The Central Government, on April 4 2021, by way of an Ordinance titled ‘Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Amendment) Ordinance 2021’, amended the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code 2016 (IBC) to introduce the concept of Pre-Packaged Insolvency Process (PPIP). The Ordinance inserts a new chapter (III-A) to the IBC and provides for making an application for initiating PPIP with regards to a micro, small or medium enterprise (MSME) in light of the impact that the pandemic has had on businesses, financial markets and economies all over the world. The Ordinance is a welcome step towards the resolution of insolvent MSMEs. The objective of the Ordinance states that the PPIP for MSMEs has been introduced to provide them with an efficient alternative insolvency resolution process that will achieve value maximization in a quicker and cost-effective manner while causing the least disruption to the business.
Due to the simpler corporate structure of the MSMEs, Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process (CIRP) for reorganization is considered a tedious task which when dragged out leads to disruption in business. To overcome this problem, the PPIP mechanism has been introduced which will function as a hybrid framework blending both formal and informal processes within the basic mechanism of the IBC.
On 9th April 2021, the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India notified the PPIP regulations for MSMEs. The regulations detail the forms that stakeholders are required to use, and the manner of carrying out various tasks as part of the pre-pack resolution process. It also provides details about various aspects, including eligibility criteria to act as a resolution professional, identification and selection of authorised representative, competition between the base resolution plan and the best resolution plan.
The process can be initiated by the corporate debtor (CD) who will have to serve notices of a meeting to all unrelated financial creditors five days in advance, in order to seek their approval. The regulations prescribe at least 66% approval from the creditors. The Creditors will then have seven days to raise their objections to the notice of claims submitted to the resolution professional by the CD.
The resolution professional must necessarily be independent of the CD. This means the resolution professional and all partners and directors of the insolvency professional entity, of which they are a partner or director, have to be independent of the corporate debtor. If the concerned insolvency professional entity or any of its partners or directors represent any of the stakeholders, the person will be ineligible for being appointed as a resolution professional.
Another highlight of the PPIP is that it enables the management of affairs of the corporate debtor to continue to be in the hands of the Board of Directors or partners of the CD. This is in stark contrast to the CIRP, where the resolution professional is handed the reigns along with the assistance of the financial creditors. Creditors still have the option to initiate bankruptcy proceedings against the MSMEs under the CIRP.
After approval from the unrelated creditors, the CD will proceed with filing an application before the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) to initiate the PPIP, after taking a mandate from the directors and shareholders. The plans must be submitted within 90 days and the NCLT must approve of such plans within 30 days. The whole process will be completed within 120 days as opposed to the 270 day time period prescribed for the CIRP. Once the application is admitted by NCLT, the CD will itself first provide a Base Resolution Plan and if such plan is unsatisfactory, the resolution professional will publish an invitation for resolution plans within 21 days of the commencement of formal proceedings.
The Pre-Packaged Insolvency Resolution Process makes the debtor the only person capable of triggering the bankruptcy process. This scheme will yield faster resolution than the CIRP and will also reduce litigation, triggered by defaulting promoters, while simultaneously cutting costs. The process is also expected to run smoother due to the requirement of 66% approval from unrelated creditors. If the NCLT infrastructure is improved by the government, this ordinance is a welcome step in the corporate world as it will genuinely lift the weight off the shoulders of MSMEs.
By Adil Zawahir