Posted by: CS Shilpi Thapar
All Regional Directors,
All Registrars of Companies,
All Official Liquidators.
Sub: Prosecution of Directors – Regarding
Penal actions for defaults committed under the Companies Act, 1956 are either to be taken against an “officer in default” or a “director(s)” or “persons” as provided in the relevant penal provisions of the Act. Section 5 of the Companies Act, 1956, defines officer in default and the Directors are also liable for compliance of various provisions of the Act.
2. It is noticed that penal actions are also initiated against certain Directors who are
not charge with the responsibility, particularly in following cases : –
(a) For listed companies Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) requires nomination of certain Directors designated as Independent Directors.
(b) For public sector undertakings, respective Government nominates Directors on behalf of the respective Government.
(c) Various public sector financial institutions having participation in equity of a company also nominate Directors to the Board of such companies.
(d) Directors nominated by the Government u/s 408 of the Companies Act, 1956.
In supersession of all earlier circulars, it is clarified that Registrar of Companies should take extra care in examining the cases where above Directors are also identified as Officer in default. No such Directors as indicated above shall be held liable for any act of omission or commission by the company or by any officers of the company which constitute a breach or violation of any provision of the Companies Act, 1956, and which occurred without his knowledge attributable through Board process and without his consent or connivance or where he has acted diligently in the Board process. The Board process includes meeting of any committee of the Board and any information which the Director was authorised to receive as Director of the Board as per the decision of the Board.
3. It is further clarified that before taking penal action under the Companies Act, 1956 against the Directors the following compliances should be verified by Registrar of Companies: –
(a) A director resigns and the company does not file Form 32 as required in terms of Section 302(2) of the Act. In case, the director concerned has informed/endorsed a copy of his resignation to the Registrar of Companies, the Registrar should enquire into such cases and try to find out whether such director has actually resigned or not.
(b) In case the status of a director, i.e. whether he is a nominee director or not, is not reflected in the Annual Return or other documents of the company, available with Registrar, the same should be cross checked with the Annual Report filed by the company;
(c) The timing of the commission of offence is also material to identify the director’s responsibility; and Form 1AB should also be checked in case any person has been charged by the Board under Section 5(f) with the responsibility of complying with some particular provision or in case any director has been specified by the Board under Section 5(g) of the Act.
(d) Special Directors appointed by BIFR under section 16 (6)(b) of SICA 1985, shall not incur any obligation or liability for anything done or omitted to be done in good faith and in discharge of duties. Hence they shall be excluded in the list of officers in default
4. For default u/s 209(5), 209(6), 211 and 212 of the Act, the following persons shall be the ‘officers in default for the purpose of prosecution under these provisions :-
(a) Where there is a Managing Director or Manager, the Managing Director or the Manager as the case may be and in addition, the Company Secretary appointed u/s 383A or the person who has been charged with work of maintenance and preparation of Annual Accounts in compliance with aforesaid provisions.
(b) Where there is no Managing Director or Manager, every director and the Company Secretary appointed u/s 383A of the Act .
(c) Any persons amongst officers and employees other than Managing Director/Manager/Directors who has been charged by the Managing Director/Manger or Board of Directors with specific responsibility of complying with aforesaid provisions, in addition to Managing Director/Manager/Board of Directors as the case may be.
(d) Directors including Non-Executive Directors, officers and employees not connected with responsibility with the above provisions should not be arrayed as delinquent directors.
(e) While considering the non-executive directors for including in the list of officers in default for a particular violation of the Companies Act, it should be examined whether the violation has taken place with his knowledge attributable through board process, with his consent or connivance and whether he acted diligently or not.
(f) Where prosecution is required to be filed against any Government company, its directors/officers and Member of Parliament and Member of Legislator under the Companies Act, 1956, Registrar of Companies should seek prior authorization of Central Government in terms of Section 621 of the Act
5. There should be proper application of mind on the part of Registrar of Companies in deciding whether a person to be implicated is an ‘officer in default’ by examining the Annual Return, Form 32(s) and DIN database available in the Registry. The guidelines issued herein above should be applied and wrongful prosecution should be avoided. Wherever the Registrar of Companies have doubt as to whether director/officer can be held liable after applying the above parameters, they should refer to Regional Director, who shall guide Registrar of Companies in the matter.
6. All cases which are pending against Directors of companies above must be relooked at, based on these parameters and a report must be sent by each Regional Director with specific recommendation in case the proceedings are proposed to be discontinued.
Tel. No. 23387263