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Penal Provisions in IBC - Identification of Issues

A. Introduction
The Indian criminal law has always recognized the principle of corporate culpability. The primary reason for this can be attributed to the influence of English common law which also recognises corporate criminality. A number of statutes take into account the possibility of a criminal act being committed by a legal person e.g. Essential Commodities Act, Indian Penal Code, Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, Negotiable Instruments Act, Companies Act 1956 (which has now been repealed) to name a few.[1]

In the report made by the Bankruptcy Law Reforms Committee,[2]it has categorically provided for criminal charges in the spheres of fraud and malpractice. Subsequently, the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (Code or IBC) was enacted by the Legislature, which was introduced with an objective to consolidate and amend the laws relating to reorganisation of the insolvency resolution of corporate persons, partnership firms and individuals in a time-bound manner for maximisation of value of assets of such persons, to promote entrepreneurship, availability of credit and to balance the interests of all stakeholders.[3]

Although the provisions of the Code assume a civil nature, it is significant not to overlook provisions that identify certain actions of persons viz. corporate debtor (CD), resolution professionals etc. as criminal offences. It incorporated criminal liability against the corporations for the offences, such as falsification of books, furnishing false information, and concealment of property in Chapter VII of Part II of the Code (Chapter VII).

This article attempts to make three principal contributions to the study of penal provisions in the insolvency law in India. First, it analyses the Code and shows that the essential ingredients of the provisions in the Code rest on primary criminal law principles without much deviation, which is the essence of corporate criminal liability. Second, it examines the provisions holistically to identify the practical difficulties that arise or may arise in future due to the text of the Code. Finally, it suggests possible amendments in the penal provisions.

B. Need for corporate criminal liability in the Code

Corporate criminal liability under environmental, antitrust, securities, and other laws has grown rapidly over the last two decades all over the world.[4]The corporations are not fictional entities and therefore, liability can fall on the corporations in the event of commission of criminal offence. The law has evolved from the position that a company cannot be prosecuted for offences that require imposition of a mandatory imprisonment[5]to the position that the mens rea of the alter ego of the company (i.e. the person or group of people that guide the business of the company) will be imputed to the company[6]as laid down by the Supreme Court in Iridium case.[7],[8]

In the report of Dr. N. L. Mitra Committee on Legal Aspects of Bank Frauds, 2001,[9]the committee has found that imposition of criminal liability on corporations can create confusion and the agencies enforcing criminal law is not yet well-equipped to bring in effect criminal liability against corporations. It stated:
In some cases, criminalizing through business law, say, Companies Act or by Negotiable Instrument Act has backfired creating confusion in the administration of Criminal law. Criminal law as a matter of fact, has to attain definitional perfection and at the same time delimit the area of offence with proper care. Police, prosecution, criminal courts and the prison are the ones to act in unison to maximise the effect of criminal justice.

One decade later, the report of the Committee to Review Offences under Companies Act, 2013[10]while recognizing the requirement of bringing corporations under the ambit of criminal law, stated:
certain act/defaults are of serious nature which require the rigours of criminal trial. Such act may affect larger public interest, shareholder's interest, creditor's interest or it may affect the going concern nature of the company itself. There may also be an element of deceit, an intent to siphon out funds etc.

In Standard Chartered Bank and Ors v. Directorate of Enforcement[11], Standard Chartered Bank was being prosecuted for violation of certain provisions of the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act of 1973 ("FERA"). Indian Supreme Court held that the corporation could be prosecuted and punished, with fines, regardless of the mandatory punishment of imprisonment required under the respective statute. The Court also referred to the recommendations made by the Law Commission.[12]

It is an established jurisprudence that the criminal liability constitutes two essentials:actus reus(guilty act) andmens rea (guilty mind). To determine the culpability of the corporation, an individual who has perpetrated the commission of an offence on behalf of a company can be made an accused, along with the company.[13]

However, to make an individual liable, there must be sufficient evidence of his active role coupled with criminal intent and/or a provision must be specifically incorporated into the statutory regime that attracts the doctrine of vicarious liability.[14]

Therefore, the principle of corporate criminal liability, as a settled principle of law, propounds that the liability rests with the directors in two ways:

  1. When the offence committed by the company involvesmens rea, it would normally come down to the intent and action of the individual acting on behalf of the company. Thus, an individual who has perpetrated an offence on behalf of the company can be made an accused, along with the company, if there is sufficient evidence of his active role coupled with criminal intent.
  2. Where the statutory regime itself attracts the doctrine of vicarious liability by specifically providing for such liability.[15]

The evolution of the concept of corporate criminal liability was of much significance and its inclusion in the Code was imperative due to the nature of the object it was trying to achieve. The offences listed down in the Chapter VII require maximum deterrence for a smooth insolvency proceeding. Further, any deviation from the established procedure amounts to fraud or malpractice that will adversely affect the society, thereby, it amounts to public wrong. For instance, furnishing false information at the time of application to initiate insolvency proceeding has the power to cause dire injuries to the stakeholders.

Thus, it will be a detriment to the society, and the offence is clearly criminal in nature. This was recognized by the Bankruptcy Law Reforms Committee in its report published in 2015, on whose foundation the Code was enacted.

C. Penal provisions in the Code

Chapter VII provides for offences that otherwise adversely affect the corporate insolvency resolution process (CIRP).A comprehensive table to understand the penal provisions contained in the Code is as below:
Sec. Offence Offender Relevant Time Penalties Excn.
68 Concealment of property:
1) a. concealed any property or part of such property of the CD or concealed any debt due
b. fraudulently removed any part of the property of the CD
c. concealed, destroyed, mutilated or falsified any book or paper wrt property of CD
d. wilfully made false entry in any book or paper wrt property of CD
e. fraudulently parted with, altered or made any omission in any document affecting or relating to the property of CD
f. wilfully created any security interest over, transferred or disposed of any property of Corporate Debtor (CD) which has been obtained on credit and has not been paid.
g. wilfully concealed the knowledge of the doing by others of any of the acts mentioned in clauses c, d, e above
Officer of CD within the twelve months before insolvency commencement date (ICD) •Imprisonment-Min. 3 years Max.5 years
•Fine –Min. one lakh Max. one crore
No intent
2) Committed acts mentioned above a to g At the time of ICD
3) Taken in pawn or pledge, or otherwise received the property knowing it to be so secured, transferred or disposed At any time after ICD
69 Transactions defrauding creditors
a. made any gift or transfer of, or charge on, or has caused or connived in the execution of a decree or order against, the property of CD
b. concealed or removed any part of the property of the CD
Officer of CD or the CD a. Any time within or after 5 years from ICD.
b. Within two months before the date of any unsatisfied judgment, decree or payment order
•Imprisonment– Min. 3 years Max.5 years
•Fine –Min. 1 lakh Max. 1 crore
Acts in a. committed more than 5 years before insolvency commencement date
70 Misconduct during CIRP
1) a. does not disclose to the RP all the details of property of CD and the transactions
b. Does not deliver to the RP control or custody of property of CD
c. does not deliver to RP all books and papers belonging to CD
d. fails to inform RP that a debt has been falsely proved by any person during CIRP
e. prevents production of any book or paper wrt property or affairs of CD
f. Accounts fictitious losses or expenses, or any attempt at a CoC meeting within 12 months before ICD
Officer of CD On or after the ICD •Imprisonment- Min. 3 Years Max.5 Years
•fine –Min. 1 Lakh Max. 1 Crore
No intent
2) IP deliberately contravenes Insolvency Professional •Imprisonment- 6 months
•fine –Min. 1 Lakh Max. 5 lakhs
71 Falsification of books of CD
Destroys, mutilates, alters or falsifies any books, papers or securities, or makes or is in the knowledge of making of any false or fraudulent entry in any register, books of account or document belonging to CD
Any person Any person On and after the ICD
•Imprisonment– Min. 3 Years Max.5 Years
•Fine –Min. 1 Lakh Max. 1 Crore
No intent
72 Wilful and material omissions from statements wrt affairs of CD Officer of CD Any time •Imprisonment– Min. 3 Years Max.5 Years
•Fine –Min. 1 Lakh Max. 1 Crore
No intent
73 False representations to creditors
1) a. a false representation or commits any fraud for the purpose of obtaining the consent of the creditors of the corporate debtor or any of them to an agreement with reference to the affairs of the corporate debtor, during CIRP or Liquidation process.
b. made any false representation, or committed any fraud
Officer of CD a. on or after the ICD
b. Prior to ICD
•Imprisonment- Min. 3 Years Max.5 Years
•Fine –Min. 1 Lakh Max. 1 Crore
74 Contravention of moratorium or the resolution plan
1) knowingly or wilfully committed or authorised or permitted violation the provisions of section 14
CD or its officer During CIRP •Imprisonment– Min. 3 Years Max.5 Years
•Fine –Min. 1 Lakh Max. 3 Lakh
No intent
2) knowingly or wilfully committed or authorised or permitted violation the provisions of section 14 Any creditor •Imprisonment– Min. 1 Year Max.5 Years
•Fine –Min. 1 Lakh Max. 1 crore
No intent
3) knowingly and wilfully contravenes any of the terms of such resolution plan or abets such contravention CD or its officer or
Creditor or any person (on whom RP binding)
After approval of Resolution Plan

•Imprisonment– Min. 1 Year Max.5 Years
•Fine –Min. 1 Lakh Max. 1 crore
No intent
75 False information furnished or material information omitted in application u/s 7 knowingly. Any person •Fine –Min. 1 Lakh Max. 1 crore No intent
76 a. wilfully or knowingly concealed in an application under section 9 the fact that the corporate debtor had notified him of a dispute in respect of the unpaid operational debt or the full and final payment of the unpaid operational debt
b. knowingly and wilfully authorised or permitted such abovementioned concealment
a. Operational
b. Any person
•Imprisonment– Min. 1 Year Max.5 Years
•Fine –Min. 1 Lakh Max. 1 crore
No intent/ knowledge
77 a. provides information in the application under section 10 which is false in material particulars
b. knowingly and wilfully authorised or permitted the furnishing of such information.
a. Operational Creditor
b. Any person
•Imprisonment- Min. 3 Years Max.5 Years
•Fine –Min. 1 Lakh Max. 1 Crore
No intent/ knowledge

In a nutshell, it is observed that sections 68 to 77 explicitly layout punishments for certain actions like concealment of property of CD (section 68), transactions defrauding creditors (section 69), for any misconduct in course of CIRP (section 70) as well as for falsification of books of CD (section 71). Nevertheless, any wilful and material omission from statements related to affairs of CD (section 72) and false representation to creditors (section 73) are also treated as offence sunder this Chapter.

Besides, a contravention of moratorium or the resolution plan would constitute an offence (section 74) as in the case of furnishing false information in an application (section 75 and 77). Also, any non-disclosure of dispute or payment of debt by operational creditors (OC) is also considered as an offence (section 76) under the Code.

Apart from the aforementioned provisions, there is a residuary provision inserted by Amendment[16]to penalise contravention of any provision of the Code whose penalty is not already provided in Section 235A of the Code. Such violations are punishable with fine which shall not be less than one lakh rupees but which may extend to two crore rupees.

It is provided in Section 236 that the trial of offences will be undertaken by Special Court. The provision starts with anon-obstante clause-Special Court has powers to try the offences under IBC. It further states that no court can take cognizance, except by a complaint made by the Board, Central Government, or any person authorized by Central Government. The trial at the Special Court will be as per the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

The Special Courts are established under Chapter XXVIII of the Companies Act, 2013[17]

The foremost recommendations with respect to Special Courts was made by Dr. J. J. Irani in its Committee Report on Company Law.[18]These recommendations were approved by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs and found its way to the Fifty-Seventh Report of the Standing Committee on Finance. Finally, the provision for establishment of Special Courts was introduced into the Companies Bill, 2009. The major objective behind creation of Special Courts, under the Act of 2013 was to ensure speedy disposal of cases, so that the usual long-time gap between the commission of fraudulent activities and final hearing of the cases is done away with. This idea was rightly imported for dealing with the aforesaid offences in the Code as well.[19]

D. Issues Identified

The following issues have been experienced in cases that aresub-judiceand therefore, the case details have been kept confidential. However, it is pertinent to highlight the practical difficulties that may be evident from a detailed examination and analysis of the provisions.
  1. Absence of Preferential Transactions in Chapter VII

    PUFE transactions, or preferential, undervalued, fraudulent and extortionate transactions are not covered in the transactions defrauding creditors punishable under Section 69 of the Code.

    In preferential transactions, given under section 43, preference is said to be given by the CD if the transfer of property happens for the benefit of creditor / surety / guarantor; and such transfer puts the creditor in beneficial position than what he would have been obtained, in the event of distribution of assets.

    There are certain transactions that are excluded, they are:
    1. transfer made in the ordinary course of the business or financial affairs of the corporate debtor or the transferee;
    2. any transfer creating a security interest in property acquired by the corporate debtor to the extent that:

      1. such security interest secures new value and was given at the time of or after the signing of a security agreement that contains a description of such property as security interest, and was used by corporate debtor to acquire such property; and
      2. such transfer was registered with an information utility on or before thirty days after the corporate debtor receives possession of such property: Provided that any transfer made in pursuance of the order of a court shall not, preclude such transfer to be deemed as giving of preference by the corporate debtor.

        Section 43(4) provides the relevant time for when the transaction will be deemed to be a preference transaction. The legislature decided to distinguish between related party and other people; for related party, the relevant time is period of two years preceding the insolvency commencement date; and for others, it is the period of one year preceding the insolvency commencement date.

        Further, the Adjudicating Authority has been conferred the power to pass orders in case of a preferential transaction, which included, interalia, transfer the property to CD, pay sums in respect of benefits received, release security interests, unless such a preference was undertaken in good faith.

        Similarly, the Code provides for undervalued transaction in Section 45, and defines it as a gift given; or transfer of the asset for consideration which is significantly less than the consideration provided by the CD, which is not in ordinary course of business. The relevant time provided is the same as for preferential transactions, two years preceding the insolvency commencement date for transaction with a related party, or one year for other parties. The order of the Adjudicating Authority on undervalued transaction is give under section 48.

        Section 50 defines extortionate transactions as a credit transaction involving the receipt of financial or operational debt. Regulation 5 of CIRP Regulations provides that a transaction shall be considered extortionate under section 50(2) where the terms:
        i. require the corporate debtor to make exorbitant payments in respect of the credit provided; or
        ii. are unconscionable under the principles of law relating to contracts.

        The relevant time provided is two years preceding the date of commencement of insolvency for a transaction with any party. it is clarified that any debt extended by any person providing financial services which is in compliance with any law for the time being in force in relation to such debt shall in no event be considered as an extortionate credit transaction. The order against such a transaction can be made by the adjudicating authority under section 51.

        Fraudulent transactions are the transaction to defraud the creditors during CIRP as stated in section 66. The relevant period is during the course of CIRP. Section 67 provides in detail the civil remedies that can be availed and how the adjudicating authority can grant relief, without making the transaction under the category of criminal offences.

        The punishment for section 49 and section 69 are provided separately, thereby, leaving it on the judicial application of mind of the adjudicating authority and special court. If such a transaction has been identified to be criminally liable, it is only natural to identify transaction resulting in the same injuries and provided harsher punishment for them and their deterrence.

  2. Lack of lookback period in Section 71

    Section 71 provides for punishment for falsification of books by CD –
    On and after the insolvency commencement date, where any person destroys, mutilates, alters or falsifies any books, papers or securities, or makes or is in the knowledge of making of any false or fraudulent entry in any register, books of account or document belonging to the corporate debtor with intent to defraud or deceive any person, he shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than three years, but which may extend to five years, and with fine which shall not be less than one lakh rupees, but may extend to one crore rupees, or with both.

    Section 5(12) defines insolvency commencement date as the date of admission of an application for initiating corporate insolvency resolution process by the Adjudicating Authority under sections 7, 9 or section 10, as the case may be. In this respect, the Section 71 provides for a very narrow window of time period, i.e., on and after the insolvency commencement date for a wide range of people on whom the liability may fall, i.e. any person.This becomes problematic when read in conjunction with other provisions in Chapter VII because certain offences by certain class of people can be booked for criminal trial under this provision, however, due to the narrow time window.

    For instance, in a case where any person' destroys or mutilates the books of CD [after the application has been filed, but] before admission by Adjudicating Authority, no liability can be on such person. This example is not rare, and may happen frequently under the apprehension of potential insolvency proceeding of the CD. In Educomp case,[20]EISML (CD) has been transferring its franchisee business to another company MEMPL, established by original promotor and director's former employees for few years before insolvency commencement date.
  3. Ambiguity in the time for filing a criminal complaint in Sections 75, 76 and 77

    The Code does not mention the relevant time for the offences mentioned under Sections 75, 76 and 77. They simply provide for the offences, such as furnishing of false information by any person in application under section 7 or 10 (section 75 or 77, respectively), or concealing the notification of dispute by the Operational Creditor in the application under Section 9 (section 76).

    Here, the legislature needs to clarify at what stage of the application can a criminal complaint be filed. It is of concern, because there is a time gap between the time of the application and the time of admission by Adjudicating Authority, and the corporate insolvency resolution process begins only after the application gets admitted. Thus, if the material information has been omitted or false information is furnished in an application under section 7 by an officer of the financial creditor, it is unclear whether the complaint can be filed before the admission of the application and whether it will be valid in the eyes of law, as the insolvency proceeding had not commenced then.

    In addition, it is worth noting that simultaneous civil and criminal proceedings are permitted, especially in the cases of economic offences, and neither has any bearing on the other or the decision in either of them cannot bind the other.[21]It was held in State of Rajasthan vs. B.K.Meena,[22]thatthe standard of proof, the mode of enquiry and the rules governing the enquiry and trial in both the cases are entirely distinct and different. Thus, the law on the issue stands crystallized to the effect that the findings of fact recorded by the Civil Court do not have any bearing so far as the criminal case is concerned and vice-versa.[23]
  4. Leniency of Section 235A

    Section 235A provides for punishment where no specific penalty or punishment is provided and states:
    If any person contravenes any of the provisions of this Code or the rules or regulations made thereunder for which no penalty or punishment is provided in this Code, such person shall be punishable with fine which shall not be less than one lakh rupees but which may extend to two crore rupees.

    It is acatchall'provision and includes any contravention of any provision of the code by any person. Despite being so wide in coverage of offences and violations, it is observed that the punishment is not proportional to the gravity of the offence.

    The penalty is purely monetary in nature, which may be insufficient to prevent an interested party from thwarting the insolvency resolution process. The offences such as collusion between stakeholders, non-cooperation by the stakeholders with resolution professional and PUFE transactions, are grave injustices to the economy and thereby, the public, and the corresponding punishment cannot be purely monetary.

    E. Recommendations
    Identification of issues will be as worthless as non-identification, if it is not backed by possible solutions to address them. The solutions, with respect to the issues raised in the paper, are all directed to the legislature and corporate policy analysts.

    The first issue identified in this article can be addressed by including preferential and other transactions or PUFE transactions in Chapter VII. Akin to Section 68, Section 69 can have a more elaborate list of transactions that merit criminal trial. Inclusion of preferential, fraudulent and extortionate transactions may be added under section 69, or as a separate provision.
    The second issue can be addressed by inserting a reasonable look-back period of two years in section 71, by way of an amendment. Inclusion of such a time period will contribute in deterring the people to commit offences that have grave repercussions. The objective of adopting criminal laws in economic offences is to deter the wrongdoers and offenders from defeating the purposes of civil processes.

    The third issue needs to be addressed by the legislature by clarifying the timeframe of filing a criminal complaint. It can do so by inserting the relevant time in the sections 75, 76 and 77, or way of releasing guidelines, rules on the same. The requirement of order from the Adjudicating Authority is not required to determine its parallel criminal case. However, it may be made mandatory that a criminal complaint can be filed only upon admission of application under section 7, 9 or 10 by the Adjudicating Authority.

    The final issue can be addressed by making the punishment provided under section 235A more rigorous by including a term of imprisonment. The term of imprisonment can be similar to the other provisions and possibly be, minimum of six months and maximum of three years, along with the fine already prescribed, or both, depending on the gravity of the offence. This confers wide powers on the judge of Special Court to use its judicial conscience while sentencing on a case by case basis. This may act as an alternative or complement the solution suggested for the first issue.

  5. M Srinivas,The Dynamics of Corporate Criminal Liability in India, IUP Law Review, Vol. 8 Issue 4, p52-58. 7p, 2018
  6. The report of the Bankruptcy Law Reforms Committee Volume I: Rationale and Design, Nov 2015, available at:
  7. Preamble of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (Act No. 31 of 2016)
  8. Richard S. Gruner, Corporate Crime And Sentencing § 1.9.2, at 52-55 (1994) (discussing the increase in corporate sanctions and the relatively high rate of prosecution of corporate offenses); John C. Coffee, Jr., Emerging Issues in Corporate Criminal Policy, Foreword to GRUNER. supra, at xix-xxi (discussing Europe's move toward more expansive corporate criminal liability): Harvey L. Pitt & Karl A. Groskaufmanis, Minimizing Corporate Civil and Criminal Liability: A Second Look at Corporate Codes of Conduct, 78 GEO. L.J. 1559, 1563, 1570, 1573-74 (1990) (noting the growth in criminal prosecutions of and sanctions against corporations as well as the growth in corporate criminal liability).
  9. Asstt. Commr. V. Velliappa Textiles Ltd. (2003) 11 SCC 405
  10. Doctrine of Attribution– The doctrine of attribution implies that the criminal intent of the alter ego of the company / body corporate, i.e., the person or group of person that guide the business of the company, would be imputed to the corporation. Mens rea is attributed to the company on the basis of the alter ego of the company.
  11. Iridium India Telecom v. Motorola Incorporated and Others (2011) 1 SCC 74. Also see Standard Chartered Bank v. Directorate of Enforcement (2005) 4 SCC 530, Lee Kun Hee, President. Samsung Corpn., South Korea vs. State of U.P. (2012) 2 SCC 132 and Aneeta Hada vs. Godfather Travels and Tours (P) Ltd. (2012) 5 SCC 661
  12. Bharat Vasani & Umang Pathak, Corporate Criminal Liability – #DirectorToo, July 10, 2019, available at:
  13. Dr. N. L. Mitra Committee on Legal Aspects of Bank Frauds, 2001 available at:
  14. Report of the Committee to Review Offences under Companies Act ,2013. Available at:
  15. (2005) 4 SCC 530
  16. The Law Commission recommended the following provision to be inserted in the Penal Code:
    (1) In every case in which the offense is punishable with imprisonment only or with imprisonment and fine, and the offender is a corporation, it shall be competent to the court to sentence such offender to fine only.
    (2) In every case in which the offense is punishable with imprisonment and any other punishment not being fine, and the offender is a corporation, it shall be competent to the court to sentence such offender to fine.
    (3) In this section, "corporation" means an incorporated company or other body corporate, and includes a firm and other association of individuals
  17. Sunil Bharti Mittal v. Central Bureau of Investigation ((2015) 4 SCC 609)
  18. Doctrine of Vicarious Liability- This doctrine implies that the officials of the company shall be held responsible for the acts of the company by virtue of their position in the company.
  19. Supranote 8.
  20. Act 8 of 2018, sec. 8 (w.r.e.f. 23-11-2017)
  21. Section 435 of the Companies Act, 2013 (Act No. 18 of 2013), 29 August, 2013.
  22. Report on Company Law, Dr. J. J. Irani Expert Committee on Company Law, (May 31, 2005).
  23. Criminal jurisprudence and the IBC Code, 9 October, 2019, available at:
  24. M/s Educomp Infrastructure & School Management Limited v. Mr. Ashwini Mehra, CA No.335/2018 in CP (IB) No.10/Chd/Hry/2018 (NCLT Chandigarh)
  25. Iqbal Singh Marwah & Anr. Vs. Meenakshi Marwah & Anr., (2005) 4 SCC 370.
  26. State of Rajasthan vs. B.K.Meena & Others, (1996) 6 SCC 417.
  27. Kishan Singh vs.Gurpal Singh, (2010) 8 SCC 775.
Written By: Deboleena Dutta - Author is a final-year law student at University of Delhi. The research was conducted and the article was written in the course of her internship with the Prosecution & Adjudication team of Insolvency & Bankruptcy Board of India (Board) in the month of January of 2020. The article incorporates the discussions and suggestions made by the Board during the presentation of the article, in the presence of the Chairperson of the Board, dated 28 January, 2020.

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