Companies Mediation and Conciliation Rules: An Update

following post is contributed by Bhushan
and Neha Lakshman from
Mansukhlal Hiralal & Company. The views expressed are personal]
Section 442 of the Companies Act, 2013 (‘Act’) empowers the Central Government
to constitute a panel of experts to mediate and settle disputes pending before
the National Company Law Tribunal (‘NCLT’),
National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (‘NCLAT’)
or the  Central Government (each a ‘Tribunal‘). The Ministry of Corporate
Affairs (‘MCA’) through a notification issued in September enacted
the Companies (Mediation and Conciliation) Rules, 2016 (‘Rules‘) which prescribe the procedural aspects of mediation and
conciliation in respect of the aforesaid matters.
In this post, we summarise some of  the important provisions under the Rules as
Constitution of Panel of Mediators or Conciliators: The
Regional Director is empowered to constitute a panel of persons to act as
mediators / conciliators, from persons who are:
former judges of the Supreme Court, High Court, District Court;
former member or registrar of a tribunal constituted at the national level
under any law for the time being in force;
former members of the Indian Corporate Law Service or Indian Legal Service with
fifteen years experience;
those who are qualified legal practitioners for not less than ten years;
those who have been professionals for at least fifteen years of continuous
practice as Chartered Accountants or Cost Accountants or a Company Secretaries;
former Members or Presidents of any State Consumer Forum, or
experts in mediation or conciliation who have successfully undergone training
in mediation or conciliation.
Procedure for mediation and conciliation: The
parties are free to appoint a sole mediator or conciliator of their choice. If,
however, the parties are unable to arrive at a mutual decision, the forum in
which their litigation is pending may direct each party to appoint a mediator /
conciliator of its choice or appoint a person from the panel of experts to act
as the mediator/conciliator. The NCLT may also suo moto refer a dispute, pending before it to mediation / conciliation
if it deems fit.
Duty of mediator/conciliator to disclose
certain facts:
shall be the duty of a mediator or conciliator to disclose to the NCLT/ Central
Government, as the case may be, any circumstances that may give rise to a
reasonable doubt as to independence or impartiality in carrying out functions.
Mediator and Conciliator not bound by
the provisions of the Indian Evidence Act and CPC
: The
mediator or conciliator shall not be bound by the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 or
the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 while disposing the matter, but shall be
guided by the principles of fairness and natural justice, having regard to the
rights and obligations of the parties, usages of trade, if any, and the
circumstances of the dispute.
Role of the mediator/conciliator: The
mediator/conciliator shall facilitate a settlement between the parties and
attempt to arrive at a mutual consensus. However, the mediator/conciliator shall
not and cannot impose any settlement nor give any assurance that the mediation
or conciliation shall result in a settlement and the mediator or conciliator
shall not impose any decision on the parties.
Time limit for mediation or conciliation:
The process for any mediation or conciliation
shall be completed within a period of three months from the date of appointment
of expert or experts from the Panel. However, in any mediation in relation to a
proceeding before the NCLT, it may on the application of mediator or
conciliator or any of the party to the proceedings, extend the period for
mediation or conciliation by such period not exceeding three months. If a party
fails to attend a session or a meeting fixed by the mediator or conciliator
deliberately or wilfully for two consecutive times, the mediation or
conciliation shall be deemed to have failed and mediator or conciliator shall
report the matter to the Tribunal, as the case may be.
Communication between mediator or
conciliator and the Tribunal
In order to preserve the confidence of parties
in the Tribunal, and the neutrality of the mediator or conciliator, there shall
be no communication between the mediator and the Tribunal, in the subject
matter. However, if any communication between the mediator or conciliator and
the Tribunal is necessary, it shall be in writing and copies of the same shall
be given to the parties or their authorised representatives. Further communication
between the mediator and the aforesaid authorities can only be limited to the
topic stated in the rules.
Expenses of the mediation/conciliation: At the
time of referring the matter to the mediation or conciliation, the Tribunal shall
fix the fee of the mediator or conciliator and, as far as possible, a
consolidated sum may be fixed rather than for each session or meeting. The
expenses of the mediation or conciliation shall be borne equally by the various
contesting parties, unless otherwise directed.
Bar on initiation of judicial or
arbitral proceedings during pendency of mediation/conciliation:
parties shall not initiate, during the mediation or conciliation, any arbitral
or judicial proceedings with respect to the same matter, except that a party
may initiate arbitral or judicial proceedings where, in its opinion, such
proceedings are necessary for protecting its rights.
Matters which shall not be referred to
for mediation/ conciliation:
following matters shall not be referred to mediation or conciliation:
the matters relating to proceedings in respect of inspection or investigation,
matters which relate to defaults or offences for which applications for
compounding have been made by one or more parties;
cases involving serious and specific allegations of fraud, fabrication of
documents forgery, impersonation, coercion etc;
cases involving prosecution for criminal and non-compoundable offences;
cases which involve public interest or interest of numerous persons who are not
parties before the Tribunal.
Comment: The
notification of these rules and establishment of the panel of mediators and
conciliators is a necessary step, which shall hopefully translate into an
increase in the use of mediation and conciliation for commercial disputes and
reduce the burden on the NCLT.
– Bhushan Shah and Neha Lakshman

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.

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