Insolvency proceeding: Gujarat High Court dismisses Essar Steel plea against RBI directive

17 Juillet, 2017, 15:58 | Author: Marc Bacque
  • Gujarat High Court dismisses Essar Steel’s plea against the RBI in insolvency case

The Gujarat High Court has dismissed Essar Steel's petition against the Reserve Bank of India after giving the debt-laden company an interim relief earlier this month staying further proceedings in the bankruptcy process initiated on the firm.

The RBI had last month identified 12 accounts (companies) for insolvency proceedings with each of them having over Rs 5,000 crore of outstanding loans, accounting for 25 per cent of total NPAs of banks.

Essar Steel owed lenders around Rs 45,000 crore, of which Rs 31,671 crore had become NPA as on March 31, 2016. Today's verdict means that lenders, led by State Bank of India (SBI), can begin bankruptcy proceedings under the NCLT against the company.

Essar Steel's creditors may now proceed with the insolvency proceedings at the NCLT, provided that this decision isn't appealed against before a Division Bench of the High Court. At the hearing on Monday, Essar Steel's counsel Mihir Thakore argued that the SBI and other lender banks under the Joint Lenders Forum may not have approached the NCLT for insolvency proceedings, had the RBI not issued the circular.

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That RBI's decision in picking these 12 accounts was arbitrary inasmuch as no opportunity of being heard was provided to these companies that were being referred to. It had said it was in talks with banks about restructuring repayments.

The action was a violation of his client's fundamental right to equality before the law and equal protection of the law under Article 14 of Constitution, he said. It also said that it has repaid nearly Rs 3,467 crore in last one year, adding that it employs 4,500 people and that if action was taken under the provisions of sections 7, 16 and 17 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), the administration of the company would go into hands of interim resolution professionals (IRP) and it would result in the closing down of the company.

"The company was aware of the SBI's action. This court is being misled", he had said during the arguments. Meanwhile, bankruptcy proceedings have also been filed on Essar Steel Ltd and Monnet Ispat and Energy Ltd.

The counsel for the RBI, also told the court that the non-performing assets (NPA) of the company rose from Rs 31,671 crore till March 31 2016 to Rs 32,864 crore till March 31, 2017 this year.

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