Section 108 of Companies Act, 2013 – Voting Through Electronic Means

  • Updated Till : December 16, 2017

SECTION 108. VOTING THROUGH ELECTRONIC MEANS

[Effective from 1st April, 2014]

The Central Government may prescribe the class or classes of companies and manner in which a member may exercise his right to vote by the electronic means.

Applicable Rules

Companies (Management and Administration) Rules, 2014

[Effective from 1st April, 2014]

Rule 20. Voting through electronic means: [1][(1) The provisions of this rule shall apply in respect of the general meetings for which notices are issued on or after the date of commencement of this rule.]

(2)[2][Every company which has listed its equity shares on a recognised stock exchange and every company having not less than one thousand members shall provide to its members facility to exercise their right to vote on resolutions proposed to be considered at a general meeting by electronic means:

Provided that a Nidhi, or an enterprise or institutional investor referred to in Chapter XB or Chapter XC of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Issue of Capital and Disclosure Requirements) Regulations, 2009 is not required to provide the facility to vote by electronic means:

Explanation.-  For the purpose of this sub-rule, “Nidhi” means a company which has been incorporated as a Nidhi with the object of cultivating the habit of thrift and sayings amongst its members, receiving deposits from and lending to, its members only, for their mutual benefit, and which complies with such rules as are prescribed by the Central Government for regulation of such class of companies.]

Explanation—For the purposes of this rule, the expression-

(i) “agency” means the National Securities Depository Limited, the Central Depository Services (India) Limited or any other entity approved by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs subject to the condition that the National Securities Depository Limited, the Central Depository Services (India) Limited or such other entity has obtained a certificate from the Standardisation Testing and Quality Certification Directorate, Department of Information Technology, Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, Government of India including with regard to compliance with parameters specified under Explanation (vi);

(ii) “cut-off date” means a date not earlier than seven days before the date of general meeting for determining the eligibility to vote by electronic means or in the general meeting,

(iii) “cyber security” means protecting information, equipment, devices, computer, computer resource, communication device and information stored therein from unauthorised access, use, disclosures, disruption, modification or destruction;

(iv) “electronic voting system” means a secured system based process of display of electronic ballots, recording of votes of the members and the number of votes polled in favour or against, in such a manner that the entire voting exercised by way of electronic means gets registered and counted in an electronic registry in a centralised server with adequate cyber security;

(v) “remote e-voting” means the facility of casting votes by a member using an electronic voting system from a place other than venue of a general meeting;

(vi) “secured system” means computer hardware, software, and procedure that –

(a) are reasonably secure from unauthorised access and misuse;

(b) provide a reasonable level of reliability and correct operation;

(c) are reasonably suited to performing the intended functions; and

(d) adhere to generally accepted security procedures;

(vii) “voting by electronic means” includes “remote e-voting” and voting at the general meeting through an electronic voting system which may be the same as used for remote e-voting.

(3) A member may exercise his right to vote through voting by electronic means on resolutions referred to in sub-rule (2) and the company shall pass such resolutions in accordance with the provisions of this rule.

(4) A company which provides the facility to its members to exercise voting by electronic means shall comply with the following procedure, namely:-

(i) the notice of the meeting shall be sent to all the members, directors and auditors of the company either –

(a) by registered post or speed post; or

(b) through electronic means, namely, registered e-mail ID of the recipient; or

(c) by courier service;

(ii) the notice shall also be placed on the website, if any, of the company and of the agency forthwith after it is sent to the members;

(iii) the notice of the meeting shall clearly state –

(A) that the company is providing facility for voting by electronic means and the business may be transacted through such voting;

(B) that the facility for voting, either through electronic voting system or ballot or polling paper shall also be made available at the meeting and members attending the meeting who have not already cast their vote by remote e-voting shall be able to exercise their right at the meeting;

(C) that the members who have cast their vote by remote e-voting prior to the meeting may also attend the meeting but shall not be entitled to cast their vote again;

(iv) the notice shall—

(A) indicate the process and manner for voting by electronic means;

(B) indicate the time schedule including the time period during which the votes may be cast by remote e-voting;

(C) provide the details about the login ID;

(D) specify the process and manner for generating or receiving the password and for casting of vote in a secure manner.

(v) the company shall cause a public notice by way of an advertisement to be published, immediately on completion of dispatch of notices for the meeting under clause (i) of sub-rule (4) but at least twenty-one days before the date of general meeting, at least once in a vernacular newspaper in the principal vernacular language of the district in which the registered office of the company is situated, and having a wide circulation in that district, and at least once in English language in an English newspaper having country-wide circulation, and specifying in the said advertisement, inter alia, the following matters, namely:-

(a) statement that the business may be transacted through voting by electronic means;

(b) the date and time of commencement of remote e-voting;

(c) the date and time of end of remote e-voting;

(d) cut-off date;

(e) the manner in which persons who have acquired shares and become members of the company after the despatch of notice may obtain the login ID and password;

(f) the statement that—

(A) remote e-voting shall not be allowed beyond the said date and time;

(B) the manner in which the company shall provide for voting by members present at the meeting; and

(C) a member may participate in the general meeting even after exercising his right to vote through remote e-voting but shall not be allowed to vote again in the meeting; and

(D) a person whose name is recorded in the register of members or in the register of beneficial owners maintained by the depositories as on the cut-off date only shall be entitled to avail the facility of remote e-voting as well as voting in the general meeting;

(g) website address of the company, if any, and of the agency where notice of the meeting is displayed; and

(h) name, designation, address, email id and phone number of the person responsible to address the grievances connected with facility for voting by electronic means:

Provided that the public notice shall be placed on the website of the company, if any, and of the agency;

(vi) the facility for remote e-voting shall remain open for not less than three days and shall close at 5.00 p.m. on the date preceding the date of the general meeting;

(vii) during the period when facility for remote e-voting is provided, the members of the company, holding shares either in physical form or in dematerialised form, as on the cut-off date, may opt for remote e-voting:

Provided that once the vote on a resolution is cast by the member, he shall not be allowed to change it subsequently or cast the vote again:

Provided further that a member may participate in the general meeting even after exercising his right to vote through remote e-voting but shall not be allowed to vote again;

(viii) at the end of the remote e-voting period, the facility shall forthwith be blocked:

Provided that if a company opts to provide the same electronic voting system as used during remote e-voting during the general meeting, the said facility shall be in operation till all the resolutions are considered and voted upon in the meeting and may be used for voting only by the members attending the meeting and who have not exercised their right to vote through remote e-voting.

(ix) the Board of Directors shall appoint one or more scrutinisers, who may be Chartered Accountant in practice. Cost Accountant in practice, or Company Secretary in practice or an Advocate, or any other person who is not in employment of the company and is a person of repute who, in the opinion of the Board can scrutinise the voting and remote e-voting process in a fair and transparent manner:

Provided that the scrutinisers so appointed may take assistance of a person who is not in employment of the company and who is well-versed with the electronic voting system;

(x) the scrutiniser shall be willing to be appointed and be available for the purpose of ascertaining the requisite majority;

(xi) the Chairman shall, at the general meeting, at the end of discussion on the resolutions on which voting is to be held, allow voting, as provided in clauses (a) to (h) of sub-rule (1) of rule 21, as applicable, with the assistance of scrutinisers, by use of ballot or polling paper or by using an electronic voting system for all those members who are present at the general meeting but have not cast their votes by availing the remote e-voting facility.

(xii) the scrutiniser shall, immediately after the conclusion of voting at the general meeting, first count the votes cast at the meeting, thereafter unblock the votes cast through remote e-voting in the presence of at least two witnesses not in the employment of the company and make, not later than three days of conclusion of the meeting, a consolidated scrutiniser’s report of the total votes cast in favour or against, if any, to the Chairman or a person authorised by him in writing who shall countersign the same:

Provided that the Chairman or a person authorised by him in writing shall declare the result of the voting forthwith;

Explanation.- It is hereby clarified that the manner in which members have cast their votes, that is, affirming or negating the resolution, shall remain secret and not available to the Chairman, Scrutiniser or any other person till the votes are cast in the meeting.

(xiii) For the purpose of ensuring that members who have cast their votes through remote e-voting do not vote again at the general meeting, the scrutiniser shall have access, after the closure of period for remote e-voting and before the start of general meeting, to details relating to members, such as their names, folios, number of shares held and such other information that the scrutinisers may require, who have cast votes through remote e-voting but not the manner in which they have cast their votes:

(xiv) the scrutinisers shall maintain a register either manually or electronically to record the assent or dissent received, mentioning the particulars of name, address, folio number or client ID of the members, number of shares held by them, nominal value of such shares and whether the shares have differential voting rights;

(xv) the register and all other papers relating to voting by electronic means shall remain in the safe custody of the scrutiniser until the Chairman considers, approves and signs the minutes and thereafter, the scrutiniser shall hand over the register and other related papers to the company.

(xvi) the results declared along with the report of the scrutiniser shall be placed on the website of the company, if any, and on the website of the agency immediately after the result is declared by the Chairman:

Provided that in case of companies whose equity shares are listed on a recognised stock exchange, the company shall, simultaneously, forward the results to the concerned stock exchange or exchanges where its equity shares are listed and such stock exchange or exchanges shall place the results on its or their website.

(xvii) subject to receipt of requisite number of votes, the resolution shall be deemed to be passed on the date of the relevant general meeting.

Explanation.- For the purposes of this clause, the requisite number of votes shall be the votes required to pass the resolution as the ‘ordinary resolution’ or the ‘special resolution’, as the case may be, under section 114 of the Act.

(xviii) a resolution proposed to be considered through voting by electronic means shall not be withdrawn.

Applicable Circulars

Clarification with regard to voting through electronic means – reg.

General Circular No. 20/2014 dated 17-6-2014

Section 108 of the Companies Act, 2013 read with rule 20 of the Companies (Management and Administration) Rules, 2014 deal with the exercise of right to vote by members by electronic means (e-means). The provisions seek to ensure wider shareholders participation in the decision making process in companies. Corporates and other stakeholders while appreciating the new approach have drawn attention to some practical difficulties in respect of general meetings to be held in the next few months.

  1. The suggestions received from the stakeholders have been examined. It is noticed that compliance with procedural requirements, engagement of Depository Agencies and the need for clarity on matter like demand for poll/postal ballot etc will take some more time. Accordingly, it has been decided not to treat the relevant provisions as mandatory till 31st December, 2014. The relevant notification in this regard is being issued separately.
  2. To provide clarity and ensure uniformity in the e-voting procedure, clarifications on certain issues raised by the stakeholders are provided in the Annexure to this circular for guidance of all concerned.

Annexure

Clarifications on issues associated with e-voting procedure

(i) Show of hands not to be allowed in case of e-voting:- In view of clear provisions of section 107, voting by show of hands would not be allowable in cases where rule 20 of Companies (Management and Administration) Rules, 2014 is applicable.

(ii) Participation in the general meeting after voting by e-means:- It is clarified that a person who has voted through e-voting mechanism in accordance with rule 20 shall not be debarred from participation in the general meeting physically. But he shall not be able to vote in the meeting again, and his earlier vote (cast through e-means) shall be treated as final.

(iii) Applicability of rule 20 for matters specified under rule 22(16):- Stakeholders have asked whether matters specified under rule 22(16) (transactions of certain items only through postal ballot) can be considered in a general meeting where e-voting facility is available. It has been examined and it is stated that in view of clear provisions of section 110(l)(a) read with such rule 22(16) it would be necessary to transact items specified in rule 22(16) only through postal ballot and not at the general meeting.

(iv) Relevance of provisions relating to demand for poll:- In case of companies having share capital, voting through e-means takes into account ‘Proportion principle’ [i.e. ‘one share – one vote] unlike ‘one person – one vote1 principle under ‘show of hands’. This alongwith provisions of section 107 make it clear that in case of companies which are covered under section 108 read with rule 20 of Companies (Management and Administration) Rules, the provisions relating to demand for poll would not be relevant.

(v) Permissibility of voting by postal ballot under rule 20:- Stakeholders have sought a clarification that in cases (covered under rule 20) where a shareholder who is not able to participate in the general meeting personally and who is also not exercising voting through e-means whether such a person shall have the option to vote through postal ballot. The matter has been examined and it is felt that keeping in view the provisions of the Act such an option would not be available.

(vi) Manner of voting in case of shareholders present in the meeting:- Stakeholders have sought clarity about manner of voting for shareholders (of a company covered under rule 20) who are present in the general meeting. It is hereby clarified that since voting through e-means would be on the basis of proportion of share in the paid-up capital or ‘one-share one-vote’, the Chairperson of the meeting shall regulate the meeting accordingly.

(vii) Applying rule 20 voluntarily:- Stakeholders have referred to words ‘A company which opts to’ appearing in rule 20(3) and have raised a query whether rule 20 is applicable to companies not covered in rule 20(1). It is clarified that rule 20(3) is being amended to align it with rule 20(1). Regarding voluntary application of rule 20, it is clarified that in case a company not mandated under rule 20(1) opts or decided to give its shareholders the e-voting facility, in such a case, the whole of procedure specified in rule 20 shall be applicable to such a company. This is necessary so that any piece-meal application does not prejudice the interest of shareholders.

[1] Substituted by the Companies (Management & Administration) Amendment Rules, 2015 vide Notification No. GSR 207(E) dated 19th March, 2015. Prior to substitution, it read as under:

Rule 20 Voting through electronic means

(1) Every listed company or a company having not less than one thousand shareholders, shall provide to its members facility to exercise their right to vote at general meetings by electronic means.

“Provided that the Company may provide the facility referred to in this sub-rule on or before the 1st day of January 2015.”

(2) A member may exercise his right to vote at any general meeting by electronic means and company may pass any resolution by electronic voting system in accordance with the provisions of this rule.

Explanation.—For the purposes of this rule.—(i) the expressions “voting by electronic means” or “electronic voting system” means a ‘secured system’ based process of display of electronic ballots, recording of votes of the members and the number of votes polled in favour or against, such that the entire voting exercised by way of electronic means gets registered and counted in an electronic registry in a centralized server with adequate ‘cyber security’;

(ii) the expression “secured system” means computer hardware, software, and procedure that—

(a) are reasonably secure from unauthorized access and misuse;

(b) provide a reasonable level of reliability and correct operation;

(c) are reasonably suited to performing the intended functions; and

(d) adhere to generally accepted security procedures.

(iii) the expression “Cyber security” means protecting information, equipment, devices, computer, computer resource, communication device and information stored therein from unauthorised access, use, disclosures, disruption, modification or destruction.

(3) A company [which provides] the facility to its members to exercise their votes at any general meeting by electronic voting system shall follow the following procedure, namely:

(i) the notices of the meeting shall be sent to all the members, auditors of the company, or directors either—

(a) by registered post or speed post; or

(b) through electronic means like registered e-mail id;

(c) through courier service;

(ii) the notice shall also be placed on the website of the company, if any and of the agency forthwith after it is sent to the members;

(iii) the notice of the meeting shall clearly mention that the business may be transacted through electronic voting system and the company is providing facility for voting by electronic means;

(iv) the notice shall clearly indicate the process and manner for voting by electronic means and the time schedule including the time period during which the votes may be cast and shall also provide the login ID and create a facility for generating password and for keeping security and casting of vote in a secure manner;

(v) the company shall cause an advertisement to be published, not less than five days before the date of beginning of the voting period, at least once in a vernacular newspaper in the principal vernacular language of the district in which the registered office of the company is situated, and having a wide circulation in that district, and at least once in English language in an English newspaper having a wide circulation in that district, about having sent the notice of the meeting and specifying therein, inter alia, the following matters, namely:—

(a) statement that the business may be transacted by electronic voting;

(b) the date of completion of sending of notices;

(c) the date and time of commencement of voting through electronic means;

(d) the date and time of end of voting through electronic means;

(e) the statement that voting shall not be allowed beyond the said date and time;

(f) website address of the company and agency, if any, where notice of the meeting is displayed; and

(g) contact details of the person responsible to address the grievances connected with the electronic voting;

(vi) the e-voting shall remain open for not less than one day and not more than three days:

Provided that in all such cases, such voting period shall be completed three days prior to the date of the general meeting;

(vii) during the e-voting period, shareholders of the company, holding shares either in physical form or in dematerialized form, as on the record date, may cast their vote electronically:

Provided that once the vote on a resolution is cast by the shareholder, he shall not be allowed to change it subsequently.

(viii) at the end of the voting period, the portal where votes are cast shall forthwith be blocked.

(ix) the Board of directors shall appoint one scrutinizer, who may be chartered Accountant in practice, Cost Accountant in practice, or Company Secretary in practice or an advocate, but not in employment of the company and is a person of repute who, in the opinion of the Board can scrutinize the e-voting process in a fair and transparent manner:

Provided that the scrutinizer so appointed may take assistance of a person who is not in employment of the company and who is well-versed with the e-voting system;

(x) the scrutinizer shall be willing to be appointed and be available for the purpose of ascertaining the requisite majority;

(xi) the scrutinizer shall, within a period of not exceeding three working days from the date of conclusion of e-voting period, unblock the votes in the presence of at least two witnesses not in the employment of the company and make a scrutinizer’s report of the votes cast in favour or against, if any, forthwith to the Chairman;

(xii) the scrutinizer shall maintain a register either manually or electronically to record the assent or dissent, received, mentioning the particulars of name, address, folio number or client ID of the shareholders, number of shares held by them, nominal value of such shares and whether the shares have differential voting rights;

(xiii) the register and all other papers relating to electronic voting shall remain in the safe custody of the scrutinizer until the chairman considers, approves and signs the minutes and thereafter, the scrutinizer shall return the register and other related papers to the company.

(xiv) the results declared along with the scrutinizer’s report shall be placed on the website of the company and on the website of the agency within two days of passing of the resolution at the relevant general meeting of members;

(xv) subject to receipt of sufficient votes, the resolution shall be deemed to be passed on the date of the relevant general meeting of members.

[2] Substituted by the Companies (Management and Administration) Amendment Rule, 2016 vide Notification No. G.S.R. 908(E) dated 23rd September, 2016. Prior to the substitution it read as under:

“Every company other than a company referred to in Chapter XB or Chapter XC of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Issue of Capital and Disclosure Requirements) Regulations, 2009 having its equity shares listed on a recognised stock exchange or a company having not less than one thousand members, shall provide to its members facility to exercise their right to vote on resolutions proposed to be considered at general meetings by electronic means.”

Corporate Law Referencer

Recent Articles

Recent Legal updates

Recent Gst Updates