Impact Of Covid-19 on Insolvency and Bankruptcy Laws of India and the World at Large

By: Anjan Bhandari 


In the past few months, India has witnessed unprecedent changes being made in almost every sphere; whether it be something as simple as a lifestyle change or something as complex as amending various legislations to safeguard and protect the interests of both the parties. To give you a better perspective, the Central Government on 24th March declared a nationwide lockdown as a preventive step to limit the spread of the infectious coronavirus. In doing so, everyone was required to restrict themselves to their homes thereby bringing our economic structure to a standstill. Nobody knew for how long the lockdown would ensue when it began, but now we do have adequate data that informs us about the manner in which the lockdown was imposed and in how many phases –

  • PHASE 1 : 25th March – 14th April [Nationwide lockdown]
  • PHASE 2 : 15th April – 3rd May [Further extended]
  • PHASE 3 : 4th May – 17th May [Further extended]
  • PHASE 4 : 18th May – 31st May [Further extended]
  • PHASE 5 : 1st June – 30th June [Considerable relaxations from 8th June]

According to the above-mentioned data, it is clear that COVID-19 is the primary reason for all business uncertainties and the economic stabilities at large since the lockdown was continued for so long. All industrial activities came to a standstill because of which the Companies suffered huge losses which either resulted in salary reduction or laying off a major chunk of their employees in order to manage their sustainability. And not just the industrial sector, the outbreak of COVID-19 has caused massive difficulties for all sectors globally, such as the Micro Small Medium Enterprises (MSME’s), healthcare, tourism, automobile, etc. Courts all across the country has prohibited physical hearing to maintain social distancing except a few important cases and has instead resorted to virtual court proceedings. The only thing that can be said with absolute surety is that the brunt of this economic meltdown will be faced by all the financial institutions since its difficult to comment on the overall impact of the lockdown.

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The All India Association of Industries estimated a loss of 2lakh crore by 31st March due to the nationwide lockdown. The Central government has been trying to minimise such drastic blows by bringing in numerous reforms. The virus has indisputably disrupted the performance of contracts and payments consequently creating problems for the financial and operational creditors. It will have a devastating impact on economy if the creditors wish to initiate insolvency proceeding against the corporate debtors at a mass scale amidst this pandemic.

What’s important to notice is that the value of the stocks is declining at a startling rate since the demand has decreased at a global level. It wouldn’t be too far-fetched to suspect that at this point, the financial and operational creditors would move to the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) to avail remedies available to them under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016. After approaching the NCLT, initiation of the insolvency proceeding will have a negative impact because then the management of the company would shift from the hands of the corporate debtor to the insolvency resolution professional and as a result, the value adding mechanism by the corporate to the economy gets highly stunted.

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It is imperative to safeguard the interests of the MSME’s because if insolvency proceedings are initiated against them, it would further lead to rise in unemployment in the country. Pre-empting such an impact, our Finance Minister Nirmala Sitaraman had announced that if the current state of affairs continued beyond 30th April, the Central government may suspend a few relevant sections of the IBC for 6 months in order to protect companies from being forced into insolvency proceedings in such force majeure causes of default. Due to these reasons, the Government of India decided that they need to adopt a pragmatic approach in dealing with this problem and came up with the following amendments to the IBC, 2016 –

  • Application under Sections 7, 9 and 10 can only be filed when the default is of Rs. 1 crore or more.[1] Earlier U/S 4(1) of IBC, the minimum amount of default was Rs. 1 lakh which has now been officially increased by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA).
  • Section 7 : Initiation of insolvency proceedings by financial creditor

Section 9 : Initiation of insolvency proceedings by operational creditor

Section 10 : Initiation of insolvency proceedings by corporate applicant

According to the MCA Notification No. S.O. 1205(E) dated 24th March 2020 the Finance Minister as a relief to the affected industry announced that no petitions would be entertained unless the minimum amount of default is Rs. 1 crore or more.

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  • The Supreme Court on 23.03.2020 opined that the lockdown period should be excludedfor the purpose of counting the timeline. Even the NCLAT ordered the same on 30.03.2020. The order states that “the period of lockdown imposed by the central government in the wake of Covid-19 outbreak shall not be counted for the purposes of the timeline for any activity that could not be completed due to such lockdown, in relation to a corporate insolvency resolution process.”[2]
  • The government may even consider scrapping Section 7, 9 and 10 of the IBC, 2016 so that no insolvency proceedings be initiated by the promoter, operational or financial creditor if the situation continues beyond 30th April, 2020 and if it does, it would be scrapped for a period of 6 months.

The first amendment that came in on 24th March which increased the minimum default vale from Rs. 1 lakh to Rs. 1 crore not only reduced the workload on the insolvency resolution professionals but also turned out to be beneficial for the MSME’s and corporate debtor. However, the fruit to such benefits is only enjoyed by one as opposed to safeguarding equal interest of the parties. Increasing the default value to such a higher threshold causes immense dissatisfaction to the operational and financial creditors. The operational creditor in particular would face hindrances as they won’t be able to utilise this remedy to regain the operational and corporate debt from the corporate debtor. Moreover, their operational debt isn’t generally this high to be able to initiate insolvency proceedings which further puts them on the backfoot. Under Section 9 of the IBC, 2016 the operational creditor cannot even jointly file for an application unlike as mentioned under Section 7 of the Insolvency Code, 2016. Kumar Saurabh Singh, Partner at Khaitan & Co. said that the Central Government shall also cover matters of liquidation in other courts and tribunals besides the IBC process. He said that “A similar approach would also be required to be followed by other courts/tribunals in the country to not allow enforcement and sale of assets of companies which are suffering from the impact of the pandemic situation so that the benefit of suspension of insolvency law is effectively given to the borrowers.”

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After diving deep into the details of the impact of COVID-19 on the IBC laws in India, the question still remains whether the applicants who filed for the insolvency resolution before the pandemic should be affected or not. In my view if it does, then the applicants would rather prefer indulging themselves in outside settlements rather than utilising the provisions under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code thereby defying the very purpose of the said statute.


  • UNITED STATES – On 19th February, the Small Business Reorganisation Act became effective which seeks to provide an economical and quicker option for reorganisation of businesses with total debts falling within the quantum of $2,725,625. On 28th March, Donald Trump gave a nod to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, Economic Security (CARES) Act. Apparently, it is the largest emergency aid package ever provided in US history. It includes revised retirement account rules, student loan changes, and the unemployment coverage. There has also been an increment in the debt limit under the CARES Act to $7.5 million for a year in order to allow small business debtors to realign their affairs for a new start.

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  • SINGAPORE – The Ministry of Law in Singapore had announced that they would introduce a bill in the Parliament aimed at finding a way for an organised moratorium so that the obligations that ensue are either suspended or deferred. A distinctive feature of the Bill is that the parties would not be allowed to be represented by lawyers in case of a dispute. Instead, an assessor would be appointed by the Ministry of Law who will decide on an equitable and just outcome without any legal fees. 
  • AUSTRALIA – On 23rd March, the Commonwealth government introduced the Coronavirus Economic Response Package Omnibus Bill 2020[3] which was passed by both Houses of Parliament and received the Royal Assent on 24th Certain temporary amendments were made to the Corporation Act, 2001 which are as follows:
  • Amendment relating to individual in financial distress
  • Amendment relating to businesses in financial distress
  • Temporary relief for directors from the duty to prevent insolvent trading

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  • UNITED KINGDOM – Alok Sharma, Business Secretary announced a package of insolvency measures to be adopted in the future. The UK government has shown keen interest in bringing forward such legislation, but the timing still remains uncertain. It is evident that the government is building up on potential reforms announced in August 2018. The new structuring tools include –
  • To bring in measures safeguarding the suppliers and creditors, thereby ensuring timely payments until a more viable solution is reached.
  • Coming up with a new restructuring plan, and binding creditors to that plan.
  • To introduce a moratorium for companies allowing them a breather from creditors enforcing their debts for a while until they seek a restructure or rescue.
  • To protect their supplies thereby enabling them to continue with their trading activities during the moratorium period.

 Thus, on comparing the impact of COVID-19 on IBC laws in India with the rest of the world, we can deduce that almost similar precautionary steps were adopted by other countries. Some of them increased their minimum default limit required to file for insolvency proceedings, some have thought of implementing a moratorium period, while the others decided to put a bar on initiation of insolvency proceedings after a set particular date.





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