The Companies Act 2013 is the exclusive legislation which deals with corporate social responsibility (CSR) provisions in India. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs has issued various amendments to the Companies Act. On the one hand, the amendments propose to provide ease of compliance to companies; however, on the other, they also seek to penalise companies and their officers for non-compliance with CSR provisions.
The Companies (Amendment) Act 2020 and the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Act 2020 recently came into force, amending the Companies Act 2013 and the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act 2010. This article sets out the salient changes introduced by both amendment acts, including with respect to producer companies, offences and the remuneration of non-executive directors.
In view of the COVID-19 pandemic and continuing restrictions on the movement of individuals, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) recently issued a circular allowing companies to convene their annual general meeting (AGM) through videoconferencing or other audiovisual means (ie, electronically). With AGMs around the corner, it will be interesting to see how companies will hold virtual AGMs in practice and whether companies and their members will welcome the MCA's relaxations.
India's company law regime has evolved over the years and become stricter and more penal in nature. There has been a paradigm shift in the legislature's viewpoint with regard to the Companies Act's stringency. There has also been a recent trend to promote foreign investment in India. Accordingly, the legislature has adopted measures in order to decriminalise – or at least liberalise – India's company law regime.
Proxy advisers have gained prominence over recent years in relation to corporate governance matters and have become an integral part of shareholder activism in India. In order to standardise the process across proxy advisory firms, the Securities and Exchange Board of India recently issued its Procedural Guidelines for Proxy Advisers and a circular on grievance resolution between listed entities and proxy advisers.
The Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises recently notified certain criteria for classifying enterprises as micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and specified the form and procedure for filing the applicable memorandum. The change in the classification of MSMEs is a part of the relief package offered to the MSME sector amid the COVID-19 outbreak. This reclassification has been well received across sectors as it will help MSMEs to increase in size without losing their entitled benefits.
The increased use of technology in personal and professional life due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has also led to an increase in the need to ensure data protection and privacy. While India has no express legislation governing data protection or privacy, the relevant laws in this respect are the Information Technology Act 2000 and the Information Technology (Reasonable Security Practices and Procedures and Sensitive Personal Data or Information) Rules.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected businesses' ability to comply with various statutory rules and regulations due to lockdowns and other social distancing measures. The government – particularly the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) – has proactively introduced various measures to support companies in their ability to comply with the Companies Act 2013. Most notably, the MCA has relaxed the restrictions around which corporate actions can occur at virtual board meetings until 30 September 2020.
When setting up a business in India, attention must be paid to the laws which govern companies. Of particular note is the Companies Act, which encompasses a wide range of provisions relating to governance, including with regard to incorporation, capital infusion, management and administration, audits and accountability.
When setting up a business, it is crucial to determine the appropriate legal entity in view of the business's exact needs. The entity should be relevant from a fundraising and taxation perspective and with respect to the foreign direct investment norms in light of the nature of the business and the activities that it proposes to conduct. For instance, certain relaxations are offered to limited liability partnerships which are not offered to companies and vice versa.