Operational Creditors cannot use the Insolvency Code either prematurely or for extraneous considerations or as a substitute for debt enforcement procedures. The alarming result of an operational debt contained in an arbitral award for a small amount of say, two lakhs of rupees, cannot possibly jeopardize an otherwise solvent company worth several crores of rupees. Such a company would be well within its rights to state that it is challenging the arbitral award passed against it, and the mere factum of challenge would be sufficient to state that it disputes the award. Such a case would clearly come within para 38 of Mobilox Innovations (P) Ltd. V. Kirusa Software (P) Ltd., (2018) 1 SCC 353 being a case of a pre-existing ongoing dispute between the parties. The Code cannot be used in terrorem to extract this sum of money of Rupees Two Lakhs even though it may not be finally payable as adjudication proceedings in respect thereto are still pending. K. Kishan v. Vijay Nirman Company Private Ltd., (2018) 17 SCC 662.
Category Archives: Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code
A trade union is certainly an entity established under a statute – namely, the Trade Unions Act and would therefore fall within the definition of “person” under Section 3(23) of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code. That being so, it is clear that an “operational debt”, meaning a claim in respect of employment, could certainly be made by a person duly authorized to make such claim on behalf of a worman. Rule 6, Form 5 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy (Application to Adjudicating Authority) Rules, 2016 also recognizes the fact that claims may be made not only in an individual capacity, but also conjointly. Further, a registered trade union recognized by Section 8 of the Trade Unions Act, makes it clear that it can sue and be sued by a body corporate under Section 13 of that Act. Equally, the general fund of the trade union, which inter alia is from collections from workmen who are its members, can certainly be spent on the conduct of disputes involving a member or members thereof or for the prosecution of a legal proceeding to which the trade union is a party, and which is undertaken for the purpose of protecting the rights arising out of the relation of its members with their employer, which would include wages and other sums due from the employer to workmen. J.K. Jute Mill Mazdoor Morcha v. Juggilal Kamlapat Jute Mills Co. Ltd., 2019 (4) AWC 3160.
Section 9(1) of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code contains the conditions precedent for triggering the Code insofar as an operational creditor is concerned. The requisite elements necessary to trigger the Code are:
- The occurrence of a default;
- Delivery of a demand notice of an unpaid operational debt or invoice demanding payment of the amount involved; and
- The fact that the operational creditor has not received payment from the corporate debtor within a period of ten days of receipt of the demand notice or copy of invoice demanding payment, or received a reply from the corporate debtor which does not indicate the existence of a pre-existing dispute or repayment of the unpaid operational debt.
It is only when these conditions are met that an application may then be filed under Section 9(2) of the Code in the prescribed manner, accompanied with such fee as has been prescribed. Under Section 9(3), what is clear is that, alongwith the application, certain other information is also to be furnished. Obviously, under Section 9(3)(a), a copy of the invoice demanding payment or demand notice delivered by the operational creditor to the corporate debtor is to be furnished. Macquarie Bank Ltd. v. Shilpi Cable Technologies Ltd. (2018) 2 SCC 674.
The expression “existence” has been understood as follows:
“Shorter Oxford English Dictionary gives the following meaning of the word “existence”:
- Reality, as opp. to appearance.
- The fact or state of existing; actual possession of being. Continued being as a living creature, life, esp. under adverse conditions.
Something that exists; an entity, a being. All that exists.
Two extremely instructive judgments, one of the Australian High Court, and the other of the Chancery Division in the UK, throw a great deal of light on the expression “existence of a dispute” contained in Section 8(2)(a) of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016. The Australian judgment is reported as Spencer Constructions Pty. Ltd. v. G & M Aldridge Pty Ltd., 1997 FCA 681 (Aust).
The expression “genuine dispute” was held to mean the following:
“Finn, J. was content to adopt the explanation of “genuine dispute” given to McLelland, C.J. Eq in Eyota Pty Ltd.v. Hanave Pty Ltd., (1994) 12 ACSR 785 (Aust) wherein it was held as under:
‘The expression connotes a plausible contention requiring investigation, and raises much the same sort of considerations as the “serious question to be tried” criterion which arises on an application for an interlocutory injunction or for the extension or removal of a caveat. This does not mean that the court must accept uncritically as giving rise to a genuine dispute, every statement in an affidavit ‘however equivocal, lacking in precision, inconsistent with undisputed contemporary documents or other statements by the same deponent, or inherently and probable in itself, it may not be having ‘sufficient prima facie plausibility to merit further investigation as to its truth or a patently feeble argument or an assertion of facts unsupported by evidence.”
Reliance was placed on Rohalo Pharmaceutical Pty. Ltd. v. RP Scherer, (1994) 15 ACSR 347 (Aust), wherein it was held as under:
“The provisions of Sections 459-H(1) and (5) of the Corporations Law assume that the dispute and offsetting have an “objective” existence the genuineness of which is capable of being assessed. The word “genuine” is included in “genuine dispute” to sound a note of warning that the propounding of serious disputes and claims is to be expected but must be excluded from consideration.”
A “genuine” dispute requires that:
- The dispute be bona fide and truly exist in fact;
- The grounds for alleging the existence of a dispute are real and not spurious, hypothetical, illusory or misconceived.
In Hayes v. Hayes, 2014 EWHC 2694 (Ch) under the UK Insolvency Rules, it was held:
“It is clear that on the one hand, the court does not need to be satisfied that there is a good claim or even that it is a claim which is prima facie likely to succeed. In Bayoil S.A., In re, (1990) 1 WLR 147 (CA) it was held:
“The majority decided in that case that, shadowy as the cross claim was and improbable as the events said to support it seemed to be, there was just enough to make the principle work, namely, that it was right to have the matter tried out before the axe fell.”
On the other hand the court should be alert to detect wholly spurious claims merely being put forward by an unwilling debtor to raise what has been called “a cloud of objections.”
Section 5(6) of the Insolvency Code only deals with suits or arbitration proceedings which must “relate to” one of the three sub-clauses, either directly or indirectly. A dispute is said to exist, so long as there is a real dispute as to payment between the parties that would fall within the inclusive definition contained in Section 5(6). Mobilox Innovations Pvt. Ltd. v. Kirusa Software Pvt. Ltd., (2018) 1 SCC 353.