Coming out in open on the alleged corruption taking place in National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT), a resolution professional (RP) has placed a petition before the appellate tribunal and chief justice of India, describing the sorry state of affairs where crucial orders were allegedly handed over to the highest bidder, says a report.
In the report, Economic Times Prime (ETPrime)
says, "In the last few months of the tenure of an NCLT member (Anil Kumar B), scores of applications were not decided for months. While a petition before NCLAT is seeking a CBI probe into allegations that the orders were granted to the highest bidder on the last day, the ex-member denies any wrongdoing and says will meet the petitioner 'legally'."
V Venkata Sivakumar, a senior chartered accountant, who was the liquidator of Odisha-based Jeypore Sugars, has blown the lid on what the newspaper claims as Rs1,000 crore 'cash-for-orders' scam.
According the ETPrime, it (the corruption) has always been a hushed whisper in the corporate corridors. "But the endemic corruption that is deeply entrenched in the corporate adjudicatory body has been brought out in the open by (Mr) Sivakumar."
While Venkata Sivakumar’s case has come on record, several RPs and lawyers practicing in the NCLT (Chennai) have made complaints to ministry (of corporate affairs) and investigative agencies. According to the petition, the aggregate value of the illegal gains is over Rs1,000 crore. The affeected parties are agitating that more than Rs1,000 crore worth of benefits were illegally granted to successful persons who would have already entered into the successful negotiations," the report says.
Anil Kumar, a technical member of NCLT (Chennai), who retired few days ago, denied the allegations and told the newspaper that he would meet the petitioner 'legally'.
Mr Kumar worked with Kochi metro before he was appointed as technical member at NCLT, Chennai bench, in July 2019. "For most part of the tenure, he played second fiddle to the earlier judicial member, who handled the matters. But the retirement of the judicial member late last year put Kumar in the box seat," ETPrime says.
Quoting from the petition filed by Mr Sivakumar, the report says, "During October 2021, the judicial member of Chennai Bench-II was replaced by another judicial member since then, the second respondent/ contemnor slowly took over the complete dispensation of justice and later in few months according to the deputy registrar took over even the total administration of NCLT deciding on listing of the matters, replying to the mentioning by the while the judicial member was confined to watching this highly complex and technical subject while the technical member will discuss and explain, the issue resulting in the orders being pronounced by the judicial member."
The report also mentions how Mr Kumar allegedly used a 'committee' comprising his his brother-in-law, one ex-law research associate who was assisting the bench, and three junior advocates, one of Chennai registry to negotiate the 'deal' with parties.
ETPrime spoke to a RP, who had fied a complaint with the MCA. “In the last two months (of Mr Kumar’s tenure), so many cases have been decided. Common people have lost faith and young professionals have come to a conclusion that this is how matters will be decided. When we filed complaints with the ministry, instead of probing the matter, they asked us to provide evidence. We are common people. How are [we] supposed to find the evidence? Conduct of the person is the evidence,” the RP told the newspaper, asking not to be named.
Like other tribunals, NCLT is facing challenging times due to vacancies over the years. Currently, nearly 50% or 30 posts out of the 63 sanctioned for members of NCLT are vacant. A selection panel has recommended 15 names to the Union government, but there is no decision on filing up the posts.
The tenure of 23 members of NCLT came to an end in June-July. A high-powered committee chaired by the chief justice of India decided to increase the term of eight members to five years. A notification issued by NCLT says that the tenure of two judicial and six technical members has been extended for five years until they attain 65 years.
In July, the ministry of corporate affairs (MCA) issued an advertisement for filling up eight posts of judicial members and 11 posts of technical members of NCLT.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court (SC) turned down a plea to extend the tenure of 23 members of NCLT to five years from three years, as per a notification issued by MCA on 20 September 2019. It, however, clarified that for future appointments, the Union government is bound by Section 413 of the Companies Act, which prescribes a tenure of five years for members of NCLT.
According the ETPrime, "Anil Kumar was not among the eight NCLT members who got tenure extensions in June was evidence of the ministry taking cognisance of these complaints and intelligence...Yet, professionals lament the fact a denial of extension is not a punishment commensurate to the irregularities alleged."
Commenting on the apex court's judgement and decision taken by the HPC, a banker and resolution professional, says, "The government took right step by not extending tenure of several bad members. This means that the performances of these guys are being monitored. It is good that bad elements are being shown the door. But enough numbers of good members need to be added."