In a setback to the beleaguered Jaypee Group, the Supreme Court on Thursday directed that the bidding process for Jaypee Infratech (JIL) could commence afresh under the supervision of the reconstituted committee of creditors (CoC) that includes home-buyers, even as it explicitly barred the company, its parent Jaiprakash Associates (JAL) and their promoters from participating in the process. The top court also allowed the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to direct the banks to initiate separate insolvency proceedings against JAL.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said the limitation period of 180 days to conclude the insolvency proceedings for JIL will commence from Thursday. The court asked the resolution professional (RP) to invite fresh bids and also consider the earlier or the revised bids submitted by the three shortlisted bidders — the Adani Group, Singapore-based Cube Highways and Infrastructure and Lakshdeep Investments (the highest bidder).
The CoC had on May 8 rejected the highest bid (Rs 7,350 crore), saying it was too low. While allowing the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT), Allahabad, to deal with the insolvency proceedings against JIL, the bench said: “If it becomes necessary to apply for a further extension of 90 days, we permit the NCLT to pass appropriate orders in accordance with the provisions of the IBC (Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code),” it said, while directing the transfer of `750 crore, with the interest accrued thereon, deposited by JAL in the apex court to the NCLT.
Thanks to the recent amendments to the IBC, home-buyers are treated as financial creditors and hence can be part of the CoC.
The court said that there is no doubt that “JAL/JIL lack the financial capacity and resources to complete the unfinished housing projects. To allow them to participate in the process of resolution will render the provisions of the Act nugatory.”
The order comes a year after IDBI Bank dragged JIL to the NCLT for defaulting on a Rs 526-crore loan. After a protracted battle in the apex court, now the ball is back in the NCLT’s court. Counsel Bishwajit Dubey, partner, Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas, which represented IDBI Bank, said that “the SC has allowed IBC proceedings to continue. This signifies that IBC is a law that addresses the interests of all the stakeholders in a balanced manner.”
A day earlier another bench of SC warned embattled Amrapali group and its promoters and directors of dire consequences if the group failed to raise Rs 5,000 crore needed for completion of its unfinished housing projects. The apex court in Amrapali’s case had threatened to sell all the properties of promoters including their homes for defrauding home-buyers.
Both JAL and JIL had argued that they have enough land to monetise and construct unfinished flats provided they were permitted to do so by the apex court. JAL had urged the SC to get its financial capability evaluated by an expert body before deciding on the future course of action. While the total value of JIL’s assets including those mortgaged to bankers is estimated at Rs 32,882 crore, JIL’s assets provided as security to bankers alone are worth about Rs 17,116 crore with a distress value of Rs 14,548 crore (as per the figures given by lead lender IDBI Bank to the NCLT), JAL’s senior counsel Fali Nariman had argued.
“Today’s SC judgment takes us back to square one. The only redeeming feature is that home-owners have significant voting power in the CoC meetings in view of the recent amendments. What remains to be seen is how the RP will arrive at a majority decision when the say of over 35,000 home-owners have to be factored in,” said advocate Ashwarya Sinha, who appeared for some home-buyers. JAL, with a debt of nearly Rs 29,000 crore, featured in the RBI’s second list of 28-30 companies to be taken to the NCLT. JIL, whose total liability stands at Rs 1,575 crore, was among 12 companies against which banks were asked by the RBI to start bankruptcy proceedings in June last year.