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LS passes Bill to decriminalise small offences, promote ease of doing business

The Bill exempts companies with a CSR liability of up to Rs 50 lakh a year from setting up CSR committees.

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Aurag Thakur in Lok Sabha

New Delhi, Sep 19 : The Lok Sabha on Saturday unanimously passed a Bill which has the provisions to promote ease of doing business and ease of living for corporates in India and decriminalisation provision for firms indulging in small offences.

The Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2020 seeks to amend the Companies Act, 2013. The Bill was moved in the Lok Sabha on March 17, 2020 to introduce certain modifications to the Companies Act, 2013.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman moved the Bill in the House for its passage after a marathon discussion while passing the Taxation and Other Laws (Relaxation and Amendment of Certain Provisions) Bill, 2020.

The Bill was passed following a lengthy debate on Saturday evening, almost three hours after the scheduled time set for the House to run in the ongoing Monsoon Session that ends at 7 p.m.

The Finance Minister said that decriminalisation will benefit small MSMES (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises).

“If we put these small businessmen into jail for small offences, it will affect their family,” Sitharaman said.

The Minister said there were 134 penal provisions when the law was made in 2013 and now these have come down to 124 after the passing of the Bill.

However, the minister clarified that the number of serious offences or non-compoundable offences will remain the same as 2013 — 35.

She explained that non-compoundable offences included frauds and those hurting public interest, and said “there is no provision to give the offenders relief under this law.”

Sitharaman said, “When we talk about the amendments, there will be decriminalisation on 48 sections, providing ease of living by reducing the burden of paper work.”

The minister said that the government is adding a new chapter to the Bill which will benefit producer organisations so that they can do direct business.

Under the 2013 Act, certain provisions from the Companies Act, 1956 continue to apply to producer companies. These include provisions on their membership, conduct of meetings, and maintenance of accounts.

Producer companies include companies which are engaged in the production, marketing and sale of agricultural produce, and sale of produce from cottage industries.

The Bill removes these provisions and adds a new chapter to the Act with similar provisions for producer companies.

The Bill makes three changes. First, it removes the penalty for certain offences. For example, it removes the penalties which apply for any change in the rights of a class of shareholders made in violation of the Act. Where a specific penalty is not mentioned, the Act prescribes a penalty of up to Rs 10,000 which may extend to Rs 1,000 per day for a continuing default.

Second, it removes imprisonment in certain offences. For example, it removes the imprisonment of three years applicable to a company for buying back its shares without complying with the Act.

Third, it reduces the amount of fine payable in certain offences. For example, it reduces the maximum fine for failure to file an annual return with the Registrar of Companies from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 2 lakh.

Under the Act, small companies are only liable to pay up to 50 per cent of the penalty for certain offences. The Bill extends this provision to all producer companies and startups.

The Bill empowers the Central government to allow certain classes of public companies to list classes of securities (as may be prescribed) in foreign jurisdictions. The Bill empowers the Central government, in consultation with the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi), to exclude companies issuing specified classes of securities from the definition of a “listed company”.

Under the Act, companies with net worth, turnover or profits above a specified amount are required to constitute CSR committees and spend 2 per cent of their average net profit in the last three financial years towards its CSR policy.

The Bill exempts companies with a CSR liability of up to Rs 50 lakh a year from setting up CSR committees.

Further, companies which spend any amount in excess of their CSR obligation in a financial year can set off the excess amount towards their CSR obligations in subsequent financial years.

The Bill also empowers the Central government to require classes of unlisted companies (as may be prescribed) to prepare and file periodical financial results, and to complete the audit or review of such results.

It also seeks to establish benches of the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT).

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Maharashtra extends ongoing Covid-19 lockdown till November 30

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Lockdown in Maharashtra

The Maharashtra government on Thursday extended the ongoing lockdown by another month as cases of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) continue to rise in the state. It will now remain in effect till November 30, officials said.

The government issued a statement about the same and said, “Now, therefore, in exercise of the powers conferred under Section 2 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 and the powers, conferred under The Disaster Management Act. 2005. the undersigned, in his capacity as Chairperson, State Executive Committee, hereby issues directions that the guidelines issued vide orders dated 30’h September, 2020 and 14° October. 2020 to operationalize MISSION BEGIN AGAIN for casing of restrictions and phase-wise opening, will remain in force till 30th November 2020 for containment of COVID- I 9 epidemic in the State and all Departments of Government of Maharashtra shall strictly implement these guidelines.”

“The activities already allowed and permitted from time to time shall be continued and all earlier orders shall be aligned with this order and shall remain in force up to 30th November, 2020.”

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West Bengal Dy-Speaker Sukumar Hansda Dies Of Cancer

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Sukumar Hansda

Kolkata: West Bengal Legislative Assembly deputy speaker and Trinamool Congress MLA from Jhargram constituency Sukumar Hansda died of cancer at a private city hospital on Thursday. He was 67.

The Trinamool lawmaker was admitted to the state-run SSKM Hospital but was shifted to a private medical facility a few days ago. Earlier, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

“Deeply grieved to hear about the passing away of West Bengal Assembly Deputy Speaker and Jhargram MLA Shri Sukumar Hansda. He was also serving as All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) state vice-president. His relentless service for people shall always be remembered,” West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee tweeted, condoling Hansda’s bereaved family members.

A doctor by profession, Hansda took charge as the Deputy Speaker in December 2018 after the demise of former deputy speaker Haider Aziz Safwi.

He became the minister for Paschimanchal Unnayan Affairs between 2011 and 2016 after the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress government stormed to power in Bengal in 2011. But he was included in the state cabinet despite being re-elected for the second term.

His father, Subodh Chandra Hansda, was a Union minister in a Congress government during 1957-62.

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National Lost A Stalwart Leader: President On Keshubhai’s Death

The BJP leader was the Chief Minister of Gujarat twice — in 1995 and from 1998 to 2001. He was a six-time MLA. He was replaced by Narendra Modi as Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2001.

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keshubhai patel

New Delhi: Conveying his condolence to the kin of former Gujarat Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel, President Ram Nath Kovind on Thursday said the nation has lost a stalwart leader.

The President took Twitter to express his condolence, saying “Keshubhai Ji’s dogged determination for social service and committment to Indian ethos will remain exemplary for all. My condolences to his family and friends”.

“With the demise of Keshubhai Patel, former Gujarat Chief Minister, the nation has lost a stalwart leader. His long public life was dedicated to improving the lives of millions, especially in villages. As champion of farmers’ causes, he enjoyed extraordinary rapport with masses.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh along with various Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) expressed sorrow over the death of Patel who breathed his last at a hospital in Ahmedabad on Thursday morning at the age of 92 years.

The Prime Minister expressed deep sadness at the death of Patel, calling him an “outstanding leader” who devoted his life towards the progress of Gujarat.

Mentioning as “our beloved and respected Keshubhai”, Modi in a series of tweet said, “I am deeply pained and saddened” on his passing away.

“He was an outstanding leader who cared for every section of society. His life was devoted towards the progress of Gujarat and the empowerment of every Gujarati.”

The Prime Minister said that Keshubhai travelled across the length and breadth of Gujarat to strengthen the Jana Sangh and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“He resisted the Emergency tooth and nail. Issues of farmer welfare were closest to his heart. Be it as MLA, MP, Minister or CM, he ensured many farmer friendly measures were passed,” Modi said.

Modi reminded how Keshubhai mentored and groomed many younger Karyakartas including him.

“Everyone loved his affable nature. His demise is an irreparable loss. We are all grieving today. My thoughts are with his family and well-wishers. Spoke to his son Bharat and expressed condolences. Om Shanti.”

Expressing condolence at the sudden demise of Patel, Shah said: “While in the BJP, Keshubhai played an important role in strengthening the organization in Gujarat. As a trustee of Somnath Temple, he always supported the development of the temple. Keshubhai will always remain in our memory with his actions and behaviour.”

In his condolence message, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said Keshubhai Patel ji was an effective administrator who left an indelible mark in public life.

“I offer my tributes to the departed leader. In this hour of grief, I express my heartfelt condolences to his family and well-wishers. Om Shanti,” Singh said in a series of tweets.

Singh said that Keshubhai Patel will always be remembered for his unwavering commitment to serve the people.

“Former Chief Minister of Gujarat, Keshubhai was a political stalwart who played a significant role in strengthening the BJP in the state. Deeply pained by his demise today.”

Patel was hospitalised after he complained of difficulty in breathing on Thursday morning. He breathed his last during treatment.

The BJP leader was the Chief Minister of Gujarat twice — in 1995 and from 1998 to 2001. He was a six-time MLA. He was replaced by Narendra Modi as Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2001.

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