Critical Analysis and over all effect of Interplay between SICA1985 & SARFASI ACT,2002

As in M/S Madras Petrochem Ltd.& Anr vs Bifr & Ors in this case Hon ble Supreme Court decided a interesting questions on the interplay between the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985 and the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002 and overall position and effect under both the Act.

1. As It is important at to refer first to the genesis of these three legislations. Each of them deals with different aspects of recovery of debts due to banks and financial institutions. Two of them refer to creditors’ interests and how best to deal with recovery of outstanding loans and advances made by them on the one hand, whereas the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985, on the other hand, deals with certain debtors which are sick industrial companies (i.e. companies running industries named in the schedule to the Industries (Development and Regulation) Act, 1951) and whether such “debtors” having become “sick”, are to be rehabilitated. The question, therefore, is whether the public interest in recovering debts due to banks and financial institutions is to give way to the public interest in rehabilitation of sick industrial companies, regard being had to the present economic scenario in the country, as reflected in Parliamentary Legislation. . We begin, first, with the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985. The Statement of Objects and Reasons for this Act reads as under:

THE SICK INDUSTRIAL COMPANIES (SPECIAL PROVISIONS) ACT, 1985 STATEMENT OF OBJECTS AND REASONS The ill effects of sickness in industrial companies such as loss of production, loss of employment, loss of revenue to the Central and State Governments and locking up of investible funds and financial institutions are of serious concern to the Government and the society at large. The concern of the Government is accentuated by the alarming increase in the incidence of sickness in industrial companies. It has been recognized that in order to fully utilize the productive industrial assets, afford maximum protection of employment and optimize the use of the funds of the banks and financial institutions, it would be imperative to revive and rehabilitate the potentially viable sick industrial companies as quickly as possible. It would also be equally imperative to salvage the productive assets and realize the amounts due to the banks and financial institutions, to the extent possible, from the non-viable sick industrial companies through liquidation of those companies.

It has been the experience that the existing institutional arrangements and procedures for revival and rehabilitation of potentially viable sick industrial companies are both inadequate and time-consuming. A multiplicity of laws and agencies makes the adoption of coordinated approach for dealing with sick industrial companies difficult. A need has, therefore, been felt to enact in public interest a legislation to provide for timely determination by a body of experts of the preventive, ameliorative, remedial and other measures that would need to be adopted with respect to such companies and for enforcement of the measures considered appropriate with utmost practicable despatch.

The salient features of the Bill are-
application of the legislation to the industries specified in the First Schedule to the Industries (Development and Regulation) Act, 1951, with the initial exception of the scheduled industry relating to ships and other vessels drawn by power, which may however be brought within the ambit of the legislation in due course;

Identification of sickness in an industrial company, registered for not less than seven years, on the basis of the symptomatic indices of cash losses for two consecutive financial years and accumulated losses equalling or exceeding the net worth of the company as at the end of the second financial year;
the onus of reporting sickness and impending sickness at the stage of erosion of fifty per cent. or more of the net worth of an industrial company is being laid on the Board of Directors of such company; where the Central Government or the Reserve Bank is satisfied that an industrial company has become sick, it may make a reference to the Board, likewise if any State Government, scheduled bank or public financial institution having an interest in an industrial company is satisfied that the industrial company has become sick, it may also make a reference to the Board;
establishment of Board consisting of experts in various relevant fields with powers to enquire into and determine the incidence of sickness in industrial companies and devise suitable remedial measures through appropriate schemes or other proposals and for proper implementation thereof;
constitution of an Appellate Authority consisting of persons who are or have been Supreme Court Judges, senior High Court Judges and Secretaries to the Government of India, etc., for hearing appeals against the order of the Board.”

2. A cursory reading of the Act shows that a Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction is set up by the Act, before which references are made. Such references can be made under Section 15 of the Act, not only by an industrial company as defined, which, as has been stated above, is a company which runs any of the industries specified in the first schedule to the Industries (Development and Regulation) Act, 1951, but also by the Central or State Government, or public financial institution, or State level institution, or a scheduled bank, as the case may be. Such reference can only be made if the company concerned has turned sick i.e. it has to be a company running an industry mentioned in the first schedule to the Industries (Development and Regulation) Act, 1951, and must be a company registered for not less than 5 years, which has at the end of any financial year accumulated losses equal to or exceeding its entire net worth. An inquiry into the working of such “sick industrial company” is to be made by the said Board on receipt of a reference or upon application or suo motu. If the Board is satisfied that the Company has indeed become a sick industrial company, the Board shall decide as to whether it is practicable for the Company to make its net worth positive within a reasonable time. This it may do under Section 17 of the Act, by order under sub-section (2) of Section 17. If this is not possible, then the Board may appoint an Operating Agency who will prepare a scheme for rehabilitation mentioned in Section 18 which the Board may then sanction. The scheme may provide for all or any of the things mentioned in the said Section, and finally, the scheme may work successfully, resulting in the Company’s net worth turning positive, or may be unsuccessful. In the event of it being unsuccessful, the Board may modify such scheme or ask for the preparation of a new scheme. If, at the end of the day, the first scheme or any successive schemes ultimately fail, the Board has then to be of the opinion that such Company is not likely to make its net worth positive, and that therefore it is to forward its opinion under Section 20 of the Act to the concerned High Court to proceed with the winding up of the said company. Section 22, which is of crucial importance in the working of the Act, suspends various legal proceedings, contracts etc., while a reference before the Board is pending, for the duration of the inquiry to be made and/or scheme prepared and finally sanctioned, and for the entire period of the working of the said scheme. Both Section 22(1) and (4) contain non obstante clauses overriding inter alia the Companies Act and any other law. In order to better implement the provisions of this Act, Section 32 also contains a non obstante clause overriding all other laws including Memoranda and Articles of Association of the industrial company or any other instrument having effect by virtue of any other law, except the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act of 1973 and The Urban Land (Ceiling and Regulation) Act, 1976.

3. While this Act had worked for a period of about 7 years, the Recovery of Debts Due to Banks and Financial Institutions Act, 1993 was brought into force, pursuant to various Committee reports. The Statement of Objects and Reasons for this Act reads as follows:-
STATEMENT OF OBJECTS AND REASONS OF THE RECOVERY OF DEBTS DUE TO BANKS AND FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS ACT, 1993 Banks and financial institutions at present experience considerable difficulties in recovering loans and enforcement of securities charged with them. The existing procedure for recovery of debts due to the banks and financial institutions has blocked a significant portion of their funds in unproductive assets, the value of which deteriorates with the passage of time. The Committee on the Financial System headed by Shri M. Narasimham has considered the setting up of the Special Tribunals with special powers for adjudication of such matters and speedy recovery as critical to the successful implementation of the financial sector reforms. An urgent need was, therefore, felt to work out a suitable mechanism through which the dues to the banks and financial institutions could be realized without delay. In 1981, a Committee under the Chairmanship of Shri T. Tiwari had examined the legal and other difficulties faced by banks and financial institutions and suggested remedial measures including changes in law. The Tiwari Committee had also suggested setting up of Special Tribunals for recovery of dues of the banks and financial institutions by following a summary procedure. The setting up of Special Tribunals will not only fulfill a long-felt need, but also will be an important step in the implementation of the Report of Narasimham Committee. Whereas on 30th September, 1990 more than fifteen lakhs of cases filed by the public sector banks and about 304 cases filed by the financial institutions were pending in various courts, recovery of debts involved more than Rs.5622 crores in dues of Public Sector Banks and about Rs.391 crores of dues of the financial institutions. The locking up of such huge amount of public money in litigation prevents proper utilisation and recycling of the funds for the development of the country.

The Bill seeks to provide for the establishment of Tribunal and Appellate Tribunals for expeditious adjudication and recovery of debts due to banks and financial institutions. Notes on clauses explain in detail the provisions of the Bill.”

4. The Recovery Of Debts Due To Banks And Financial Institutions Act, 1993 took away the jurisdiction of the courts and vested this jurisdiction in tribunals established by the Act so as to ensure speedy recovery of debts due to the banks and financial institutions mentioned therein. This Act also included one appeal to the Appellate Tribunal, and transfer of all suits or other proceedings pending before any court to tribunals set up under the Act. The Act contained a non obstante clause in Section 34 stating that its provisions will have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent contained in any other law for the time being in force or in any instrument having effect by virtue of any other law. In the year 2000, this Act was amended so as to incorporate a new sub-section (2) in Section 34 together with a saving provision in sub-section (1). It is of some interest to note that this Act was to be in addition to and not in derogation of various Financial Corporation Acts and the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985. Clearly, therefore, the object of the 2000 amendment to the Recovery of Debts due to Banks and Financial Institutions Act, 1993 was to make The Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985 prevail over it.

5. Regard being had to the poor working of the Recovery of Debts Due to Banks and Financial Institutions Act, 1993, the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002 was brought into force in the year 2002. The statement of objects and reasons for this Act reads as under:-

STATEMENT OF OBJECTS AND REASONS OF THE SECURITISATION AND RECONSTRUCTION OF FINANCIAL ASSETS AND ENFORCEMENT OF SECURITY INTEREST ACT, 2002 The financial sector has been one of the key drivers in India’s efforts to achieve success in rapidly developing its economy. While the banking industry in India is progressively complying with the international prudential norms and accounting practices, there are certain areas in which the banking and financial sector do not have a level playing field as compared to other participants in the financial markets in the world. There is no legal provision for facilitating securitisation of financial assets of banks and financial institutions. Further, unlike international banks, the banks and financial institutions in India do not have power to take possession of securities and sell them. Our existing legal framework relating to commercial transactions has not kept pace with the changing commercial practices and financial sector reforms. This has resulted in slow pace of recovery of defaulting loans and mounting levels of nonperforming assets of banks and financial institutions. Narasimham Committee I and II and Andhyarujina Committee constituted by the Central Government for the purpose of examining banking sector reforms have considered the need for changes in the legal system in respect of these areas. These Committees, inter alia, have suggested enactment of a new legislation for securitisation and empowering banks and financial institutions to take possession of the securities and to sell them without the intervention of the court. Acting on these suggestions, the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Ordinance, 2002 was promulgated on the 21st June, 2002 to regulate securitisition and reconstruction of financial assets and enforcement of security interest and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. The provisions of the Ordinance would enable banks and financial institutions to realise long-term assets, manage problem of liquidity, asset liability mismatches and improve recovery by exercising powers to take possession of securities, sell them and reduce nonperforming assets by adopting measures for recovery or reconstruction.

6. It is now proposed to replace the Ordinance by a Bill, which, inter alia, contains provisions of the Ordinance to provide for—

(a) registration and regulation of securitisation companies or reconstruction companies by the Reserve Bank of India;
(b) facilitating securitisation of financial assets of banks and financial institutions with or without the benefit of underlying securities;
(c) facilitating easy transferability of financial assets by the securitisation company or reconstruction company to acquire financial assets of banks and financial institutions by issue of debentures or bonds or any other security in the nature of a debenture;
(d) empowering securitisation companies’ or reconstruction companies to raise funds by issue of security receipts to qualified institutional buyers;
(e) facilitating reconstruction of financial assets acquired by exercising powers of enforcement of securities or change of management or other powers which are proposed to be conferred on the banks and financial institutions;
(f) declaration of any securitisation company or reconstruction company registered with the Reserve Bank of India as a public financial institution for the purpose of section 4A of the Companies Act, 1956;
(g) defining ‘security interest’ as any type of security including mortgage and change on immovable properties given for due repayment of any financial assistance given by any bank or financial institution;
(h) empowering banks and financial institutions to take possession of securities given for financial assistance and sell or lease the same or take over management in the event of default, i.e. classification of the borrower’s account as non-performing asset in accordance with the directions given or under guidelines issued by the Reserve Bank of India from time to time;
(i) the rights of a secured creditor to be exercised by one or more of its officers authorised in this behalf in accordance with the rules made by the Central Government;
(j) an appeal against the action of any bank or financial institution to the concerned Debts Recovery Tribunal and a second appeal to the Appellate Debts Recovery Tribunal;
(k) setting up or causing to be set up a Central Registry by the Central Government for the purpose of registration of transactions relating to securitisation, asset reconstruction and creation of security interest;
(l) application of the proposed legislation initially to banks and financial institutions and empowerment of the Central Government to extend the application of the proposed legislation to non-banking financial companies and other entities;
(m) non-application of the proposed legislation to security interests in agricultural lands, loans not exceeding rupees one lakh and cases where eighty per cent, of the loans are repaid by the borrower.
3. The Bill seeks to achieve the above objects.”

7. This Act was brought into force as a result of two committee reports which opined that recovery of debts due to banks and financial institutions was not moving as speedily as expected, and that, therefore, certain other measures would have to be put in place in order that these banks and financial institutions would better be able to recover debts owing to them.

8. In a challenge made to the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002 in Mardia Chemicals Ltd. Etc. v. Union of India (UOI) and Ors. Etc. Etc., (2004) 4 SCC 311, this Court went into the circumstances under which the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002 was enacted, as follows:- “Some facts which need to be taken note of are that the banks and the financial institutions have heavily financed the petitioners and other industries. It is also a fact that a large sum of amount remains unrecovered. Normal process of recovery of debts through courts is lengthy and time taken is not suited for recovery of such dues. For financial assistance rendered to the industries by the financial institutions, financial liquidity is essential failing which there is a blockade of large sums of amounts creating circumstances which retard the economic progress followed by a large number of other consequential ill effects. Considering all these circumstances, the Recovery of Debts Due to Banks and Financial Institutions Act was enacted in 1993 but as the figures show it also did not bring the desired results. Though it is submitted on behalf of the petitioners that it so happened due to inaction on the part of the Governments in creating Debts Recovery Tribunals and appointing presiding officers, for a long time. Even after leaving that margin, it is to be noted that things in the spheres concerned are desired to move faster. In the present-day global economy it may be difficult to stick to old and conventional methods of financing and recovery of dues. Hence, in our view, it cannot be said that a step taken towards securitisation of the debts and to evolve means for faster recovery of NPAs was not called for or that it was superimposition of undesired law since one legislation was already operating in the field, namely, the Recovery of Debts Due to Banks and Financial Institutions Act. It is also to be noted that the idea has not erupted abruptly to resort to such a legislation. It appears that a thought was given to the problems and the Narasimham Committee was constituted which recommended for such a legislation keeping in view the changing times and economic situation whereafter yet another Expert Committee was constituted, then alone the impugned law was enacted. Liquidity of finances and flow of money is essential for any healthy and growth-oriented economy. But certainly, what must be kept in mind is that the law should not be in derogation of the rights which are guaranteed to the people under the Constitution. The procedure should also be fair, reasonable and valid, though it may vary looking to the different situations needed to be tackled and object sought to be achieved.
In its Second Report, the Narasimham Committee observed that NPAs in 1992 were uncomfortably high for most of the public sector banks. In Chapter VIII of the Second Report the Narasimham Committee deals about legal and legislative framework and observed:
“8.1. A legal framework that clearly defines the rights and liabilities of parties to contracts and provides for speedy resolution of disputes is a sine qua non for efficient trade and commerce, especially for financial intermediation. In our system, the evolution of the legal framework has not kept pace with changing commercial practice and with the financial sector reforms. As a result, the economy has not been able to reap the full benefits of the reforms process. As an illustration, we could look at the scheme of mortgage in the Transfer of Property Act, which is critical to the work of financial intermediaries….” One of the measures recommended in the circumstances was to vest the financial institutions through special statutes, the power of sale of the assets without intervention of the court and for reconstruction of assets. It is thus to be seen that the question of non-recoverable or delayed recovery of debts advanced by the banks or financial institutions has been attracting attention and the matter was considered in depth by the Committees specially constituted consisting of the experts in the field. In the prevalent situation where the amounts of dues are huge and hope of early recovery is less, it cannot be said that a more effective legislation for the purpose was uncalled for or that it could not be resorted to. It is again to be noted that after the Report of the Narasimham Committee, yet another Committee was constituted headed by Mr. Andhyarujina for bringing about the needed steps within the legal framework. We are therefore, unable to find much substance in the submission made on behalf of the petitioners that while the Recovery of Debts Due to Banks and Financial Institutions Act was in operation it was uncalled for to have yet another legislation for the recovery of the mounting dues. Considering the totality of circumstances and the financial climate world over, if it was thought as a matter of policy to have yet speedier legal method to recover the dues, such a policy decision cannot be faulted with nor is it a matter to be gone into by the courts to test the legitimacy of such a measure relating to financial policy.
We may now consider the main enforcing provision which is pivotal to the whole controversy, namely, Section 13 in Chapter III of the Act. It provides that a secured creditor may enforce any security interest without intervention of the court or tribunal irrespective of Section 69 or Section 69-A of the Transfer of Property Act where according to sub-section (2) of Section 13, the borrower is a defaulter in repayment of the secured debt or any instalment of repayment and further the debt standing against him has been classified as a non-performing asset by the secured creditor. Sub- section (2) of Section 13 further provides that before taking any steps in the direction of realizing the dues, the secured creditor must serve a notice in writing to the borrower requiring him to discharge the liabilities within a period of 60 days failing which the secured creditor would be entitled to take any of the measures as provided in sub-section (4) of Section 13. It may also be noted that as per sub-section (3) of Section 13 a notice given to the borrower must contain the details of the amounts payable and the secured assets against which the secured creditor proposes to proceed in the event of non-compliance with the notice given under sub-section (2) of Section 13.” [at para 34,36 and 38]

9. The “pivotal” provision namely Section 13 of the said Act makes it clear that banks and financial institutions would now no longer have to wait for a Tribunal judgment under the Recovery of Debts Due to Banks and Financial Institutions Act, 1993 to be able to recover debts owing to them. They could, by following the procedure laid down in Section 13, take direct action against the debtors by taking possession of secured assets and selling them; they could also take over the management of the business of the borrower. They could also appoint any person to manage the secured assets possession of which has been taken over by them, and could require, at any time by notice in writing to any person who has acquired any of the secured assets from the borrower and from whom any money is due or may become due from the borrower, to pay the secured creditor so much of the money as is sufficient to pay the secured debt.

10. In order to further the objects of the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002, the Act contains a non obstante clause in Section 35 and also contains various Acts in Section 37 which are to be in addition to and not in derogation of the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002. Three of these Acts, namely, the Companies Act, 1956, the Securities Contracts (Regulation) Act, 1956 and the Securities and Exchange Board of India Act, 1992, relate to securities generally, whereas the Recovery Of Debts Due To Banks And Financial Institutions Act, 1993 relates to recovery of debts due to banks and financial institutions. Significantly, under Section 41 of this Act, three Acts are, by the schedule to this Act, amended. We are concerned with the third of such Acts, namely, the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985, in Section 15(1) of which two provisos have been added. It is the correct interpretation of the second of these provisos on which the fate of these appeals ultimately hangs.

11. It is in this background that we need to embark on the next step, namely, to consider the following two questions which arise on the facts of this case:
(1) Whether the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002 prevails over the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985; and (2) Whether the expression “where a reference is pending” in Section 15 (1) proviso 3 of the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985 would include all proceedings before the BIFR or only proceedings at the initial reference stage.

12 we have first to determine whether the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002 overrides Section 22 of the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985 as such overriding is only to the extent of the inconsistency between the two enactments. Such inconsistency is found in Section 22(1) of the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985, by which any action taken to realize debts owing to the secured creditors of sick industrial companies cannot be proceeded with under the 2002 Act unless the BIFR accords permission under Section 22(1) of the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985.

13. It is now necessary to undertake a survey of the case law laid down by this court in relation to the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985 and its relation with other enactments. In an early judgment, namely, Maharashtra Tubes Ltd. v. State Industrial And Investment, (1993) 2 SCC 144, this Court had to deal with the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985, vis-à-vis the State Financial Corporations Act, 1951. In paragraph 9 of the judgment it was held that both Acts were special Acts, the 1951 Act dealing with the recovery of debts of a company pre-sickness and the 1985 Act dealing with such recovery post-sickness. Since both the Acts contained non obstante clauses, it was held that the 1985 Act, being later in point of time, would prevail over the 1951 Act.

14. On the other hand, in Solidaire India Ltd. v. Fairgrowth Financial Services Ltd. and Ors., (2001) 3 SCC 71, it was the Special Courts (Trial of Offences Relating to Transactions in Securities), Act, 1992 which came up for consideration vis-à-vis the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985. In paragraphs 9 and 10 of this Court’s judgment, this Court noted that both Acts were special Acts. In a significant extract from a Special Court judgment, which was approved by this Court, it was stated that The Special Courts Act, 1992, being a later enactment and also containing a non obstante clause, would prevail over the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985. Had the legislature wanted to exclude the provisions of the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985, from the ambit of the said Act, the legislature would specifically have so provided (Emphasis ours). The fact that the legislature did not specifically so provide necessarily means that the legislature intended that the provisions of the said Act were to prevail over the provisions of the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985. In short, when property of notified persons under the Special Courts Act, 1992 stands attached, it is only the Special Court which can give directions to the custodian under the said Act as to disposal of such property of a notified party. The legislature expressly overrode Section 22 of the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985 and permitted the custodian to give directions under Section 11 of the Special Courts Act, 1979, notwithstanding Section 22 of the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985.

15. In Jay Engineering Works Ltd. v. Industry Facilitation Council and Anr., (2006) 8 SCC 677, this time this Court had to deal with the Interest on Delayed Payment to Small Scale and Ancillary Industrial Undertakings Act, 1993 vis-à-vis the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985. Both Acts contained non obstante clauses. This Court referred to the 1994 amendment to the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985 and stated that the amending Act being later than the 1993 Act, the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985 would, therefore, prevail. (See paragraph 27).

16. Similarly, in Morgan Securities and Credit Pvt. Ltd. v. Modi Rubber Ltd., (2006) 12 SCC 642, the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 contained a non obstante clause in Section 5 thereof. Despite this being a later Act, vis-à-vis the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985, this Court held that the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985 would prevail, inasmuch as the non obstante clause contained in the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 had only a limited application – it applied only insofar as the extent of judicial intervention in arbitration proceedings is concerned. (See paragraph nos. 66 and 68).

17. In an interesting concurring judgment, Balasubramanyan,J., in paragraph 76 held:
“Occasions are not infrequent when not so scrupulous debtors approach B.I.F.R. to stall the proceedings and to keep their creditors at bay. The delay before the B.I.F.R. is sought to be taken advantage of. The Parliament has apparently taken note of this and has repealed SICA by the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Repeal Act, 2003. The vacuum, thus created has been filled by an amendment to the Companies Act. But, so far, the provisions of the Amending Act and the Companies Act introduced, have not been brought into force. It appears to be time to consider whether these enactments should not be notified.”

18. Similarly, in Tata Motors Ltd. v. Pharmaceutical Products of India Ltd. and Anr., (2008) 7 SCC 619, it was held, following the judgment in NFEF Ltd. v. Chandra Developers (P) Ltd., (2005) 8 SCC 219, that the Companies Act being a general enactment would have to give way to the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985 which is a later and special enactment. (see paragraphs 22 to 24).

19. And in Raheja Universal Limited v. NRC Limited and Ors., (2012) 4 SCC 148, the Transfer of Property Act,1882 had to yield to the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985 being a general Act, as against the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985 which was a special Act, together with a reading of the non obstante clause contained in the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985 (see paragraphs 91 to 93).

21. In KSL & Industries Ltd. v. Arihant Threads Ltd., (2015) 1 SCC 166, it was the turn of the Recovery Of Debts Due To Banks And Financial Institutions Act, 1993 vis-à-vis the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985. This Court in resolving the controversy in favour of the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985 held:-
“Sub-section (2) was added to Section 34 of the RDDB Act w.e.f. 17-1-2000 by Act 1 of 2000. There is no doubt that when an Act provides, as here, that its provisions shall be in addition to and not in derogation of another law or laws, it means that the legislature intends that such an enactment shall coexist along with the other Acts. It is clearly not the intention of the legislature, in such a case, to annul or detract from the provisions of other laws. The term “in derogation of” means “in abrogation or repeal of”. The Black’s Law Dictionary sets forth the following meaning for “derogation”:
“derogation.—The partial repeal or abrogation of a law by a later Act that limits its scope or impairs its utility and force.” It is clear that sub-section (1) contains a non obstante clause, which gives the overriding effect to the RDDB Act. Sub-section (2) acts in the nature of an exception to such an overriding effect. It states that this overriding effect is in relation to certain laws and that the RDDB Act shall be in addition to and not in abrogation of, such laws. SICA is undoubtedly one such law.
There is no doubt that both are special laws. SICA is a special law, which deals with the reconstruction of sick companies and matters incidental thereto, though it is general as regards other matters such as recovery of debts. The RDDB Act is also a special law, which deals with the recovery of money due to banks or financial institutions, through a special procedure, though it may be general as regards other matters such as the reconstruction of sick companies which it does not even specifically deal with. Thus the purpose of the two laws is different.
Parliament must be deemed to have had knowledge of the earlier law i.e. SICA, enacted in 1985, while enacting the RDDB Act, 1993. It is with a view to prevent a clash of procedure, and the possibility of contradictory orders in regard to the same entity and its properties, and in particular, to preserve the steps already taken for reconstruction of a sick company in relation to the properties of such sick company, which may be charged as security with the banks or financial institutions, that Parliament has specifically enacted sub-section (2). SICA had been enacted in respect of specified and limited companies i.e. those which owned industrial undertakings specified in the Schedule to the IDR Act, as mentioned earlier, whereas the RDDB Act deals with all persons, who may have taken a loan from a bank or a financial institution in cash or otherwise, whether secured or unsecured, etc. In view of the observations of this Court in the decisions referred to and relied on by the learned counsel for the parties we find that, the purpose of the two enactments is entirely different. As observed earlier, the purpose of one is to provide ameliorative measures for reconstruction of sick companies, and the purpose of the other is to provide for speedy recovery of debts of banks and financial institutions. Both the Acts are “special” in this sense. However, with reference to the specific purpose of reconstruction of sick companies, SICA must be held to be a special law, though it may be considered to be a general law in relation to the recovery of debts. Whereas, the RDDB Act may be considered to be a special law in relation to the recovery of debts and SICA may be considered to be a general law in this regard. For this purpose we rely on the decision in LIC v. Vijay Bahadur [(1981) 1 SCC 315 : 1981 SCC (L&S) 111] . Normally the latter of the two would prevail on the principle that the legislature was aware that it had enacted the earlier Act and yet chose to enact the subsequent Act with a non obstante clause. In this case, however, the express intendment of Parliament in the non obstante clause of the RDDB Act does not permit us to take that view. Though the RDDB Act is the later enactment, sub-section (2) of Section 34 thereof specifically provides that the provisions of the Act or the Rules made thereunder shall be in addition to, and not in derogation of, the other laws mentioned therein including SICA.” [at paras 36, 39, 40, and 48]

22. A conspectus of the aforesaid decisions shows that the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985 prevails in all situations where there are earlier enactments with non obstante clauses similar to the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985. Where there are later enactments with similar non obstante clauses, the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985 has been held to prevail only in a situation where the reach of the non obstante clause in the later Act is limited – such as in the case of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 – or in the case of the later Act expressly yielding to the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985, as in the case of the Recovery Of Debts Due To Banks And Financial Institutions Act, 1993. Where such is not the case, as in the case of Special Courts Act, 1992, it is the Special Courts Act, 1992 which was held to prevail over the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985.

23. We have now to undertake an analysis of the Acts in question. The first thing to be noticed is the difference between Section 37 of the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002 and Section 34 of the Recovery Of Debts Due To Banks And Financial Institutions Act, 1993. Section 37 of the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002 does not include the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985 unlike Section 34(2) of the Recovery of Debts Due To Banks and Financial Institutions Act, 1993. Section 37 of the Securities and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002 states that the said Act shall be in addition to and not in derogation of four Acts, namely, the Companies Act, the Securities Contracts (Regulation) Act, 1956, the Securities and Exchange Board of India Act, 1992 and the Recovery Of Debts Due To Banks And Financial Institutions Act, 1993. It is clear that the first three Acts deal with securities generally and the Recovery Of Debts Due To Banks And Financial Institutions Act, 1993 deals with recovery of debts due to banks and financial institutions. Interestingly, Section 41 of the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002 makes amendments in three Acts – the Companies Act, the Securities Contracts (Regulation) Act, 1956, and the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985. It is of great significance that only the first two Acts are included in Section 37 and not the third i.e. the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985. This is for the obvious reason that the framers of the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002 intended that the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985 be covered by the non obstante clause contained in Section 35, and not by the exception thereto carved out by Section 37. Further, whereas the Recovery of Debts Due to Banks and Financial Institutions Act, 1993 is expressly mentioned in Section 37, the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985 is not, making the above position further clear. And this is in stark contrast, as has been stated above, to Section 34(2) of the Recovery of Debts Due to Banks and Financial Institutions Act, 1993, which expressly included the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985. The new legislative scheme qua recovery of debts contained in the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002 has therefore to be given precedence over the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985, unlike the old scheme for recovery of debts contained in the Recovery of Debts Due to Banks and Financial Institutions Act, 1993.

24. Another interesting pointer to the same conclusion is the fact that Section 35 of the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002 is not made subject to Section 37 of the said Act. This statutory scheme is at complete variance with the statutory scheme contained in Section 34 of the Recovery of Debts Due to Banks and Financial Institutions Act, 1993 in which sub-section (1) of Section 34 containing the non obstante clause is expressly made subject to sub-section (2) (containing the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985) by the expression “save as provided under sub- section (2)”.

25. This is what then brings us to the doctrine of harmonious construction, which is one of the paramount doctrines that is applied in interpreting all statutes. Since neither Section 35 nor Section 37 of the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002 is subject to the other, we think it is necessary to interpret the expression “or any other law for the time being in force” in Section 37. If a literal meaning is given to the said expression, Section 35 will become completely otiose as all other laws will then be in addition to and not in derogation of the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002. Obviously this could not have been the Parliamentary intendment, after providing in Section 35 that the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002 will prevail over all other laws that are inconsistent therewith. A middle ground has therefore necessarily to be taken. According to us, the two apparently conflicting Sections can best be harmonized by giving meaning to both. This can only be done by limiting the scope of the expression “or any other law for the time being in force” contained in Section 37. This expression will therefore have to be held to mean other laws having relation to the securities market only, as the Recovery of Debts Due to Banks and Financial Institutions Act, 1993 is the only other special law, apart from the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002, dealing with recovery of debts due to banks and financial institutions. On this interpretation also, the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985 will not be included for the obvious reason that its primary objective is to rehabilitate sick industrial companies and not to deal with the securities market.

26. An interesting pointer to the direction Parliament has taken after enactment of the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002 is also of some relevance in this context. The Eradi Committee Report relating to insolvency and winding up of companies dated 31.7.2000, observed that out of 3068 cases referred to the BIFR from 1987 to 2000 all but 1062 cases have been disposed of. Out of the cases disposed of, 264 cases were revived, 375 cases were under negotiation for revival process, 741 cases were recommended for winding up, and 626 cases were dismissed as not maintainable. These facts and figures speak for themselves and place a big question mark on the utility of the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985. The Committee further pointed out that effectiveness of the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985 as has been pointed out earlier, has been severely undermined by reason of the enormous delays involved in the disposal of cases by the BIFR. (See paragraphs 5.8, 5.9 and 5.15 of the Report). Consequently, the Committee recommended that the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985 be repealed and the provisions thereunder for revival and rehabilitation should be telescoped into the structure of the Companies Act, 1956 itself.

27. Pursuant to the Eradi Committee report, the Companies Act was amended in 2002 by providing for the constitution of a National Company Law Tribunal as a substitute for the Company Law Board, the High Court, the BIFR and the AAIFR. The Eradi Committee Report was further given effect to by inserting Sections 424A to 424H into the Companies Act, 1956 which, with a few changes, mirrored the provisions of Sections 15 to 21 of the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985. Interestingly, the Companies Amendment Act of 2002 omitted a provision similar to Section 22(1) of the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985. Consequently, creditors were given liberty to file suits or initiate other proceedings for recovery of dues despite pendency of proceedings for the revival or rehabilitation of sick companies before the National Company Law Tribunal.

28. This Amendment Act came under challenge, which challenge culminated in the Constitution Bench decision in Union of India v. R, Gandhi, President, Madras Bar Association, (2010) 11 SCC 10 by which the amendments were upheld, with certain changes recommended by the Constitution Bench of this Court.

29. Close on the heels of the amendment made to the Companies Act came The Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Repeal Act, 2003. This particular Act was meant to repeal the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985 consequent to some of its provisions being telescoped into the Companies Act. Thus, the Companies Amendment Act of 2002 and the SICA Repeal Act formed part of one legislative scheme, and neither has yet been brought into force. In fact, even the Companies Act, 2013, which repeals the Companies Act, 1956, contains Chapter 19 consisting of Sections 253 to 269 dealing with revival and rehabilitation of sick companies along the lines of Sections 424A to 424H of the amended Companies Act, 1956. Conspicuous by its absence is a provision akin to Section 22(1) of the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985 in the 2013 Act. However, this Chapter is also yet to be brought into force. These statutory provisions, though not yet brought into force, are also an important pointer to the fact that Section 22(1) of the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985 has been statutorily sought to be excluded, Parliament veering around from wanting to protect sick industrial companies and rehabilitate them to giving credence to the public interest contained in the recovery of public monies owing to banks and financial institutions. These provisions also show that the aforesaid construction of the provisions of the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002 vis-à-vis the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985, leans in favour of creditors being able to realize their debts outside the court process over sick industrial companies being revived or rehabilitated. In fact, another interesting document is the Report on Trend and Progress of Banking in India 2011-2012 for the year ended 30.6.2012 submitted by the Reserve Bank of India to the Central Government in terms of Section 36(2) of the Banking Regulation Act, 1949. In table IV.14 the report provides statistics regarding trends in Non-performing Assets bank-wise, group-wise. As per the said table, the opening balance of Non-performing Assets in public sector banks for the year 2011-2012 was Rs.746 billion but the closing balance for 2011-2012 was Rs.1,172 billion only. The total amount recovered through the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002 during 2011-2012 registered a decline compared to the previous year, but, even then, the amounts recovered under the said Act constituted 70 percent of the total amount recovered. The amounts recovered under the Recovery Of Debts Due To Banks And Financial Institutions Act, 1993 constituted only 28 per cent. All this would go to show that the amounts that public sector banks and financial institutions have to recover are in staggering figures and at long last at least one statutory measure has proved to be of some efficacy. This Court would be loathe to give such an interpretation as would thwart the recovery process under the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002 which Act alone seems to have worked to some extent at least.

30. It will thus be seen that notwithstanding the non obstante clauses in Section 22(1) and (4), read with Section 32, Section 22 of the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985 will have to give way to the measures taken under the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002 more particularly referred to in Section 13 of the SARFAESI ACT.
Notice- This Article is only for knowledge sharing purpose and should not construed as a professional advice/opinion and opinion expressed here only of Author.

Anoop Singh
Head –HR ER & LEGAL
MBA,LL.B,C.S.
Email-anoopsingh9977@rediffmail.com

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