7 February 2019: Despite incessant demand from a section in the finance ministry, corporates, as well as banks for some leniency in the February 12, 2018 circular that radically changed the bad loan recognitions norms, the Reserve Bank governor Shaktikanta Das Thursday ruled out any changes in the same.
In their recent meetings with the governor, bankers and industry players had requested some easing in the one-day default norm announced in the February 12 circular, which has massively shot up the quantum of dud loans in the system to 11.5 percent of the system. In fact, it can be recalled that, one of the dozen demands in the three letters that the finance ministry shot off to RBI in October was also a changes in the new NPA recognition norms. And this along with other demands, led to a serious public spar between the government and RBI and finally resulted in the sudden resignation of the then governor Urjit Patel on December 11, 2018.
“At the moment, there is no proposal to modify the February 12 circular,” Das told reporters at the customary post-policy conference. The February 12 circular aims at quick reporting of defaults, resolution plan for defaulting companies and a time-bound referral of defaulting companies to the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) and makes it mandatory to map an account as NPA even on a single-day default.
Under the framework, bankers will have to implement a resolution plan to revive a defaulting company within 180 days. If the plan is not implemented within the stipulated time, the account will have to be referred to NCLT for resolution as per the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code.
Stressed power sector companies had challenged the February 12 circular in the Allahabad High Court. The court had asked RBI to look at an option to exclude them from the one-day default or offer some special dispensation. These companies alone owe more than Rs 3 lakh crore to the system. But most of the stress is due to external issues like lack of fuel supply linkage after the apex court had cancelled hundreds of coal mines. The RBI not only ruled out any changes but had also challenged the High Court decision in the Supreme Court where the matter is pending now.
When asked whether Project Saskhat, which is aimed at resolving stressed assets before going to the IBC, is delaying implantation of the February 12 cases, deputy governor MK Jain answered in the negative.”…Not at all. The February 12 circular talks of a 180-day timeline whereas Project Sashkat only looks at how to ensure that the process during the 180-day timeline is efficient,” Jain said.