Registration & Licenses

All you need to know about Digital Signatures and how to get the Certificate

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Digital signature is a technique used to validate the authenticity of a digital document. It provides more credibility to digital communications. A digital signature is defined and dealt with under Sections 2, 3 and 15 of the Information Technology Act. Section 2(1)(p) of the Information Technology Act defines Digital Signature as, “mean authentication of any electronic record by a subscriber by means of an electronic method or procedure in accordance with the provisions of Section 3”. In order to obtain a Digital Signature Certificate, there are certain procedures that need to be followed.

 

 

What do you require to apply for a Digital Signature Certificate

 

The following are the requirements to apply for a digital signature certificate: 

  1. Fill Form: Duly filled application form for Digital Signature Certificate
  2. Photo ID Proof: This can include one’s driving license, PAN card, Aadhaar card etc.
  3. Address Proof: Typically, phone bill, electricity bill, rent/sale agreements etc. are accepted as address proof.


Types of Digital Signature Certificate

 

Class 1 Certificates: These certificates are issued to private as well as individual subscribers. These certificates are issued to ensure that the user’s name, email address and other details provided are true and within the database of the Certifying Authority

 

Class 2 Certificates: These certificates are issued to the director or the signatory authorities of the companies. The main purpose of issuing these certificates is for the E-filing of the Registrar of Companies. Individuals who sign all the documents manually and file the returns with the Registrar of Companies, must mandatorily have Class 2 certificates.

 

Class 3 Certificates: These certificates are used for online participation or for people bidding in e-auctions or any online tenders across India. Class 3 certificates are mandatory for all the vendors who wish to participate in online tenders.   

 

 

Procedure for obtaining a Digital Signature Certificate 

 

The following steps need to be followed in order to obtain a Digital Signature Certificate:

 

Log-in to the Certifying Authority’s website: Not anyone and everyone can issue Digital Certificates. There is a list of Certifying Authorities that are licensed to issue Digital Certificates. This list is available on the MCA website and includes authorities such as the NSDL, E-Mudhra etc. In order to obtain a Digital Signature Certificate, one must log on to the site of the Certified Authority and visit the Digital Certification Services section and choose the type of form. For example, whether you want to obtain a digital signature certificate for an individual or an organization, and accordingly one must download the form.  

 

Fill necessary details: Upon receiving the form, the person must fill correctly all the required details. Some of the details asked are class of digital certificates, validity, contact details, residential address, type of digital certificates, GST number if applying for the organization, declaration etc. After filling the form, one must recheck the information provided and thereafter take a printout of the form and preserve the copy of it. 

 

Provide the required proofs: The residential proof and ID proof attached to the form must be attested by an officer. It must be ensured that the sign and seal of the officer is clearly visible so as to avoid any obstruction in the procedure further.

 

Make the payment: The payment must be made in order to acquire the Digital Signature Certificate either by cheque or by Demand Draft in the name of the Local Registration Authority. The details of the Local Registration Authority differ from the person’s city of residence, and such details can be obtained by searching the appropriate certifying authorities licensed to issue Digital Signature Certificate.

 

Send a hard copy of the form to the Local Registration Authority: After filling the form, one must send in an enclosed envelope the following documents to the Local Registration Authority-:

  1. Duly filled application form,
  2. Attested copies of the Residential Proof and ID Proof, and 
  3. Demand Draft or Cheque 

 

A digital signature certificate is extremely important at times of incorporation and during all compliance stages. Having a valid digital signature, makes authentication of electronic records easy and faster.

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Stamp Duty and Registration in India
Registration & Licenses

Stamp Duty and Registration in India

Stamp Duty and Registration Charges

 

The Indian government levies stamp duty on various legal papers such as sale deeds, conveyance deeds, gift deeds, and mortgage deeds. These agreements establish the contracting parties' obligations and rights. Stamp duty and registration fees ascertain possession and serve as proof of sale/purchase in a court of law. The sum you must pay to the authorities to register a property in your name is stamp duty. The cost of stamp duty varies based on the region's circular rates. The amount of stamp duty varies from state to state. 

 

 

The most conventional method of paying stamp duty and registration fees is to purchase physical stamp papers. One can buy non-judicial stamp paper from a licensed dealer here. Papers with imprinted stamps are known as non-judicial stamp paper. The transaction information can be written/typed on the stamp paper after purchase. The conventional method of paying stamp duty and registration fees is to buy physical stamp papers. You can purchase non-judicial stamp paper from a licensed seller. Paper with imprinted stamps is known as non-judicial stamp paper. The transaction information can be written/typed on the stamp paper once you have purchased it.

 

 

The government implemented e-stamping to prevent counterfeit stamp sheets and make stamping easier. Several states permit e-stamping. E-stamping is simply stamping done via the internet. The Stock Holding Corporation of India Limited (SHCIL) has been named the official e-stamping vendor and the Central Record Keeping Agency for all e-stamps used. To perform e-stamping,  you need to access the SHCIL website. Details on the transactions that must be e-stamped are present online. After filling the application form, you can return it to the collecting center with the stamp duty payment. Different modes of payment are adopted, including debit cards, credit cards, checks, demand draughts, and internet banking. Upon paying the stamp duty,  you would get the e-certificate. The issuing date is included in the certificate's unique certificate number (UIN). E-stamping has the advantage of being accessible and allowing for online verification.

 

 

Franking is a procedure in which an authorized franking agency stamps your document to indicate the amount of stamp duty you have to pay. One should contact an authorized bank that will function as a franking agent or a franking agency to deposit the stamp duty before you complete the transaction for which you must pay the stamp duty. 

 

 

 

People Also Read This: Gift Deed: All you should know

 

 

Stamp Duty on Gift Deed

 

The transferee or donee is obligated to pay stamp duty unless there is an agreement to the contrary. An agreement or gift deed, on the other hand, might indicate differently. The stamp duty is agreed to be paid equally by both parties in many sales and gift deeds. Get the stamp papers in the name of one of the parties to the gift, i.e., the donor or the donee; otherwise, the stamp paper will be rendered useless. If you pay the stamp duty on time, it is valid for six months from the date of purchase. Penalties, such as monetary fines, can be incurred if a document that needs stamping is not stamped correctly. If you don't pay your stamp duty on time, you'll be charged 2% every month, up to a maximum of 200 percent of the amount you owe in stamp duty.

 

 

Stamp Duty Registration Calculator

 

 

The bottom line is that stamp duty is computed based on the property's entire market value. If your asset's market worth is high, you'll have to pay a hefty fee and vice versa. If the property has both a market value and an agreement value, you will pay stamp duty on the higher of the two. Apart from the property's cost or worth, the kind of property, location, the owner's gender and age, the property's use, and the number of floors in the property all influence the property registration fee and stamp duty costs. Stamp duty officials usually utilize Stamp Duty Ready Reckoner to determine the property's value. Consider using one of the many online stamp duty calculators available to figure out how much stamp duty you'll have to pay. To receive your answer, enter basic information about your property, such as its location and total worth, and then click the "Calculate" option. To calculate the total sum required to register your property, add the cess and surcharges.

 

 

People Also Read This: Land & Property Registration: All You Need To Know

 

 

Stamp Duty Value

 

 

Any value set by any authority of the federal government or a state government for stamp duty payment on immovable property is referred to as stamp duty value. When acquiring a property, it is necessary to set up a substantial sum for stamp duty and registration fees. Registration fees are paid to the same body that handles all the paperwork required to complete the procedure. Suppose the actual sale consideration of such land and the building is less than the stamp duty value. In that case, the stamp duty value will be considered an absolute value of consideration, i.e., as deemed selling price, and capital gain will be computed accordingly to section 50C.

 

All you need to know about Digital Signatures and how to get the Certificate
Registration & Licenses

All you need to know about Digital Signatures and how to get the Certificate

Digital signature is a technique used to validate the authenticity of a digital document. It provides more credibility to digital communications. A digital signature is defined and dealt with under Sections 2, 3 and 15 of the Information Technology Act. Section 2(1)(p) of the Information Technology Act defines Digital Signature as, “mean authentication of any electronic record by a subscriber by means of an electronic method or procedure in accordance with the provisions of Section 3”. In order to obtain a Digital Signature Certificate, there are certain procedures that need to be followed.

 

 

What do you require to apply for a Digital Signature Certificate

 

The following are the requirements to apply for a digital signature certificate: 

  1. Fill Form: Duly filled application form for Digital Signature Certificate
  2. Photo ID Proof: This can include one’s driving license, PAN card, Aadhaar card etc.
  3. Address Proof: Typically, phone bill, electricity bill, rent/sale agreements etc. are accepted as address proof.


Types of Digital Signature Certificate

 

Class 1 Certificates: These certificates are issued to private as well as individual subscribers. These certificates are issued to ensure that the user’s name, email address and other details provided are true and within the database of the Certifying Authority

 

Class 2 Certificates: These certificates are issued to the director or the signatory authorities of the companies. The main purpose of issuing these certificates is for the E-filing of the Registrar of Companies. Individuals who sign all the documents manually and file the returns with the Registrar of Companies, must mandatorily have Class 2 certificates.

 

Class 3 Certificates: These certificates are used for online participation or for people bidding in e-auctions or any online tenders across India. Class 3 certificates are mandatory for all the vendors who wish to participate in online tenders.   

 

 

Procedure for obtaining a Digital Signature Certificate 

 

The following steps need to be followed in order to obtain a Digital Signature Certificate:

 

Log-in to the Certifying Authority’s website: Not anyone and everyone can issue Digital Certificates. There is a list of Certifying Authorities that are licensed to issue Digital Certificates. This list is available on the MCA website and includes authorities such as the NSDL, E-Mudhra etc. In order to obtain a Digital Signature Certificate, one must log on to the site of the Certified Authority and visit the Digital Certification Services section and choose the type of form. For example, whether you want to obtain a digital signature certificate for an individual or an organization, and accordingly one must download the form.  

 

Fill necessary details: Upon receiving the form, the person must fill correctly all the required details. Some of the details asked are class of digital certificates, validity, contact details, residential address, type of digital certificates, GST number if applying for the organization, declaration etc. After filling the form, one must recheck the information provided and thereafter take a printout of the form and preserve the copy of it. 

 

Provide the required proofs: The residential proof and ID proof attached to the form must be attested by an officer. It must be ensured that the sign and seal of the officer is clearly visible so as to avoid any obstruction in the procedure further.

 

Make the payment: The payment must be made in order to acquire the Digital Signature Certificate either by cheque or by Demand Draft in the name of the Local Registration Authority. The details of the Local Registration Authority differ from the person’s city of residence, and such details can be obtained by searching the appropriate certifying authorities licensed to issue Digital Signature Certificate.

 

Send a hard copy of the form to the Local Registration Authority: After filling the form, one must send in an enclosed envelope the following documents to the Local Registration Authority-:

  1. Duly filled application form,
  2. Attested copies of the Residential Proof and ID Proof, and 
  3. Demand Draft or Cheque 

 

A digital signature certificate is extremely important at times of incorporation and during all compliance stages. Having a valid digital signature, makes authentication of electronic records easy and faster.

What You Should Know Before Starting A Restaurant Business
Registration & Licenses

What You Should Know Before Starting A Restaurant Business

Food industry in India is expanding fast. With affordability, eating out has become a part of the millennials’ culture. This has led to many people entering the food restaurant business. In fact, in cities like Bangalore and Hyderabad, many small cafes operated from homes, have also come into existence. However, opening of a restaurant business is not an easy task. There are a number of regulatory requirements involved. We will explain to you, what you should know before you decide to become a restaurant owner. 

 

 

Regulatory Requirements of a Restaurant Business

 

FSSAI (Food Safety and Standard Authority of India) License

This license is also known as the Food License. It is issued by the Food Safety and Standard Authority of India and is a guarantee of the fact that the food served by the respective restaurant is safe to eat. A 14-digit number is given at the time of registration. A restaurant certified by FSSAI is an assurance to the customers that the food provided is according to the safety standards set by FSSAI. A list of documents such as ID Proof, Kitchen Layout Plan, NOC of the owner and many others must be submitted in addition to filling an online form on the FSSAI website. Thereafter one must submit the required documents and the application form and then make a payment of INR 2000 to the Regional/State Authority. 

 

Liquor License 

The restaurants who wish to serve liquor as well in their restaurant must mandatorily obtain a Liquor license from the Local Excise Commissioner. A list of documents is required to obtain a liquor license of which the most important is obtaining a NOC from the State Fire Service department.  However, getting a liquor license is not that easy, after the verification of the documents, a fee of INR 5,000 must be paid.  An additional INR 50,000 must be paid for each additional brand like whiskey, rum, gin, brandy, vodka, etc. 

 

Signage License 

Marketing is essential for any business. Good marketing skills help a person to give fame to his business, but in order to market your restaurant, one must obtain a license. Yes, even for marketing your restaurant you must receive a license. This is known as the Signage License.  In order to market your restaurant through person, logos, symbols or posters one must obtain a legal permit. 

 

Certificate of Environment Clearance 

The restaurant is obliged to take care of the environment as well. It must take adequate measures to ensure that it does not harm the environment in any form. In order to ensure that the restaurant is environmentally compliant, it must obtain a Certificate of Environmental Clearance. In order to obtain this license, one must submit certain documents with the application form to the concerned authorities. 

 

Music License 

In order to play music in a restaurant, a specific license is required. As per the Copyright Act, 1957, those who play pre-recorded music in any non-private, commercial or non- commercial establishments must have a Music license as issued by the Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL).

 

Fire Safety License 

The safety of customers must be the top priority of the restaurant. The restaurant should be designed in such a manner so as to protect the customers from hazards such as fire. Thus, a restaurant must necessarily be fire safety compliant and must obtain a NOC from the fire department. Unlike other licenses, this license must be obtained before the construction of a restaurant starts.   

 

Shop and Establishment License 

This license is required to open a fine dining restaurant or a food truck. As per the Shop and Establishment Act, any person who commences this business must apply for this license within 30 days of starting it. The cost incurred on obtaining this license depends on various factors such as number of employees, location of the restaurant and many more. 

 

 

Conclusion


Though the regulatory requirements behind opening a restaurant are slightly complicated, they can be made easier by seeking legal help. Seeking legal help will not only make your job easier of getting all the necessary licenses but also will ensure the smooth functioning of the business without any legal hindrances.

MSME Registration in India
Startup

MSME Registration in India

What is MSME Registration?

The Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Development Act allows MSMEs in the manufacturing and service sectors to register as MSMEs or SSIs. It is not compulsory to register as an MSME. But, you should still register as it provides several projects benefits such as tax benefits and protection against non-payment. 

 

Who is eligible for MSME Registration? 

Only manufacturers, producers, and service providers must use the MSME tag and register under it. Any manufacturer or service provider who meets the eligibility requirements may use the MSMEs single window registration system to register. The revised eligibility requirements effective from July 1, 2020, are applicable for the three types of Enterprises. This includes Micro Enterprises with Investment up to Rs 1 crore and turnover up to Rs 5 crore, for Small Enterprises with Investment up to Rs 10 crore and turnover up to Rs 50 crore, for Medium Enterprises with investment up to Rs 50 crore and turnover up to Rs 250 crore. Any form of business entity may obtain Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSME) registration or Udyog Aadhaar registration. This includes Partnership Firms, Private Limited Companies, Public Limited Companies, Limited Liability Partnerships, Hindu Undivided Families, Self-Help Groups Societies, Co-operative Societies, Trust Others. 

 

Is Registration Compulsory for MSMEs? 

Registration under the MSMED Act is not compulsory for MSMEs and Small Scale Industries (SSIs). But, it is always better to register, because a registered SSI or MSME gets a lot of benefits. The procedure for registering is completely online and is very simple. You require your entity’s name, Aadhaar number, bank account and PAN details. After you fill in your details, a reference number gets generated and you receive your certificate after verification of details. 

 

MSME Registration Certificate

Once you are registered and the process of verification is complete, you will obtain an MSME registration certificate. This certificate is proof that your entity or company is now registered as an MSME. This MSME/SSI registration certificate is valid for your entire lifetime. If you want to get your registration cancelled, you would need to write an application to the nearest Udyog Aadhaar Registration Centre and specify the business and the reasons behind cancelling the registration. 

 

Can an Individual Register for an MSME Registration? 

Anyone who wants to start a micro, small, or medium business may use the Udyam Registration portal to fill out a self-declaration form with no need to upload any records, papers, certificates, or evidence. During MSME registration, business owners must provide correct personal information such as name, Aadhar, industry name, PAN, mobile number, and bank account details. Furthermore, for MSME registration, business owners are not expected to pay any fees. A permanent identification number, known as the Udyam Registration Number, will be given to the entity when it registers. On completion of the registration process, an e-certificate, also known as the Udhyam Registration certificate, will be issued. 

Udyog Aadhaar Memorandum - Online Verification process helps individuals figure whether the MSME’s are registered. With the help of the 12-digit UAM number, verification is possible through the https://udyamregistration.gov.in/UA/UA_VerifyUAM.aspx link.

 

How do I check if a Company is MSME Registered? 

MSME database is available on the website of Udyam registration. You can search if an entity is MSME registered or not by typing the name and product/activity of the MSME. The search yields result by activity/products manufactured. You can then further filter the search to find out of a specific company is MSME registered or not. 

 

Difference between Udyog and MSME registration

Udyog Aadhar is a government registration mechanism that provides the company with a registration certificate and a unique number known as Udyog Aadhar number. This programme is aimed specifically at small and medium-sized businesses. Udyog Aadhar aims to provide companies with the most access to government programs possible. However, on the other hand, The MSMED Act promotes a variety of schemes, subsidies, and benefits to support MSMEs, which are the backbone of the Indian economy. The MSME registration process is required to reap the benefit from governmental schemes, state schemes, and public services, although it is not obligatory. Further, The Udyog Aadhaar Memorandum Scheme, which the central government introduced, allows entities with an Aadhaar number, which is mandatory for MSMEs, to take advantage of easily accessible loans, credit, and government subsidies.

87% People found  Consultation with Lawyer very useful and quick about MSME Registration. 

 

Why is MSME Registration Important? 

MSME Registration is important because: 

  • It identifies medium and small-scale industries and provides them with the assistance which they require to grow and develop. 

  • It provides tax benefits to MSMEs and SSI. 

  • It provides protection against non-payment of dues. 

  • Even individuals and sole proprietorships can obtain an MSME/SSI Registration and hence, it formalizes the business activities being carried at micro, medium and small scale. 

The inception of this sector distinguishes medium enterprises and attempts to combine the three levels of these businesses, namely micro, small, and medium. This structure establishes a legislative consultative process at the national level, with a balanced representation of all stakeholders, especially the three types of businesses, and a broad range of advisory functions. Also, With the help of a policy structure and efficient steps taken by the government, the development of MSMEs in the Indian economy has seen tremendous growth and will continue to flourish at this rate of progress.

The Startup India Scheme
Startup

The Startup India Scheme

What is the Start-up India Scheme?

The start-up culture in India is booming. The recent news of Cred and Meesho becoming unicorns has spread a sense of positivity among the early-stage founders. The government of India, too, wants to capitalize on this high sentiment. To boost the further growth of start-ups, India's government started the Startup India Initiative on January 16, 2016. The start-up India initiative has three objectives: 

  • Create a uniform stage for the entire start-up ecosystem to come together. 

  • Facilitate and encourage entrepreneurship

  • Promoting entrepreneurship not only in metro cities but also in smaller regions of the country. 

Through this article, we shall explore the various aspects of the Start-up India scheme.

 

Who can Register in Start-Up India?

Eligibility for registering under the Start-up India Scheme depends upon the nature of the entity.  A Private Limited Company (Pvt. Ltd. Co.), a Partnership Firm under Section 59 of the Partnership Act, 1932, or a Limited Liability Partnership (LLPs) under the Limited Liability Partnership Act, 2008 can register under the Start-Up India scheme if they fulfill the below listed criteria:-

  • Not more than ten years should have passed since the date of business registration.

  • The entity's annual turnover for any financial year since its registration should not be more than INR 100 crores. 

  • The ais and objectives of the entity should be innovation and development. It should promote employment generation and wealth creation. 

  • Enterprise is not formed by splitting up or reconstructing an already existing business. 

  • Start-ups devising innovative solutions in sectors such as social impact, waste management, water management, etc. 

 

What is Startup India Registration?

Start-up India Registration Scheme is a flagship initiative of the Indian government to build a robust ecosystem for nurturing innovation and Start-ups in the country. The start-up registration process on the Start-up India platform involves a simple registration. Registering a profile on the start-up India hub is a relatively simple process. We can start by clicking on the "Register" tab on the top right-hand corner on the home page of the start-up India scheme, which will be directed to the "mygov" platform for authentication where the user will be asked to fill in details such as the name, email address, etc. This will give the user an OTP or a one-time password for verification and a link to set a new password. The user can then sign in using the login credentials he just created. This will direct him to the Hub to select and create the profile of a stakeholder that best defines his role.

You will need the following documents to register on the Start-up India hub: 

  • Certificate of incorporation/registration. 

  • PAN

  • Company details

  • Details of directors/partners

  • Pitch deck

  • Revenue model

Which Registration is Best for a Start-Up?

The most favored business structures for a start-up are Private Limited organizations and Limited Liability Partnerships ( LLPs ). A Private Limited organization has more credibility. Investors prefer putting their money in private companies, and the government too favours the setting up of such corporate structures. Limited Liability Partnerships are the next most-favoured structure chosen by the start-up founders. An LLP is a distinct entity, and the partners' liability is limited. It has lesser compliances than a private company, and hence, those founders who do not want to burden themselves with legalities opt for an LLP structure.

What are the benefits of the Start-Up India Scheme?

The Startup India Scheme provides various advantages to the start-ups registered under it. In any case, to avail these advantages, a firm should be set up by the Department for Industrial Policy and Promotion ( DPIIT ) as a start-up. 

Start-ups are permitted to self-declare their compliance with specific labour laws and environmental laws. This benefit of self-declaration is available for five years since the date of inclusion on the scheme. Start-ups are permitted three-year tax exclusion, as well as the best-licensed innovation administrations and assets exclusively working to assist start-ups so that it protects their intellectual property.

 

Can a Foreign Company Register Under the Startup India Hub?

Any entity that has its office registered in India can enlist itself on the Startup Scheme.  However, the scheme does not facilitate the registration of foreign-incorporated companies. If a foreign company has a subsidiary in India, such a subsidiary can register under the Startup Scheme, given it fulfills all the relevant criteria. 

For how long is a company recognized as a start-up?

Any business entity that has completed ten years from the date of its registration and has exceeded the previous years' turnover of 100 crores shall stop being recognized as a start-up under the Startup India Scheme on completion of 10 years from the date of its registration.

How do I know my registration is complete?

Once the application is complete and the start-up gets recognized, the applicant will receive a system-generated certificate of recognition. The applicants will also be able to download this certificate from the Startup India portal

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Impact of COVID-19 On Project Financing
Company

Impact of COVID-19 On Project Financing

The impact of COVID-19 (coronavirus) cannot be miscalculated in project finance, as this virus is considered as a global pandemic and has resulted in the closedown of construction work and its related operations. The consequences can be seen as slow production and manufacturing of necessary equipment in projects are delayed due to the outbreak of COVID-19 which means the supply chain will be disrupted worldwide. Moreover, in project financing, Project Company is usually considered as a special purpose vehicle (SPV), and pursuant to present critical situation lenders are having no recourse to sponsors where the project is not performing as per the expected plan. But considering the different scenarios as the government now is hacking interest rates and making banking rules more convenient at this time of financial crunch.


Due to lower interest rates, demand for financing the new upcoming projects will increase along with debt financing and this effect will operate for the long term from the present. However, this article provides a snapshot of FORCE MAJEURE clause activation in project financing, how to get through the force majeure risk, and what all are the necessary consideration for the purpose of force majeure. Along with the force majeure aspect this article will also focus upon other immediate impacts on project financing due to COVID-19.

 


ACTIVATION OF FORCE-MAJEURE IN PROJECT FINANCING

Force majeure clause comes into play when one party is unable to perform his contractual obligation which he needs to perform and due to natural circumstances i.e. unforeseeable circumstance’s which includes acts of war and natural disaster, he was hindered or delayed in performing the same. Force majeure is governed by Section 32 and Section 56 of Indian Contract Act, 1872 and is also considered as exception to what amounts to breach of contract. This concept is explained in detail in one of the celebrated Supreme Court Judgement titled Energy Watch Dog vs. CERC. Usually this concept of force majeure is prevalent in project financing and construction cases. In an epidemic or pandemic scenario, like of COVID-19 this clause gets into play by contractor in construction project because he is the first one to encounter the consequences because of disrupted supply chain. When the force majeure clause is invoked due to the COVID-19 outbreak there is no surety that the contractor will succeed because it will depend on contractual interpretation whether this outbreak will be considered as “epidemic” or not.

 


After invoking force majeure number of key considerations arose which are as follows:

  1. Project Company has to ascertain that whether force majeure will succeed as per the interpretation of construction contract and this has to be done with the limited time frame.
  2. Assessing the evidences and circumstances which will prove that due to COVID-19, project company/contractor is unable to perform their obligation. Also, on the basis of a contractual agreement between the parties, it demands the contractor to prove that he is being prevented by the force majeure event to carry on his contractual obligation. Furthermore, the contractor also needs to produce the evidence to prove his onus pertaining to the contract

 

Now in order to analyze the force majeure in the contract the contractor or say the project company has to establish connectedness between the qualifying force majeure event and the impact to its performance of contractual obligations, and in most of the cases this will be based upon factual circumstances which will differ from case to case basis. Due to government measures that are related to business lockdown, mandatory quarantine measures, which will directly affect the working of the project and contractual obligations can be considered as evidence for the activation of force majeure clause. Concerned expert feedback would be required for the collection and preparation of evidence for notices of force majeure.

 

This also requires the affected to take steps in order to mitigate the force majeure events and it is considered as an obligation upon the affected party to do so. Also, it was required to draft or take the alternative options in consideration to perform the obligations pertaining to the contract and it would be advantageous to take remedying measures to address the impact due to unforeseeable events like COVID-19. However, in order to ensure that the claim is not time-barred, time is an essential ingredient for the notice requirement for the purpose of force majeure claim.

 


HOW TO TACKLE FORCE MAJEURE RISK?

The loopholes in the force majeure clause should be taken into consideration and such gaps should be addressed when the project documents were subject to bankability due diligence. Bankable project documents will typically contain similar force majeure provisions and the contractor's notice of force majeure will form part of the project company's notice in the project documents. Also, if there is any discrepancy or say loophole is identified, then the force majeure will be tested through the COVID-19 outbreak.


Further, others get through consideration include the timeline for submission for force majeure clause. In practice, the contractor and the project company may be engaged in negotiations or discussions on the impact of force majeure and will, therefore, need to consider the timelines that are running in parallel. Usually, Project documents with future cash flows contain time which provides a sufficient amount of time to project companies to provide its notice of force majeure under the upstream project documents. Another important contemplation is the different governing laws for project documents. Offshore construction contracts will be governed by English law, but on the other hand, power purchase agreements should be governed by the local law. Therefore, if the risks associated with different governing laws are not mitigated when the project documents were being developed, contractual interpretation of force majeure provisions can be difficult.


Moreover, the party claiming force majeure has to prove that he has taken all reasonable circumstances in order to avoid or mitigate the risk and its effect. Thus, this will depend upon case to case basis and in project company case contractor has to prove the same. In project financing consideration under financial document needs to be taken care of, project lenders are widely analyzing the COVID-19 outbreak as they begin receiving notices related to force majeure and due to which they cannot wash their hands off this outbreak. This outbreak requires taking steps in financial documents that are in consonance to the terms of the project document. Furthermore, after receiving the notice of force majeure the project lender has to consider carefully the impact on the project and positions under the financial document. Also, prior consent is also required before agreeing to any relief obtained through force majeure and certain time constraints need to be undertaken by the project company in this case.

 


EVENTS WITH ITS NEGATIVE IMPACT

After considering force majeure scenario there are other events too which will be triggered due to COVID-19 outbreak in project financing and major of these defaults might extend to necessary parties involved in the successful completion of the project that is construction contractor, operator, and main manufactures of necessary equipment’s. Default events are as follows:

 

  1. Emerging Economies: COVID-19 outbreak affected economy drastically which would be clearly seen through interruptions created in supply chains, fall in exchange rates, limited support, or say financial support of government for projects as impacted by COVID-19 outbreak. Whilst it also includes travel restrictions, the lockdown of major working sites and financial covenants involved in the projects are also affected. Thus, this pandemic affected economy but it insurances should be taken into consideration to take up protection form this drastic effect and all these measures should be taken into consideration by the project company, lenders, and all sponsors, who may be coming under pressure due to this outbreak.
  2. On-going Projects: one should expect, that this outbreak already affected on-going construction projects due to hampered supply chain and labour availability worldwide. In India, labourers are going back home because of this outbreak and it is expected that this impact will be amplified in the future. Further, as the government has taken initiatives in lowering interest rates and baking measures which will benefit the upcoming projects in the future but presently debt financing and tax equity financing is going through a negative impact. Lack of funds would be witnessed pertaining to the on-going projects which will attract defaulting lending provision in loan documentation.
  3. Material adverse effect clauses: ongoing projects which contain Material adverse effect clause, will get triggered because of circumstances that arose due to COVID-19. Further, this clause will be activated when specifically the situation or say circumstances will affect the project. Thus, there should be material adverse effect and circumstances from case to case basis has to be administered and considered. In my opinion, this clause will get in activation mode because each and every project is hampered due to this virus outbreak. Also, the borrower should inform the lender about these circumstances from time to time.
  4. Financial ratios: The effect of COVID-19 as of now cannot be said to be accurate because it is still in action and according to the Health Ministry and government inputs it may extend for some more time. Due to which debt financing or tax equity financing will hamper but the project financing sector will surely bounce back with a boom in itself from this recession as it was earlier seen in the 1987 recession. The present slashing interest rates and tax incentive proposal will allow the project finance sector to recover.

 

Considering the impact, Project Company has to take the following measures:

 

  1.  A project-related review should be done by the project companies so that it can analyze the impact which the project has to go through due to the COVID-19 outbreak. As seen in normal circumstances the risk associated with the project will be the supply of necessary equipment, labour availability risk, financial covenant risk, and other lending and funding scenario. Whilst with the effect of COVID-19 these risks will get one level up and due to the slowing of economy financial crunch will also arise in project financing.
  2. Major contracts involved in project financing like an employment contract, shareholder agreement, the loan agreement should be critically analyzed in respect of termination, force majeure, and law jurisdiction and dispute resolution mechanism. Also, repayment covenants, information covenants, events of defaults should be critically reviewed.
  3. A detailed review of Supply chains should be done so that an alternate option can be finalized in advance by the project company. This step should be in respect to mitigating the losses and reasonable steps that can foresee.
  4. Expected outcome after inserting force majeure and list of events in which it can be invoked and other ways as stated earlier about how to get out of the force majeure and compliances which are necessary as per Indian Contract Act, 1872.
  5. Consider developments or impacts of steps taken up by the government pertaining to the COVID-19 outbreak with respect to project financing along with tax implication involved. Also, the Project Company should amend all it’s an important document well in advance so that it can save time and cost for the same.

 

 

CONCLUSION


COVID-19 outbreak is spreading at an alarming rate due to which economy is diversely affected and the project finance sector is also facing uncertainties through the hampered supply chain, labour availabilities, financial crunch, and unforeseen circumstances. This outbreak has also affected debt financing and tax equity involved in project financing. Further, continuous monitoring of government policies are required for project financing. So, at last, after considering the crucial aspects of force majeure, the negative impact of several defaults due to the COVID-19 outbreak is one of the worst nightmares in today’s economic sense for project financing.

 

Authored By: Vaibhav Chauhan

JEMTEC School of Law

 

Disclaimer: The content of this article is solely the author’s personal analysis and interpretation. In case you wish to act upon on the basis of the content of this article, please seek legal advice. The author shall not be responsible for any loss you may incur as a result of your actions relying upon this content. The content herein is the copyrighted material of the author and is informational and shall not be used for commercial purposes other than for personal reading.

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