Independent Director – A Brief Introduction About Eligibility, Powers, Appointment Terms

An Independent Director has always been a person of high regard and intellect, he is always been a person who is  a face of governance in the Board. 

An independent director is a non-executive director of a company who meets the criteria of being independent as prescribed under Companies Act, 2013.

directors

Independent Directors functions as an oversight body in monitoring the performance and should raise flag whenever suspicious occurs. They are expected to be more aware and question the Company on relevant issues in their position as trustees of stake holders

The institution of independent directors is a critical instrument for ensuring the good corporate governance and it is necessary that the function of the institution is critically analyzed and proper safeguards are made to ensure efficacy. 

AS PER SECTION 149 READ WITH RULE 4 OF COMPANIES (APPOINTMENT AND QUALIFICATION OF DIRECTORS) RULES, 2014 AND SCHEDULE IV OF THE COMPANIES ACT, 2013, THESE ARE THE FOLLOWING RELEVANT PROVISIONS RELATING TO INDEPENDENT DIRECTOR.

♦ NUMBER OF INDEPENDENT DIRECTORS

> Every listed public company shall have at least one-third of the total number of directors as independent directors.

(Any fraction contained in such one-third number shall be rounded off as one). 

>  The following class or classes of companies shall have at least two directors as independent directors –

  • The Public Companies having paid up share capital of ten crore rupees or more; or
  • The Public Companies having turnover of one hundred crore rupees or more; or
  • The Public Companies which have, in aggregate, outstanding loans, debentures and deposits, exceeding fifty crore rupees:

♦ WHO CAN BE AN INDEPENDENT DIRECTOR?

>  An independent director in relation to a company, means a director other than a managing director or a whole-time director or a nominee director:

  • Who in the opinion of the Board, is a person of integrity and possesses relevant expertise and experience;
  • Who or was not a promoter of the company or its holding, subsidiary or associate company;
  • Who is not related to promoters or directors in the company, its holding, subsidiary or associate company;
  • Who has or had no pecuniary relationship, other than remuneration as such director or having transaction not exceeding ten per cent of his total income or such amount as may be prescribed with the company, its holding, subsidiary or associate company, or their promoters, or directors, during the two immediately preceding financial years or during the current financial year;
  • None of whose relatives—
    • Is holding any security of or interest in the company, its holding, subsidiary or associate company during the two immediately preceding financial years or during the current financial year:

(Provided that the relative may hold security or interest in the company of face value not exceeding fifty lakh rupees or two per cent. of the paid-up capital of the company, its holding, subsidiary or associate company or such higher sum as may be prescribed)

    • Is indebted to the company, its holding, subsidiary or associate company or their promoters, or directors, in excess of such amount as may be prescribed during the two immediately preceding financial years or during the current financial year;
    • Has given a guarantee or provided any security in connection with the indebtedness of any third person to the company, its holding, subsidiary or associate company or their promoters, or directors of such holding company, for such amount as may be prescribed during the two immediately preceding financial years or during the current financial year; or
    • Has any other pecuniary transaction or relationship with the company, or its subsidiary, or its holding or associate company amounting to two per cent. or more of its gross turnover or total income singly or in combination with the transactions referred in above three clauses.
  • Who neither himself nor any of his relatives:
    • Holds or has held the position of a key managerial personnel or is or has been employee of the company or its holding, subsidiary or associate company in any of the three financial years immediately preceding the financial year in which he is proposed to be appointed.

(Provided that in case of a relative who is an employee, the restriction under this clause shall not apply for his employment during preceding three financial years)

    • Is or has been an employee or proprietor or a partner, in any of the three financial years immediately preceding the financial year in which he is proposed to be appointed, of

√ A firm of auditors or company secretaries in practice or cost auditors of the company or its holding, subsidiary or associate company; or

√ Any legal or a consulting firm that has or had any transaction with the company, its holding, subsidiary or associate company amounting to ten per cent. or more of the gross turnover of such firm;

  • Holds together with his relatives two per cent. or more of the total voting power of the company; or
  • Is a Chief Executive or director, by whatever name called, of any non-profit organisation that receives twenty-five per cent or more of its receipts from the company, any of its promoters, directors or its holding, subsidiary or associate company or that holds two per cent. or more of the total voting power of the company;

who possesses such other qualifications as may be prescribed.

♦ OTHER IMPORTANT PROVISIONS RELATING TO INDEPENDENT DIRECTOR 

> Every independent director shall at the first meeting of the Board in which he participates as a director and thereafter at the first meeting of the Board in every financial year or whenever there is any change in the circumstances which may affect his status as an independent director, give a declaration that he meets the criteria of independence as provided above.

>  The company and independent directors shall abide by the provisions specified in Schedule IV. (Schedule IV is discussed below in this article)

>  Notwithstanding anything contained in any other provision of this Act, but subject to the provisions of sections 197 and 198, an independent director shall not be entitled to any stock option and may receive remuneration by way of fee provided under sub-section (5) of section 197, reimbursement of expenses for participation in the Board and other meetings and profit related commission as may be approved by the members.

(Provided that if a company has no profits or its profits are inadequate, an independent director may receive remuneration, exclusive of any fees payable under sub-section (5) of section 197, in accordance with the provisions of Schedule V)

> Subject to the provisions of section 152 (Appointment of directors), an independent director shall hold office for a term up to five consecutive years on the Board of a company, but shall be eligible for reappointment on passing of a special resolution by the company and disclosure of such appointment in the Board’s report.

> No independent director shall hold office for more than two consecutive terms, but such independent director shall be eligible for appointment after the expiration of three years of ceasing to become an independent director:

(Provided that an independent director shall not, during the said period of three years, be appointed in or be associated with the company in any other capacity, either directly or indirectly)

> The provisions of sub-sections (6) and (7) of section 152 in respect of retirement of directors by rotation shall not be applicable to appointment of independent directors.

> An independent director shall be held liable, only in respect of such acts of omission or commission by a company which had occurred with his knowledge, attributable through Board processes, and with his consent or connivance or where he had not acted diligently.

CODE FOR INDEPENDENT DIRECTORS

(SCHEDULE IV OF THE COMPANIES ACT, 2013)

This Code is a guide to professional conduct for independent directors.

As per Schedule IV of the Companies Act, 2013, adherence to the below mentioned standards by independent directors and fulfilment of their responsibilities in a professional and faithful manner will promote confidence of the investment community, particularly minority shareholders, regulators and companies in the institution of independent directors.

♦ GUIDELINES OF PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT:

An independent director shall:

  • Uphold ethical standards of integrity and probity;
  • Act objectively and constructively while exercising his duties;
  • Exercise his responsibilities in a bona fide manner in the interest of the company;
  • Devote sufficient time and attention to his professional obligations for informed and balanced decision making;
  • Not allow any extraneous considerations that will vitiate his exercise of objective independent judgment in the paramount interest of the company as a whole, while concurring in or dissenting from the collective judgment of the Board in its decision making;
  • Not abuse his position to the detriment of the company or its shareholders or for the purpose of gaining direct or indirect personal advantage or advantage for any associated person;
  • Refrain from any action that would lead to loss of his independence;
  • Where circumstances arise, which make an independent director lose his independence, the independent director must immediately inform the Board accordingly;
  • Assist the company in implementing the best corporate governance practices

♦ ROLE AND FUNCTIONS:

The independent directors shall:

  • Help in bringing an independent judgment to bear on the Board’s deliberations especially on issues of strategy, performance, risk management, resources, key appointments and standards of conduct;
  • Bring an objective view in the evaluation of the performance of board and management;
  • Scrutinise the performance of management in meeting agreed goals and objectives and monitor the reporting of performance;
  • Satisfy themselves on the integrity of financial information and that financial controls and the systems of risk management are robust and defensible;
  • Safeguard the interests of all stakeholders, particularly the minority shareholders;
  • Balance the conflicting interest of the stakeholders;
  • Determine appropriate levels of remuneration of executive directors, key managerial personnel and senior management and have a prime role in appointing and where necessary recommend removal of executive directors, key managerial personnel and senior management;
  • Moderate and arbitrate in the interest of the company as a whole, in situations of conflict between management and shareholder’s interest.

♦ DUTIES:

The independent directors shall—

  • Undertake appropriate induction and regularly update and refresh their skills, knowledge and familiarity with the company;
  • Seek appropriate clarification or amplification of information and, where necessary, take and follow appropriate professional advice and opinion of outside experts at the expense of the company;
  • Strive to attend all meetings of the Board of Directors and of the Board committees of which he is a member;
  • Participate constructively and actively in the committees of the Board in which they are chairpersons or members;
  • Strive to attend the general meetings of the company;
  • Where they have concerns about the running of the company or a proposed action, ensure that these are addressed by the Board and, to the extent that they are not resolved, insist that their concerns are recorded in the minutes of the Board meeting;
  • Keep themselves well informed about the company and the external environment in which it operates;
  • Not to unfairly obstruct the functioning of an otherwise proper Board or committee of the Board;
  • Pay sufficient attention and ensure that adequate deliberations are held before approving related party transactions and assure themselves that the same are in the interest of the company;
  • Ascertain and ensure that the company has an adequate and functional vigil mechanism and to ensure that the interests of a person who uses such mechanism are not prejudicially affected on account of such use;
  • Report concerns about unethical behaviour, actual or suspected fraud or violation of the company’s code of conduct or ethics policy;
  • Act within their authority, assist in protecting the legitimate interests of the company, shareholders and its employees;
  • Not disclose confidential information, including commercial secrets, technologies, advertising and sales promotion plans, unpublished price sensitive information, unless such disclosure is expressly approved by the Board or required by law.

♦ MANNER OF APPOINTMENT:

  • Appointment process of independent directors shall be independent of the company management; while selecting independent directors the Board shall ensure that there is appropriate balance of skills, experience and knowledge in the Board so as to enable the Board to discharge its functions and duties effectively.
  • The appointment of independent director(s) of the company shall be approved at the meeting of the shareholders.
  • The explanatory statement attached to the notice of the meeting for approving the appointment of independent director shall include a statement that in the opinion of the Board, the independent director proposed to be appointed fulfils the conditions specified in the Act and the rules made thereunder and that the proposed director is independent of the management.
  • The appointment of independent directors shall be formalised through a letter of appointment, which shall set out:
    • The term of appointment;
    • The expectation of the Board from the appointed director; the Board-level committee(s) in which the director is expected to serve and its tasks;
    • The fiduciary duties that come with such an appointment along with accompanying liabilities;
    • Provision for Directors and Officers (D and O) insurance, if any;
    • The Code of Business Ethics that the company expects its directors and employees to follow;
    • The list of actions that a director should not do while functioning as such in the company; and
    • The remuneration, mentioning periodic fees, reimbursement of expenses for participation in the Boards and other meetings and profit related commission, if any.
  • The terms and conditions of appointment of independent directors shall be open for inspection at the registered office of the company by any member during normal business hours.
  • The terms and conditions of appointment of independent directors shall also be posted on the company’s website.

♦ RE-APPOINTMENT:

  • The re-appointment of independent director shall be on the basis of report of performance evaluation.

♦ RESIGNATION OR REMOVAL:

  • The resignation or removal of an independent director shall be in the same manner as is provided in sections 168 and 169 of the Act.
  • An independent director who resigns or is removed from the Board of the company shall be replaced by a new independent director within “three months” from the date of such resignation or removal, as the case may be.
  • Where the company fulfils the requirement of independent directors in its Board even without filling the vacancy created by such resignation or removal, as the case may be, the requirement of replacement by a new independent director shall not apply.

♦ SEPARATE MEETINGS:

  • The independent directors of the company shall hold at least one meeting in a financial year, without the attendance of non-independent directors and members of management;
  • All the independent directors of the company shall strive to be present at such meeting;
  • The meeting shall:
    • Review the performance of non-independent directors and the Board as a whole;
    • Review the performance of the Chairperson of the company, taking into account the views of executive directors and non-executive directors;
    • Assess the quality, quantity and timeliness of flow of information between the company management and the Board that is necessary for the Board to effectively and reasonably perform their duties.

♦ EVALUATION MECHANISM:

  • The performance evaluation of independent directors shall be done by the entire Board of Directors, excluding the director being evaluated.
  • On the basis of the report of performance evaluation, it shall be determined whether to extend or continue the term of appointment of the independent director.

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This article is written by team Anupama Tripathi & Associates for the purpose of education, awareness and comment, for further you can connect us at   # 8800839633 or [email protected]

Author Bio

Qualification: CS
Company: Anupama Tripathi & Associates
Location: New Delhi, Delhi, India
Member Since: 07 Apr 2021 | Total Posts: 19
Anupama Tripathi, the co-founder of Alliance Professional, she is a Company Secretary in Practice and pursuing Law from University of Delhi and did her graduation from Jesus & Mary Collage, University of Delhi. She has an experience of more than 5+ years. She did her internships from PSU liste View Full Profile

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