new proposals. These include: enhanced disclosure requirements at the time of incorporation; shareholder’s associations/groups enabled to take legal action in case of any fraudulent action by the company; directors of a company which has defaulted in payment of interest to depositors to be disqualified for future appointment as directors.

The Ministry also made some suggestions on protection of minority shareholders/small investors, which the Committee accepted, including the source of promoter’s contribution to be disclosed in the Prospectus; stricter rules for bigger and solvent companies on acceptance of deposits from the public; return to be filed with Registrar in case of promoters/top ten shareholders stake changing beyond a limit.

Corporate Delinquency
Recommendations include: subsidiary companies not to have further subsidiaries; main objects for raising public offer should be mentioned on the first page of the prospectus; tenure of independent director should be provided in law; the office of the Chairman and the Managing Director/CEO should be separated. The Committee emphasised that the procedural defaults should be viewed in a different perspective from fraudulent practices.

Shareholder democracy
The Committee recommended that the system of proxy voting should be discontinued. It also stated that the quorum for company meetings should be higher than the proposed five members, and should be increased to a reasonable percentage.

Foreign companies
The Bill requires foreign companies having a place of business in India and with Indian shareholding to comply with certain provisions in the proposed Bill. The Committee observed that the Bill does not clearly explain the applicability of the Bill to foreign companies incorporated outside India with a place of business in India. It recommended that all such foreign companies should be brought within the ambit of the chapter dealing with foreign companies.

Next steps
The report of the Standing Committee indicates that the Ministry has accepted many of its recommendations. It is likely that the government will take up the Bill for consideration and passing during the winter session, which starts on 9th November.

This article was published in PRAGATI on November 1, 2010

Tags:

Seeds Bill Update

April 26th, 2010 5 comments

The Seeds Bill was introduced in 2004, and is listed for discussion in Rajya Sabha this week. We had flagged some issues in our Legislative Brief. The Standing Committee had also made some recommendations (summary available here). These included the following: Farmers selling seeds had to meet the same quality requirements (on physical and genetic purity, minimum level of germination etc.) as seed companies. Second, seed inspectors had the power to enter and search without a warrant, unlike the requirements in the Criminal Procedure Code for the police. Third, the compensation mechanism for farmers was through consumer courts; some other Acts provide separate bodies to settle similar issues.

The government has circulated a list of official amendments. These address most of the issues (tabulated here).

One significant issue has not been addressed. The financial memorandum estimates that Rs 36 lakh would be required for the implementation of the Act during 2004-05 from the Consolidated Fund of India. The amount required by state governments to establish testing laboratories and appointing seed analysts and seed inspectors has not been estimated, which implies that the successful implementation of the bill will depend on adequate provision in state budgets.