E-voting in Top Listed Companies

As we have previously discussed,
the participation of retail (or even institutional) shareholders in Indian
companies’ decision-making is still far from desirable. The Government has,
however, been taking steps to enhance participation. About a decade ago, the
concept of postal ballot was introduced. However, that has not made significant
inroads, due to which the next round of reforms have been initiated. This is
through the method of e-voting, which was introduced initially as an option for
companies to offer their shareholders. SEBI has now made e-voting mandatory for
top listed companies.
Last week, SEBI issued
an amendment to the listing agreement making it mandatory for the top 500
companies listed at BSE and NSE to provide e-voting facility. This is in
addition to the postal ballot option that continues to be available. This
mandatory e-voting for top listed companies comes into effect on October 1,
2012, and applies to meetings for which notices are sent out after such a date.
Companies are allowed to use recognised e-voting platforms, and the two
depositories in India have already established their platforms – e.g. NSDL e-voting system and CDSL e-voting system.

This is likely to
bring about significant change in the manner in which major corporate decisions
are taken. Shareholders may no longer be taken for granted, as their likelihood
of participation is greater. However, this will function effectively only if
the information requirements are enhanced as well. For example, greater details
will have to be provided in the notice of the meeting/e-voting in a manner that
can be appreciated by shareholders who are then able to decide in an informed
manner. This deficiency is being addressed by another phenomenon that was
hitherto non-existent in India, and that is proxy advisory firms. The rapid
emergence of 3 proxy advisory firms that are currently operational in India
perform the role of educating shareholders regarding specific resolutions that
are put to vote, so that the shareholders may vote in an informed manner. In
addition, shareholders (particularly of the institutional variety) are
themselves becoming more active in the oversight of their portfolio of investments
and are no longer passive spectators who only vote with their feet when
confronted with strenuous relationships with managements or promoters. The
TCI-Coal India episode is emblematic of this trend, which will likely compel
managements to be more vigilant and receptive to shareholder interests and
sentiments.

About the author

Umakanth Varottil

Umakanth Varottil is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore. He specializes in corporate law and governance, mergers and acquisitions and cross-border investments. Prior to his foray into academia, Umakanth was a partner at a pre-eminent law firm in India.

3 comments

  • Please refer to a Ph.D. thesis submitted to CESP, JNU in 1999 on the topic “Disintermediation and Private Corporate Financing: An Analysis of the New Issue (Primary) Market in India”.
    There were many policy suggestions made in here: to begin with E-voting in the case of indian corporate firms. Further there were suggesting like using a Central Reporsitory System (like the SEBI or a new organisation) and then provide multilingual voting to improve system and remove it of the ills prevailing.

  • I wonder why does it take such a long gap after a research is done based on extensive survey(firm level) and a edited book gets published (2007). It takes such a long time for the SEBI react to small investor friendly governance decision.

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