Role of Resolution Professional in Committee of Creditors of Essar Steel India Limited Vs. Satish Kumar Gupta & Ors

In the recent judgment dated 15th November, 2019 passed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the matter of Committee of Creditors of Essar Steel India Limited Vs. Satish Kumar Gupta & Ors. [Civil Appeal No. 8766-67/2019 and other petitions], it has been held in para no. 27 that the role of resolution professional is not adjudicatory but administrative. Further in para no. 67, with respect to the claim, it has been stated that in the CIRP, all claims must be submitted to and decided by the Resolution Professional so that a prospective Resolution Applicant knows exactly what has to be paid in order that it may then take over and run the business of the Corporate Debtor.

The role of the resolution professional in the revival of the corporate debtor is stated in detail in several Sections of the Code read with the 2016 Regulations.

1. The ball starts rolling with the Adjudicating Authority, after admitting an application under either Sections 7, 9 or 10, ordering that a public announcement of the initiation of the CIRP together with calling for the submission of claims under Section 15 shall be made see Section 13(1)(b) of the Code.

2. For this purpose, the Adjudicating Authority appoints an interim resolution professional in the manner laid down in Section 16 – see Section 13(1)(c) of the Code.

3. In the public announcement of the CIRP, under Section 15(1), information as to the last date for submission of claims, as may be specified, is to be given; details of the interim resolution professional, who shall be vested with the management of the corporate debtor and be responsible for receiving claims, shall also be given, and the date on which the CIRP shall close is also to be given – see Section 15(1)(c), (d) and (f) of the Code.

4. Under Section 17 of the Code, the management of the affairs of the corporate debtor shall vest in the interim resolution professional, the Board of Directors of the corporate debtor standing suspended by law. Among the important duties of the interim resolution professional is the receiving and collating of all claims submitted by creditors and the constitution of a Committee of Creditors – see Section 18(1)(b) and (c) of the Code.

5. Under Section 20 of the Code, the interim resolution professional is to make every endeavour to protect and preserve the value of the property of the corporate debtor and manage the operations of the corporate debtor as a going concern.

6. At the first meeting of the Committee of Creditors, which shall be held within 7 days of its constitution, the Committee, by majority vote of not less than 66% of the voting share of financial creditors, must immediately resolve to appoint the interim resolution professional as a resolution professional, or to replace the interim resolution professional by another resolution professional – see Section 22(1) and (2) of the Code.

7. Under Section 23(1), the resolution professional shall conduct the entire CIRP and manage the operations of the corporate debtor during the same. Importantly, all meetings of the Committee of Creditors are to be conducted by the resolution professional, who shall give notice of such meetings to the members of the Committee of Creditors, the members of the suspended board of directors, and operational creditors, provided the amount of their aggregate dues is not less than 10% of the entire debt owed.

8. Like the duties of the interim resolution professional under Section 18 of the Code, it shall be the duty of the resolution professional to preserve and protect assets of the corporate debtor including the continued business operations of the corporate debtor – see Section 25(1) of the Code.

9. For this purpose, he is to maintain an updated list of claims; convene and attend all meetings of the Committee of Creditors; prepare the information memorandum in accordance with Section 29 of the Code; invite prospective resolution applicants; and present all resolution plans at the meetings of the Committee of Creditors – see Section 25(2)(e) to (i) of the Code.

10. Under Section 29(1) of the Code, the resolution professional shall prepare an information memorandum containing all relevant information, as may be specified, so that a resolution plan may then be formulated by a prospective resolution applicant.

11. Under Section 30 of the Code, the resolution applicant must then submit a resolution plan to the resolution professional, prepared on the basis of the information memorandum. After this, the resolution professional must present to the Committee of Creditors, for its approval, such resolution plans which conform to the conditions referred to in Section 30(2) of the Code – see Section 30(3) of the Code.

12. If the resolution plan is approved by the requisite majority of the Committee of Creditors, it is then the duty of the resolution professional to submit the resolution plan as approved by the Committee of Creditors to the Adjudicating Authority – see Section 30(6) of the Code.

The aforesaid provisions of the Code are then fleshed out in the 2016 Regulations.

1. Under Chapter IV of the aforesaid Regulations, claims by operational creditors, financial creditors, other creditors, workmen and employees are to be submitted to the resolution professional along with proofs thereof – see Regulations 7 to 12.

2. Thereafter, under Regulation 13, the resolution professional shall verify each claim as on the insolvency commencement date, and thereupon maintain a list of creditors containing the names of creditors along with the amounts claimed by them, the amounts admitted by him, and the security interest, if any, in respect of such claims, and constantly update the aforesaid list – see Regulation 13(1).

3. Chapter X of the Regulations then deals with resolution plans that are submitted. Under Regulation 35, “fair value” as defined by Regulation 2(hb) and “liquidation value” as defined by Regulation 2(k) shall be determined by two registered valuers appointed under Regulation 27, which shall be handed over the resolution professional.

4. After receipt of the resolution plans in accordance with the Code and the Regulations, the resolution professional shall then provide the fair value and liquidation value to every member of the Committee of Creditors – see Regulation 35(2).

5. Regulation 36 is important as it forms the basis for the submission of a resolution plan.

6. Under Regulation 36-A, the resolution professional shall then publish brief particulars of the invitation for expression of interest in Form G of the Schedule. This document must also, inter alia, provide for such basic information about the corporate debtor as may be required by a prospective resolution applicant for its expression of interest – see Regulation 36-A (4)(c).

7. The resolution professional, once he receives a proposed resolution plan, must then conduct due diligence based on the material on record, in order that the prospective resolution applicant complies with Section 25(2)(h) of the Code (which, inter alia, requires prospective resolution applicants to fulfil such criteria as may be laid down, having regard to the complexity and scale of operations of the business of the corporate debtor); the provisions of Section 29-A; and other requirements as may be specified in the invitation for expression of interest – see Regulation 36-A(8).

8. Once this is done, the resolution professional shall issue a provisional list of eligible prospective resolution applicants to the Committee of Creditors, and after considering any objection to their inclusion or exclusion, shall then issue the final list of prospective resolution applicants to the Committee of Creditors – see Regulation 36-A (10) to (12).

9. Under Regulation 36-B, the resolution professional shall issue the information memorandum, evaluation matrix, as defined by Regulation 2(h)(a), and a request for resolution plan within the time stated. Importantly, the resolution professional shall endeavour to submit the resolution plan approved by the Committee of Creditors to the Adjudicating Authority, at least 15 days before the maximum period for completion of CIRP, along with a compliance certificate in Form H of the Schedule.

The detailed provisions that have been stated hereinabove make it clear that the resolution professional is a person who is not only to manage the affairs of the corporate debtor as a going concern from the stage of admission of an application under Sections 7, 9 or 10 of the Code till a resolution plan is approved by the Adjudicating Authority, but is also a key person who is to appoint and convene meetings of the Committee of Creditors, so that they may decide upon resolution plans that are submitted in accordance with the  detailed information given to resolution applicants by the resolution professional. Another very important function of the resolution professional is to collect, collate and finally admit claims of all creditors, which must then be examined for payment, in full or in part or not at all, by the resolution applicant and be finally negotiated and decided by the Committee of Creditors.

In fact, in ArcelorMital India, this Court referred to the role of the resolution professional under the Code and the aforesaid Regulations, making it clear that the said role is not adjudicatory but administrative, in the following terms:

80. However, it must not be forgotten that a Resolution Professional is only to “examine” and “confirm” that each resolution plan conforms to what is provided by Section 30(2). Under Section 25(2)(i), the Resolution Professional shall undertake to present all resolution plans at the meetings of the Committee of Creditors. This is followed by Section 30(3), which states that the Resolution Professional shall present to the Committee of Creditors, for its approval, such resolution plans which confirm the conditions referred to in sub-section (2). This provision has to be read in conjunction with Section 25(2)(i), and with the second proviso to Section 30(4), which provides that where a resolution applicant is found to be ineligible under Section 29-A(c), the resolution applicant shall be allowed by the Committee of Creditors such period, not exceeding 30 days, to make payment of overdue amounts in accordance with the proviso to Section 29-A(c). A conspectus of all these provisions would show that the Resolution Professional is required to examine that the resolution plan submitted by various applicants is complete in all respects, before submitting it to the Committee of Creditors. The Resolution Professional is not required to take any decision, but merely to ensure that the resolution plans submitted are complete in all respects before they are placed before the Committee of Creditors, who may or may not approve it. The fact that the Resolution Professional is also to confirm that a resolution plan does not contravene any of the provisions of law for the time being in force, including Section 29-A of the Code, only means that his prima facie opinion is to be given to the Committee of Creditors that a law has or has not been contravened. Section 30(2)(e) does not empower the Resolution Professional to “decide” whether the resolution plan does or does not contravene the provisions of law. Regulation 36-A of the CIRP Regulations specifically provides as follows:

36-A. (8) The resolution professional shall conduct due diligence based on the material on record in order to satisfy that the prospective resolution applicant complies with—

(a) the provisions of clause (h) of sub-section (2) of Section 25;

(b) the applicable provisions of Section 29-A, and

(c) other requirements, as specified in the invitation for expression of interest.

(9) The resolution professional may seek any clarification or additional information or document from the prospective resolution applicant for conducting due diligence under sub-regulation (8).

(10) The resolution professional shall issue a provisional list of eligible prospective resolution applicants within ten days of the last date for submission of expression of interest to the committee and to all prospective resolution applicants who submitted the expression of interest.

(11) Any objection to inclusion or exclusion of a prospective resolution applicant in the provisional list referred to in sub regulation (10) may be made with supporting documents within five days from the date of issue of the provisional list.

(12) On considering the objections received under sub regulation (11), the resolution professional shall issue the final list of prospective resolution applicants within ten days of the last date for receipt of objections, to the committee.”

Thus, the importance of the Resolution Professional is to ensure that a resolution plan is complete in all respects, and to conduct a due diligence in order to report to the Committee of Creditors whether or not it is in order. Even though it is not necessary for the Resolution Professional to give reasons while submitting a resolution plan to the Committee of Creditors, it would be in the fitness of things if he appends the due diligence report carried out by him with respect to each of the resolution plans under consideration, and to state briefly as to why it does or does not conform to the law.

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Disclaimer: Nothing contained in this document is to be construed as a legal opinion or view of either of the authors whatsoever and the content is to be used strictly for educative purposes only.

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