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INDEPENDENT DIRECTOR (ID):

The term is defined in sec 149(5). In nut shell, a person qualifies for being appointed as the ID if (a) he is not the Promoter or related to the promoters of the company, its holding co., subsidiary companies or associate companies (together termed as the Group Companies); (b) he does not have any pecuniary interest in the Group Companies or with promoters or directors of the Group Companies for last 2 years or in current year; (c) his relative does not have any pecuniary interest or transaction with any Group Companies or with Promoters or Directors of any of the Group Companies for volume amounting to 2% of Gross Turnover or Rs. 50 lacs; whichever is lower – in last 2 years or current year; (d) he or his relative is not employee or KMP in any of the Group Companies in last 3 years; (e) he or his relatives does not hold more than 2% of voting power of the Company

Interestingly, the fellow subsidiaries are not included in restricted list of companies. Therefore, any persons who is either employee of the fellow subsidiary of the company in which ID is to be appointed or any person who has transactions more than the limits specified above with the fellow subsidiaries can be appointed as an independent director as per the definition given under the Act.  However, as a matter of good corporate governance, such person, who has some connection with the fellow subsidiary of the company in which he is to be appointed as an ID, should not be appointed as it would otherwise look very dubious. Also it is questionable as to how such person would provide the Certificate of Independence. Therefore, although the Act does not prohibit, no person who is connected with the fellow subsidiary can be appointed as an ID.

Board report to have declarations by ID as per sec 149(6). The letter of appointment of ID to contain the terms of appointment as prescribed in para IV of the Code of Independent Directors. The terms of appointment are also required to be placed on the Company’s website.

CSR committee to have at least one ID. The majority of the Audit Committee & Nomination Committee shall be the IDs. Therefore, minimum members of the Audit Committees and Nomination Committees would be 3 directors including 2 IDs and 1 non-ID.

PUBLIC companies with paid up Rs. 10 cr/ turnover Rs. 100 cr/ debt Rs. 50 cr. as per last audited financial statement must have at least 2 IDs. ID has to be appointed within 1 year from 1-4-2014.

ID needs to provide disclosure that he meets the criteria of ID at the time of appointment, first meeting of the financial year or whenever there is a change in circumstances. ID and the Company needs to adhere to Code for IDs. Therefore, all such companies need to adopt the prescribed Code for Independent Directors.

Remuneration of IDs: Not eligible for Stock Options. Eligible for receipt of remuneration by way of sitting fees, reimbursements for attending meetings, commission as may be approved by the members of the Company. Sitting fees can be max. Rs. 100,000 per meeting.

Term of office: ID can be appointed for a max. term of 5 years upto 2 such terms. In case of re-appointment after 2 terms, there has to be cooling off period for 3 years and has to be approved by members by special resolution.

IDs are not required to retire by rotation and they are also not counted for determining the directors liable to retire by rotation at AGMs.

For Board meetings called at shorter notice (less than 7 days), quorum requires at least 1 ID present. If no ID can remain present, then in such case, the decision passed at such meeting has to be ratified by at least 1 ID.

ALL DETAILED PROVISIONS OF THE COMPANIES ACT, 2013 & RULES RELATING TO THE INDEPENDENT DIRECTOR & WOMAN DIRECTOR ARE AS UNDER:

2(47) “independent director” means an independent director referred to in sub-section (5) of section 149

134 (3) There shall be attached to statements laid before a company in general meeting, a report by its Board of Directors, which shall include—

(d) a statement on declaration given by independent directors under sub-section (6) of section 149;

135. (1) Every company having net worth of rupees five hundred crore or more, or turnover of rupees one thousand crore or more or a net profit of rupees five crore or more during any financial year shall constitute a Corporate Social Responsibility Committee of the Board consisting of three or more directors, out of which at least one director shall be an independent director

149. (4) Every listed public company shall have at least one-third of the total number of directors as independent directors and the Central Government may prescribe the minimum number of independent directors in case of any class or classes of public companies.

Explanation.—For the purposes of this sub-section, any fraction contained in such one-third number shall be rounded off as one.

(5) Every company existing on or before the date of commencement of this Act shall, within one year from such commencement or from the date of notification of the rules in this regard as may be applicable, comply with the requirements of the provisions of sub-section (4).

(6) An independent director in relation to a company, means a director other than a managing director or a whole-time director or a nominee director,—

(a) who, in the opinion of the Board, is a person of integrity and possesses relevant expertise and experience;

(b) (i) who is or was not a promoter of the company or its holding, subsidiary or associate company;

(ii) who is not related to promoters or directors in the company, its holding, subsidiary or associate company;

(c) who has or had no pecuniary relationship with the company, its holding, subsidiary or associate company, or their promoters, or directors, during the two immediately preceding financial years or during the current financial year;

(d) none of whose relatives has or had pecuniary relationship or transaction with the company, its holding, subsidiary or associate company, or their promoters, or directors, amounting to two per cent. or more of its gross turnover or total income or fifty lakh rupees or such higher amount as may be prescribed, whichever is lower, during the two immediately preceding financial years or during the current financial year;

(e) who, neither himself nor any of his relatives—

(i) holds or has held the position of a key managerial personnel or is or has been employee of the company or its holding, subsidiary or associate company in any of the three financial years immediately preceding the financial year in which he is proposed to be appointed;

(ii) is or has been an employee or proprietor or a partner, in any of the three financial years immediately preceding the financial year in which he is proposed to be appointed, of—

(A) a firm of auditors or company secretaries in practice or cost auditors of the company or its holding, subsidiary or associate company; or

(B) any legal or a consulting firm that has or had any transaction with the company, its holding, subsidiary or associate company amounting to ten per cent. or more of the gross turnover of such firm;

(iii) holds together with his relatives two per cent. or more of the total voting power of the company; or

(iv) is a Chief Executive or director, by whatever name called, of any nonprofit organisation that receives twenty-five per cent. or more of its receipts from the company, any of its promoters, directors or its holding, subsidiary or associate company or that holds two per cent. or more of the total voting power of the company; or

(f) who possesses such other qualifications as may be prescribed.

(7) Every independent director shall at the first meeting of the Board in which he participates as a director and thereafter at the first meeting of the Board in every financial year or whenever there is any change in the circumstances which may affect his status as an independent director, give a declaration that he meets the criteria of independence as provided in sub-section (6).

Explanation.—For the purposes of this section, “nominee director” means a director nominated by any financial institution in pursuance of the provisions of any law for the time being in force, or of any agreement, or appointed by any Government, or any other person to represent its interests.

(8) The company and independent directors shall abide by the provisions specified in Schedule IV.

(9) Notwithstanding anything contained in any other provision of this Act, but subject to the provisions of sections 197 and 198, an independent director shall not be entitled to any stock option and may receive remuneration by way of fee provided under sub-section (5) of section 197, reimbursement of expenses for participation in the Board and other meetings and profit related commission as may be approved by the members.

(10) Subject to the provisions of section 152, an independent director shall hold office for a term up to five consecutive years on the Board of a company, but shall be eligible for reappointment on passing of a special resolution by the company and disclosure of such appointment in the Board's report.

(11) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (10), no independent director shall hold office for more than two consecutive terms, but such independent director shall be eligible for appointment after the expiration of three years of ceasing to become an independent director:

Provided that an independent director shall not, during the said period of three years, be appointed in or be associated with the company in any other capacity, either directly or indirectly.

Explanation.—For the purposes of sub-sections (10) and (11), any tenure of an independent director on the date of commencement of this Act shall not be counted as a term under those sub-sections.

(12) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act,—

(i) an independent director;

(ii) a non-executive director not being promoter or key managerial personnel, shall be held liable, only in respect of such acts of omission or commission by a company which had occurred with his knowledge, attributable through Board processes, and with his consent or connivance or where he had not acted diligently.

(13) The provisions of sub-sections (6) and (7) of section 152 in respect of retirement of directors by rotation shall not be applicable to appointment of independent directors.

150. (1) Subject to the provisions contained in sub-section (5) of section 149, an independent director may be selected from a data bank containing names, addresses and qualifications of persons who are eligible and willing to act as independent directors, maintained by any body, institute or association, as may by notified by the Central Government, having expertise in creation and maintenance of such data bank and put on their website for the use by the company making the appointment of such directors:

Provided that responsibility of exercising due diligence before selecting a person from the data bank referred to above, as an independent director shall lie with the company making such appointment.

(2) The appointment of independent director shall be approved by the company in general meeting as provided in sub-section (2) of section 152 and the explanatory statement annexed to the notice of the general meeting called to consider the said appointment shall indicate the justification for choosing the appointee for appointment as independent director.

(3) The data bank referred to in sub-section (1), shall create and maintain data of persons willing to act as independent director in accordance with such rules as may be prescribed.

(4) The Central Government may prescribe the manner and procedure of selection of independent directors who fulfil the qualifications and requirements specified under section 149.

152. (5) A person appointed as a director shall not act as a director unless he gives his consent to hold the office as director and such consent has been filed with the Registrar within thirty days of his appointment in such manner as may be prescribed:

Provided that in the case of appointment of an independent director in the general meeting, an explanatory statement for such appointment, annexed to the notice for the general meeting, shall include a statement that in the opinion of the Board, he fulfils the conditions specified in this Act for such an appointment.

(6) (a) Unless the articles provide for the retirement of all directors at every annual general meeting, not less than two-thirds of the total number of directors of a public company shall—

(i) be persons whose period of office is liable to determination by retirement of directors by rotation; and

(ii) save as otherwise expressly provided in this Act, be appointed by the company in general meeting.

(b) The remaining directors in the case of any such company shall, in default of, and subject to any regulations in the articles of the company, also be appointed by the company in general meeting.

(c) At the first annual general meeting of a public company held next after the date of the general meeting at which the first directors are appointed in accordance with clauses (a) and (b) and at every subsequent annual general meeting, one-third of such of the directors for the time being as are liable to retire by rotation, or if their number is neither three nor a multiple of three, then, the number nearest to one-third, shall retire from office.

(d) The directors to retire by rotation at every annual general meeting shall be those who have been longest in office since their last appointment, but as between persons who became directors on the same day, those who are to retire shall, in default of and subject to any agreement among themselves, be determined by lot.

(e) At the annual general meeting at which a director retires as aforesaid, the company may fill up the vacancy by appointing the retiring director or some other person thereto.

Explanation.—For the purposes of this sub-section, “total number of directors” shall not include independent directors, whether appointed under this Act or any other law for the time being in force, on the Board of a company.

162. (2) The Board of Directors of a company may, if so authorised by its articles or by a resolution passed by the company in general meeting, appoint a person, not being a person holding any alternate directorship for any other director in the company, to act as an alternate director for a director during his absence for a period of not less than three months from India:

Provided that no person shall be appointed as an alternate director for an independent director unless he is qualified to be appointed as an independent director under the provisions of this Act:

Provided further that an alternate director shall not hold office for a period longer than that permissible to the director in whose place he has been appointed and shall vacate the office if and when the director in whose place he has been appointed returns to India:

173. (3) A meeting of the Board shall be called by giving not less than seven days’ notice in writing to every director at his address registered with the company and such notice shall be sent by hand delivery or by post or by electronic means:

Provided that a meeting of the Board may be called at shorter notice to transact urgent business subject to the condition that at least one independent director, if any, shall be present at the meeting:

Provided further that in case of absence of independent directors from such a meeting of the Board, decisions taken at such a meeting shall be circulated to all the directors and shall be final only on ratification thereof by at least one independent director, if any.

177. (2) The Audit Committee shall consist of a minimum of three directors with independent directors forming a majority:

Provided that majority of members of Audit Committee including its Chairperson shall be persons with ability to read and understand, the financial statement.

178. (1) The Board of Directors of every listed company and such other class or classes of companies, as may be prescribed shall constitute the Nomination and Remuneration Committee consisting of three or more non-executive directors out of which not less than one-half shall be independent directors:

Provided that the chairperson of the company (whether executive or non-executive) may be appointed as a member of the Nomination and Remuneration Committee but shall not chair such Committee.

197. (5) A director may receive remuneration by way of fee for attending meetings of the Board or Committee thereof or for any other purpose whatsoever as may be decided by the Board:

Provided that the amount of such fees shall not exceed the amount as may be prescribed:

Provided further that different fees for different classes of companies and fees in respect of independent director may be such as may be prescribed.

(7) Notwithstanding anything contained in any other provision of this Act but subject to the provisions of this section, an independent director shall not be entitled to any stock option and may receive remuneration by way of fees provided under sub-section (5), reimbursement of expenses for participation in the Board and other meetings and profit related commission as may be approved by the members.

SCHEDULE IV

[See section 149(8)]

CODE FOR INDEPENDENT DIRECTORS

The Code is a guide to professional conduct for independent directors. Adherence to these standards by independent directors and fulfilment of their responsibilities in a professional and faithful manner will promote confidence of the investment community, particularly minority shareholders, regulators and companies in the institution of independent directors.

I. Guidelines of professional conduct:

An independent director shall:

(1) uphold ethical standards of integrity and probity;

(2) act objectively and constructively while exercising his duties;

(3) exercise his responsibilities in a bona fide manner in the interest of the company;

(4) devote sufficient time and attention to his professional obligations for informed and balanced decision making;

(5) not allow any extraneous considerations that will vitiate his exercise of objective independent judgment in the paramount interest of the company as a whole, while concurring in or dissenting from the collective judgment of the Board in its decision making;

(6) not abuse his position to the detriment of the company or its shareholders or for the purpose of gaining direct or indirect personal advantage or advantage for any associated person;

(7) refrain from any action that would lead to loss of his independence;

(8) where circumstances arise which make an independent director lose his independence, the independent director must immediately inform the Board accordingly;

(9) assist the company in implementing the best corporate governance practices.

II. Role and functions:

The independent directors shall:

(1) help in bringing an independent judgment to bear on the Board’s deliberations especially on issues of strategy, performance, risk management, resources, key appointments and standards of conduct;

(2) bring an objective view in the evaluation of the performance of board and management

(3) scrutinise the performance of management in meeting agreed goals and objectives and monitor the reporting of performance;

(4) satisfy themselves on the integrity of financial information and that financial controls and the systems of risk management are robust and defensible;

(5) safeguard the interests of all stakeholders, particularly the minority shareholders;

(6) balance the conflicting interest of the stakeholders;

(7) determine appropriate levels of remuneration of executive directors, key managerial personnel and senior management and have a prime role in appointing and where necessary recommend removal of executive directors, key managerial personnel and senior management;

(8) moderate and arbitrate in the interest of the company as a whole, in situations of conflict between management and shareholder’s interest.

III. Duties:

The independent directors shall—

(1) undertake appropriate induction and regularly update and refresh their skills, knowledge and familiarity with the company;

(2) seek appropriate clarification or amplification of information and, where necessary, take and follow appropriate professional advice and opinion of outside experts at the expense of the company;

(3) strive to attend all meetings of the Board of Directors and of the Board committees of which he is a member;

(4) participate constructively and actively in the committees of the Board in which they are chairpersons or members;

(5) strive to attend the general meetings of the company;

(6) where they have concerns about the running of the company or a proposed action, ensure that these are addressed by the Board and, to the extent that they are not resolved, insist that their concerns are recorded in the minutes of the Board meeting;

(7) keep themselves well informed about the company and the external environment in which it operates;

(8) not to unfairly obstruct the functioning of an otherwise proper Board or committee of the Board;

(9) pay sufficient attention and ensure that adequate deliberations are held before approving related party transactions and assure themselves that the same are in the interest of the company;

(10) ascertain and ensure that the company has an adequate and functional vigil mechanism and to ensure that the interests of a person who uses such mechanism are not prejudicially affected on account of such use;

(11) report concerns about unethical behaviour, actual or suspected fraud or violation of the company’s code of conduct or ethics policy;

(12) acting within his authority, assist in protecting the legitimate interests of the company, shareholders and its employees;

(13) not disclose confidential information, including commercial secrets, technologies, advertising and sales promotion plans, unpublished price sensitive information, unless such disclosure is expressly approved by the Board or required by law.

IV. Manner of appointment:

(1) Appointment process of independent directors shall be independent of the company management; while selecting independent directors the Board shall ensure that there is appropriate balance of skills, experience and knowledge in the Board so as to enable the Board to discharge its functions and duties effectively.

(2) The appointment of independent director(s) of the company shall be approved at the meeting of the shareholders.

(3) The explanatory statement attached to the notice of the meeting for approving the appointment of independent director shall include a statement that in the opinion of the Board, the independent director proposed to be appointed fulfils the conditions specified in the Act and the rules made thereunder and that the proposed director is independent of the management.      

(4) The appointment of independent directors shall be formalised through a letter of appointment, which shall set out :

(a) the term of appointment;

(b) the expectation of the Board from the appointed director; the Board-level committee(s) in which the director is expected to serve and its tasks;

(c) the fiduciary duties that come with such an appointment along with accompanying liabilities;

(d) provision for Directors and Officers (D and O) insurance, if any;

(e) theCode of Business Ethics that the company expects its directors and employees to follow;

(f) the list of actions that a director should not do while functioning as such in the company; and

(g) the remuneration, mentioning periodic fees, reimbursement of expenses for participation in the Boards and other meetings and profit related commission, if any.

(5) The terms and conditions of appointment of independent directors shall be open for inspection at the registered office of the company by any member during normal business hours.

(6) The terms and conditions of appointment of independent directors shall also be posted on the company’s website.

V. Re-appointment:

The re-appointment of independent director shall be on the basis of report of performance evaluation.

VI. Resignation or removal:

(1) The resignation or removal of an independent director shall be in the same manner as is provided in sections 168 and 169 of the Act.

(2) An independent director who resigns or is removed from the Board of the company shall be replaced by a new independent director within a period of not more than one hundred and eighty days from the date of such resignation or removal, as the case may be.

(3) Where the company fulfils the requirement of independent directors in its Board even without filling the vacancy created by such resignation or removal, as the case may be, the requirement of replacement by a new independent director shall not apply.

VII. Separate meetings:

(1) The independent directors of the company shall hold at least one meeting in a year, without the attendance of non-independent directors and members of management;

(2) All the independent directors of the company shall strive to be present at such meeting;

(3) The meeting shall:

(a) review the performance of non-independent directors and the Board as a whole;

(b) review the performance of the Chairperson of the company, taking into account the views of executive directors and non-executive directors;

(c) assess the quality, quantity and timeliness of flow of information between the company management and the Board that is necessary for the Board to effectively and reasonably perform their duties.

VIII. Evaluation mechanism:

(1) The performance evaluation of independent directors shall be done by the entire Board of Directors, excluding the director being evaluated.

(2) On the basis of the report of performance evaluation, it shall be determined whether to extend or continue the term of appointment of the independent director.

Chapter 11 RULES

4. Number of independent directors.-The following class or classes of PUBLIC companiesshall have at least two directors as independent directors -

(i) the Public Companies having paid up share capital of ten crore rupees or more; or

(ii) the Public Companies having turnover of one hundred crore rupees or more; or

(iii) the Public Companies which have, in aggregate, outstanding loans, debentures and deposits, exceeding fifty crore rupees:

Provided that in case a company covered under this rule is required to appoint a higher number of independent directors due to composition of its audit committee, such higher number of independent directors shall be applicable to it:

Provided further that any intermittent vacancy of an independent director shall be filled-up by the Board at the earliest but not later than immediate next Board meeting or three months from the date of such vacancy, whichever is later:

Provided also that where a company ceases to fulfil any of three conditions laid down in sub-rule (1) for three consecutive years, it shall not be required to comply with these provisions until such time as it meets any of such conditions;

Explanation. - For the purposes of this rule, it is here by clarified that, the paid up share capital or turnover or outstanding loans, debentures and deposits, as the case may be, as existing on the last date of latest audited financial statements shall be taken into account:

Provided that a company belonging to any class of companies for which a higher number of independent directors has been specified in the law for the time being in force shall comply with the requirements specified in such law.

5. Qualifications of independent director.-An independent director shall possess appropriate skills, experience and knowledge in one or more fields of finance, law, management, sales, marketing, administration, research, corporate governance, technical operations or other disciplines related to the company’s business.

ALL ABOUT WOMAN DIRECTOR

149. (1) Every company shall have a Board of Directors consisting of individuals as directors and shall have—

(a) a minimum number of three directors in the case of a public company, two directors in the case of a private company, and one director in the case of a One Person Company; and

(b) a maximum of fifteen directors:

Provided that a company may appoint more than fifteen directors after passing a special resolution:

Provided further that such class or classes of companies as may be prescribed, shall have at least one woman director.

The following class of companies shall appoint at least one woman director-

(i) every listed company;

(ii) every other public company having -

(a) paid–up share capital of one hundred crore rupees or more; or

(b) turnover of three hundred crore rupees or more:

Provided that a company, which has been incorporated under the Act and is covered under provisions of second proviso to sub-section (1) of

section 149 shall comply with such provisions within a period of six months from the date of its incorporation:

Provided further that any intermittent vacancy of a woman director shall be filled-up by the Board at the earliest but not later than immediate next Board meeting or three months from the date of such vacancy whichever is later.

Explanation.- For the purposes of this rule, it is hereby clarified that the paid up share capital or turnover, as the case may be, as on the last date of latest audited financial statements shall be taken into account.

By Sitansh Magia
CS, LL.B., BBA,
CIMA Dipoma – MA, UK


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