The workload on NCLT shot up with the increased flow of cases since May last year, when the government authorised the Reserve Bank of India to direct banks to resolve specific cases of bad loans.
With creditors dragging defaulters to the National Company Law Tribunals (NCLT) more aggressively than ever to recover dues, the government is planning to more than double the number of NCLT members (judges, in common parlance) to speed up case disposal and strengthen the ecosystem, official sources told FE. Efforts are on to appoint 36 more members, on top of the existing 33, to various benches, sources said. The government also recently set up three more NCLT benches (one each in Cuttack, Kochi and Jaipur), taking the total number of benches to 14.
“The government is fully conscious of the existing capacity of the NCLT and is working towards strengthening it further,” said one of the sources. So far, over 1,100 insolvency applications have been admitted by various benches (of which around 750 are still live cases) while NCLT is yet to take a view on hundreds of applications filed by both financial and operational creditors.
“Considering the build-up of applications, unless the strength of NCLT members is hiked to a reasonable level, the objective of approving resolution plans for stressed firms in a maximum of 270 days, as stipulated in the insolvency law, remains a challenge,” said another source. NCLT members who hear cases include both judicial and technical ones.
The workload on NCLT shot up with the increased flow of cases since May last year, when the government authorised the Reserve Bank of India to direct banks to resolve specific cases of bad loans by initiating resolution process under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), where required. The RBI promptly directed banks to refer 12 large default cases, accounting for a fourth of total bad loans, to NCLT, and followed it up by sending a list of 28 more.
The prospect of a massive build-up of cases further improved since February 12, when the RBI asked banks to drag defaulters to the NCLT if they are unable to come up with a solution in six months. Even though the fate of the RBI’s February circular will be decided by the Supreme Court in November, the success of the IBC in recovering dues from defaulters in recent months have prompted hundreds of creditors, both financial and operational, to tap the new law more aggressively.
Creditors recovered as much as 56% (or Rs 49,783 crore) of dues from defaulters in 32 cases that got resolved until June. The takeover of stressed Bhushan Steel by the Tatas alone fetched Rs 35,571 crore. Even operational creditors recovered over Rs 1 lakh crore from defaulters by just threatening them to initiate insolvency process, which was calculated on the basis of the insolvency applications that were withdrawn from the NCLTs after being filed.