on Finance presented its report on the Companies Bill, 2011 suggesting some
changes. The recommendations of the Committee have been discussed here.
Committee’s views, the Cabinet yesterday approved certain amendments to the
Bill, which have been set out in a press release (accessible on the PIB website).
changes set out in the press release, none of the changes seem very significant
in the overall scheme of things, although some may be noted. In the provision
relating to corporate social responsibility (CSR), the words “make every
endeavour to” has been omitted in clause 135(5) of the Bill. Although this may
suggest that CSR may therefore become mandatory, that is not the case. A
proviso to the clause (which has not been affected) states that if the company
fails to make the required CSR spending, it shall specify the reasons for the
same. In other words, this continues the “comply-or-explain” approach, with no
real adverse consequences for failing to spend on CSR. The change appears to be
semantic in nature, and offers cold comfort to the advocates of mandatory CSR,
whose case appears to have been strenuously taken up by the Standing Committee.
The overwhelming view is for voluntary CSR, and understandably so.
the Bill in the provisions relating to audit and auditors, including
restrictions on the provision of non-audit services, the criminal liability of
the auditors, and the maximum number of companies in which the auditor can be
stated to have received further clarification. As previously discussed, this
aspect of company law has received greater scrunity due to the events
surrounding the Sahara case.
have been made in the Bill. These will require further analysis once the text
of the amendments become available.
Finally, the Press Release contains an admission
of sorts regarding the delay in revamping company law. It states: “The existing
statute for regulation of companies in the country, viz. the Companies Act,
1956 had been under consideration for
quite long for comprehensive revision in view of the changing economic
and commercial environment nationally as well as internationally” [emphasis
added]. While the nature of differences and amendments to the Bill seem to be
narrowing during each round, the elongated company law reform process is set to
continue until both Houses of Parliament pass the new law and it receives the assent
of the President.