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Saroj Vs. the Registrar of Companies, Delhi and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCompany
CourtDelhi High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCriminal Revision Appeal No. 510 of 1967
Judge
Reported in7(1971)DLT213
ActsCompanies Act, 1956 - Sections 54
AppellantSaroj
RespondentThe Registrar of Companies, Delhi and anr.
Advocates: R.L. Roshan and; D.C. Mathur, Advs
Cases ReferredState of Bombay v. Bandhan Ram Bhandani and
Excerpt:
the case debated on whether the authentification by the managing director would raise a presumption for proof of correctness - it was ruled that the annual return filed under section 54 read with section 44 of the companies act, 1956, by the managing director, would not raise a presumption regarding the correctness of the facts, stated in the statement - - and that they tad failed to file these documents with the registrar one of these accused, namely, o. he also held that the accused had failed to file the annual returns and the balance sheet, etc ,of the company within the time allowed in respect of each of the years 1961, 1962, and 1964. he, thereforee, convicted all the accused under sections 159/162 as well as under section 220/162 of the companies act and sentenced each one of the.....m r.a. ansari, j. (1) these 8 revision petitions can be conveniently disposed of by a common judgment because the points that arise for determination and the facts relevant thereto are common in all the petitions.(2) the registrar of companies filed 8 complaints before the sub- divisional magistrate, delhi, against a private company called m/s. chinky private limited and five other persons who are alleged to be its director(3) in their examination under section 342, cr. p.c., the three accused who had already pleaded guilty, admitted that they were directors of the company, that they had received notices from the registrar requiring them to file the annual returns and the balance-sheets, etc. and that they tad failed to file these documents with the registrar one of these accused, namely,.....
Judgment:

M R.A. Ansari, J.

(1) These 8 Revision Petitions can be conveniently disposed of by a common judgment because the points that arise for determination and the facts relevant thereto are common in all the petitions.

(2) The Registrar of Companies filed 8 complaints before the Sub- Divisional Magistrate, Delhi, against a private company called M/s. Chinky Private Limited and five other persons who are alleged to be its director

(3) In their examination under section 342, Cr. P.C., the three accused who had already pleaded guilty, admitted that they were directors of the company, that they had received notices from the Registrar requiring them to file the annual returns and the balance-sheets, etc. and that they tad failed to file these documents with the Registrar One of these accused, namely, O.P. Bhola, in addition stated that due to disputes inter-se beween the directors of the company, no annual general meeting of the company was ever held since its registration in September, 1960, and that the company premises were sealed in March. 1962, under the orders of Shri A.D. Sapra, M.I.C., Delhi under section 145, Cr- P.C , and that there after possession of the company premises was not delivered to the director? of the company but was delivered to the owners of the premises in accordance with the order of Sub-Judge, Delhi, to whom the matter was referred by the Magistrate. He pleaded that as the company did not function, the requisite returns, balance-sheets, etc. could not be filed.

(4) The other two accused, namely, Shri H.B. Lal and Kumari Saroj denied that they were directors of the company and stated that they were never elected as directors of the company nor had they given their consent for being directors of the company. Accused, H.B. Lal, further stated that 0. P. J Bhola might have given his name as a director of the company as he wanted to oust the other two directors, namely, Chuni Lal and Sita Ram. Accused, Kumari Saroj, stated that the mention of her name in torm 32 was unauthorised, illegal and without her consent.

(5) Accused H.B. Lal examined one defense witness, Shri Sudesh Kumar Sabharwal, an Advocate, who stated that he issued a notice to the Registrar of Companies on behalf of Shri HB. Lal. The office-copy of the said notice was marked as Ex. D. 1. The other accused did not examine any defense wiinesses.

(6) On a coasideration of this evidence, the learned Magistrate held that not only were the three accused, Shri Sita Ram, Shri Chuni Lal and Shri O.P.Bhola, directors of the company, but also that the two accused, Shri H.B. Lal and Kumari Saroj were also directors of the company at the relevant time. He also held that the accused had failed to file the annual returns and the balance sheet, etc , of the company within the time allowed in respect of each of the years 1961, 1962, , and 1964. He, thereforee, convicted all the accused under sections 159/162 as well as under section 220/162 of the Companies Act and sentenced each one of the accused to pay a fine of Rs. 100 under each count and in default to undergo simple imprisonment for two months. He lurcher directed that the accused should file the annual raturns and balance-sheets, etc. within a period of two months.

(7) All the accused filed appeals before the Sessions Judge, Delhi, against their conviction and the sentence passed against them. The learned Sessions Judge, while confirming the conviction of the accused, however, reduced the sentence to a fine of Rs. 50 in each case. Only one of the accused, namely, Kumari Saroj has preferred the present Criminal Revision Petitions against the said judgment of the learned Sessions Judge.

(8) The learned counsel for the petitioner has challenged the conviction of the petitioner or every conceiveable ground. The first contention is that the petitioner having denied that she was a director of the company at any time. the burden is cast on the prosecution to prove that the petitioner was a director of the company on the dates on which the annual returns and the balance-sheets, etc, of the company had to be filed. The prosecution seeks to prove this fact by Ex P-1. As already stated. Ex P-1 is the certified extract of the return in form 32 filed by the company. According to Public Witness 1, the return in form 32 was filed in the first instance on 5th November, 1960 and it was returned on 10th November, 1960 for corrections and it was resubmitted on 3lst October, 1961. It is not quite clear from his evidence whether the form that was submitted on 31st October, 196l was the original form which had been filed, on 5th November, 1960 and returned on 10th November, 1960. At one stage, it appears from his evidence that the return filed on 3lst October, 1961 was the same which was filed on 5th November, 1960, but at another stage Public Witness 1 has categorically stated that the return filed on 31 st October, 1961 was not the same return which was filed on 5th November, 1960. The word 'not' is not typed in the same line as the rest of the sentence, but is typed above this line in between the words 'is' and 'the'. But I am not prepared to hold that the word 'not' was typed later on by way of interpolation. thereforee, the net result of Public Witness l's evidence is that the original of Ex, P-1 which was filed on 31st October, 1961 was not the same return which was filed on 5th November, 1960. The date on which this return was filed will be a relevant factor. Exhibit P.l purports to be a return in form 32 prescribed under section 303 of the Companies Act. It mentions the names of all the 5 accused as its directors, but it also states that three of them, namely, Shri Sita Ram, Shri Chuni Lal and Shri O.P. Bhola were appointed as directors on the date of incorporation of the company, and that the other accused, namely, Shri H B. Lal and Kumari Saroj were appointed directors on 22nd September, 1960. This return is signed by Shri 0. P. Bhola, the Managing Director of the company. The question is what is the evidentiary value of Ex. P-1 for proving that the petitioner was a director of the company on the relevant dates.

(9) Under section 610(3) of the Companies Act, 'A copy of or extract from any document kept and registered at any of the offices for the registration of companies under this Act, certified to be a true copy under the hand of the Registrar................ shall, in all legal proceedings, be admissible, in evidence as of equal validity with the original document.' thereforee, Ex.P-1 a certified extract of the return filed by the company, which is a document kept and registered at the office of the Registrar of Companies, is admissible in evidence and it must also be considered as of equal validity with the original return filed by the company. As a matter of fact, the original return of which Ex. P-1 is an extract was itself produced before the trial Court and it was returned to the Registrar after comparison by the Court with Ex P-1. But, the question still remains what is the evidentiary value of the original return itself for the purpose of proving that the petitioner was a director of the company on the relevant dates. The fact that this corporation cannot be drawn in respect of other categories of documents.

(10) The learned counsel for the State however, seeks to invoke certain provisions of the Indian Evidence Act in order to raise a presumption of genuineness or correctness in favor of the return in form 32 filed by the company. Reference has been made to sections 79 and 81 of the Indian Evidence Act. Section 79 refers only to certified copies and the presumption that has to be drawn under this section is only that the certified copy is a genuine copy of the original document. This section cannot be invoked for the purpose of drawing a presumption in favor of the genuineness of the original document. In this case section 79 would enable the Court to .draw a presumption that Ex. P-1 is a genuine extract of the return filed by the company on 31st October, 1961. It does not enable the Court to draw a presumption that the original return itself was genuine. Under section 81 of the Indian Evidence Act, the Court has to presume the genuineness, inter alia, 'of every document purporting to be a document directed by any law to be kept by any person, if such a document is kept substantially in the form required by law and is produced from proper custody.' Even assuming for a moment that the return filed by the company on 31st October 1961 comes within the category of a doucment mentioned insection 81, the presumption of genuineness, if drawn in its favor, would only mean that it was, in fact, a return filed by the company, duly authenticated, as required under section 54 of the Companies Act. Section 81 does not enable the Court to draw a further presumption that what all is stated in the return is true For instance, under section 81 the Court shall presume the genuineness of a newspaper or a journal. Does it mean that everything that is stated in the newspaper or journal has to be presumed to be true? The answer is obviously in the negative. Again, under section 80, the Court shall presume the genuineness of a document purporting to be a record or memorandum of the evidence given by a witness in a judicial proceeding or to be a statement or confession by any prisioner of accused person, taken in accordance with law. This cannot, however, mean that the Court has to presume that what all is stated in the evidence of the witness or in the statement or confession of a prisoner or accused person is true. thereforee under section 81, the Court can draw a presumption that the original of Ex. P-1 is, in fact, what it purports to be, namely, a return filed by the company in form 32 and nothing more. Section 81 does not enable the Court to draw a presumption that what all is stated in this form represents true facts. So far as the question at issue are concerned, section 81 enables the Court to draw a presumption that the company, in fact, sent a return in which it was stated that the petitioner was appointed a director of the company on 22nd September, 1960. It does not, however, enable the Court to draw a further presumption that as a matter of fact the petitioner was appointed a director of the company on the said date.

(11) The learned counsel for the petitioner, however, contends that section 81 of the Indian Evidence Act will not at all apply to the return filed by the company, as it does not fall within the category of the document referred to in section 81. In other words, his contention is that the return filed by the company on 31st October, 1961 is not a return under section 303 of the Companies Act to the extent to which it refers to the petitioner as a director of the company. This contention of the learned counsel has two limbs, namely, (1) that a return in form 32 relates only to the first directors of the company and does not relate to and directors appointed subsequently; and (2 ) that the return filed by the company on 31st October, 1961 is not a valid return as it was not filed within the time specified in section 303 of the Companies Act.

(12) In support of the first limb of his contention, he argued that the return filed by the company in Form 32 so far as it related to the petitioner, was not a return required to be filed under section 303 of the Companies Act. Under section 303(1)

'EVERYcompany shall keep at its registered office a register of its directors, managing .director, managing agent, secretaries and treasurers, manager and secretary, containing with respect to each of them the following particulars, that is to say etc'.

The particulars required undei sub-section (2) of this section are :-

'THEcompany shall, within the periods respectively mentioned in this sub-section, send to the Registrar a return in duplicate in the prescribed form containing the particulars specified in the said register and a notification in duplicate in the prescribed form of any change among its directors, managing directors, managing agents, secretaries and treasurers, managers or secretaries specifying the date of the change.'

Therefore, under section 303 the company is required to send a return and a notification. The return as well as the notification have to be sent in the prescribed forms. The form prescribed for sending a return is form 32 and the form prescribed for sending the notificition is form 33, Although it is not stated in sub-section (2) of section 303 that the return in form No 32 should contain the names only of the first directors, form 32 itself indicates that the directors whose names have to be stated in form 32 are the first directors. Further, the period within which the return in form 32 has to be sent is a period of 30 days from the appointment of the first directors of the company. If a director is appointed after a period of 30 days from the date of the appointment of the first directors his name could not be mentioned in the return in form 32 because this return has to be filed within 30 days of the date of appointment of the first directors. The term 'first director' is not defined in the Companies Act, but this term obviously means and is also understood in commercial circles to mean the directors who are appointed on the date of the incorporation of the company. Under section 254 of the Companies Act, the subscribers of the memorandum of association of the company who are individuals shall be deemed to be the directors of the company until the directors are duly appointed in accordance with section 255 It is, of course, subject to any regulations in the articles of the company. The directors referred to in section 254 are, thereforee, the first directors of the company whose names have to be mentioned in the retarn under form 32 . thereforee, the return under form 32 which is required to be filed under section 303 of the Companies Act has to state only the names of the first directors It has also to state the names and particulars of the managing director, managing agent, etc. referred to in sub-section (1) of section 303. But so far as the directors are concerned only the names of the first directors have to be stated in the return in form 2. Any particulars other than those required to be given in return in form 32 will not form part of the return in form 32 and to that extent the return would not be one that is required to be filed under section 303. Even according to Ex. P-1, the petitioner was not appointed as a director of the company on the date of its incorporation. but was appointed subsequently, i.e. on 22nd September, 1980, The petitioner, thereforee, is not a first director of the company and her name and particulars are not required to be given in the return in form 32. To the extent that Ex. P 1 mentions the name and particulars of the petitioner as a director of the company. Ex P-1 is not a return filed under section 303. The names and particulars of the directors who are appointed subsequent to the first directors are required to be given by a notification in the prescribed form and the prescribed form for this purpose is form 33. It would appear from the evidence of Public Witness 1 that as a matter of fact a notification in form 33 was also sent by the company. P.W.1 admitted in his evidence that a letter, dated 24th March, 1962, which is marked as Ex D-2, was issued from the office of the registrar to the company. In this letter reference is made to form 33 filed by the company showing the appointment of Shri H. B. Lal and Kumari Saroj as directors of the company with effect from 22nd September, 1960 and the company was required to sent to the Registrar the relevant resolution of the shareholders and also to inform him whether Shri Chuni Lal and Shri Sita Ram were present in the meeting when Shri H B Lal and Kumari Saroj were elected as directors This evidence' would also prove that the names and particulars of the directors who are elected or appointed as such subsequent to the appointment of the first directors are not required to be furnished in the return in form 32 but are required to be furnished in a return form 33. In view of the evidence of P. W. 1, it cannot be said that Ex. P-1 was a composite return in forms 32 and 33 Two separate returns appear to have been filed by the company, one in form 32 and the other in form 33, and although the information required to be furnished in form 33 was also furnished in form 32, such information was outside the scope of the return in form 32. thereforee, to the extent that Ex. P-1 refers to the petitioner as a director of the company. Ex. P-1 is not a document which was directed by any law to be kept by any person within the meaning of section 81 of the Indian Evidence Act and no presumption as to its genuineness can be drawn under section 81 of the said Act.

(13) The second limb of the contention of the learned counsel for the petitioner is based upon the latter portion of sub-section (2) of sec- corporation 303 which is in the following terms :-

'THEperiod within which the said return is to be sent shall be a period of thirty days from the appointment of the first directors of the company'.

Therefore, the original of Ex. P-1 ought to have been sent to the Registrar within aperiod of thirty days from 149.1.60 In the present case, the original return of which Ex P-1 is the extract was sent to the Registrar on 31.10 1961 and according to Ex.P-1 this was not the original return that was filed on 5,11.1960. thereforee, the return that was filed on 31 October 196' of which Ex. P-1 is the extract, was not filed within the period prescribed under section 303(2). The Registrar has no power to condone the delay in filing this return. It is only the Central Government which has the power under section 637B of the Act to condone such delay. In this case, there is no evidence that the Central Government has condoned the delay in filing the return in form 82. Unless and until the delay in filing the return is condoned by the Central Government, the retuin filed out of time will not be a valid return which is required to be filed under section 303 of the Act. For this reason also, the original of Ex.P-1 will not be a document which will come within the purview of section 81 of the Evidence Act and no presumption as to its genuineness .can be drawn.

(14) There is yet another aspect from which the question whether the petitioner has been proved to be a director of the company at the relevant time has to be considered and that is whether the alleged appointment of the petitioner as a director of the company is a valid appointment. Admittedly, the petitioner was not appointed as a first director of the company on the date of its incorporation. According to Ex.P-1, she was appointed as a director on 22 September 1960. Ex-P-1 itself does not state whether the petitioner was appointed as director at a general meeting of the share holders of the company or at a meeting of the board of direcors of the company. There is no other evidence on record to prove how the petitioner was appointed as a director- Under section 255, in the case of a private company which is not a subsidiary of a public company, directors can be appointed only by the company in general meeting This is, of course subject to any regulations in the articles of the company to the contrary, the articles of toe company have not been filed in this case and, thereforee, the is no evidence of the existence of regulations in the articles of the company authorising the appointment of the directors otherwise than by the company in general meeting thereforee, under section 255(2), the petitioner could be validly appointed as director only by the company in? general meeting There is no evidence that the petitioner was appointed as a director by the company in a general meeting. On the other hand, according to the statement of one of the co-accused in the case, namely, Shri O P. Bhola, no general meeting of the shareholders of the company Was held at any time after the incorporation of the company. The petitioner not having been appointed a director by a general meeting of the shareholders of the company. is not validly appointed as a director. As such, she has no legal obligation to file the annual return and the balace-sheets, etc of the company under sections 159 and 220 of the Companies A:t. reference is made by the learned counsel for the State to section 260 of the Companies Act in support of his contention that the petioner could have been appointed as director by the board of directors. For one thing section 260 applies only to appointments of additional directors, and the 2nd proviso to this section makes a distinction between the directors and additional directors. It is not the prosecution case the the petitioner was an additional director. Secondly, section 260 contemplates the appointment of additional directors by the board of directors only when a power is conferred on the board to directors by the articles of the company to appoint additional directors. As already stated, there is no evidence in this case that any such power is conferred on the board of directors by the articles of association.

(15) The learned counsel for the State seeks to invoke illustration (f) to section 114 of the Evidence Act to prove that the petitioner was validly appointed as a director of the company by the board of directors because such a power was conferred on the board of directors by the articles of the company. In order to draw such a presumption the Court has firstly to presume that the petitioner was, in fact appointed by the board of directors, and secondly, that the articles of association con erred such power on the board of directors. In my view, section He does not enable the Court to draw one presumption based upon another presumption without any evidence whatsoever.

(16) As a result-of this discussion, it must be held firstly that Ex. P-1 is not such a document in respect of which the presumption of genuineness can be drawn, and secondly that Ex P-1 is not sufficient to prove that the petitioner was, in fact, appointed as a director of the company, and thirdly that even if she was so appointed, her appointment was not a valid appointment conferring any power or casting any obligation on her.

(17) The learned counsel for the State contends that the Registrar or any member of the staff cannot be expected to have personal knowledge of the appointment of the directors of the company, and that he has necessarily to depend upon the returns filed by the company under section 303 and that, thereforee, the only evidence by which the Registrar can prove that a. particular person was appointed as a director of the company was the return filed under section 303 of the Companies Act. I am not called upon to indicate the nature of the evidence by which the Registrar can prove that a particular person was a director of the company. But I can certainly indicate that if Ex. P-1 did not suffer from any of the infirmities referred to above, it might have been sufficient to prove that the petitioner was a director of the company. In this case, the Registrar could have proved it also by other evidence which should have been available to him. The Registrar could have filed form 33 which, according to Ex. 3-2, had been sent by the company to the Registrar. He could have also filed the articles of association of the company to prove that the petitioner .could have been appointed as a director otherwise than by the general meeting of the shareholders. The Registrar could also have filed the minutes-hook and other registers of the company which were admittedly in his possession at the relevant time to prove that the petitioner was appointed as a director at a particular meeting or .that she actually participated in the affairs of the company. But the Registrar chose to rely upon only one piece of evidence, namely. Ex. P-1, to prove bi3ca9e. As I have held this piece of evidence is not sufficient to prove that the petitioner was a director of the company at the relevant time.

(18) The above-finding would be sufficient to dispose of these revision petitions. But I shall make a brief reference to same of the other contentions raised by the learned counsel for the petitioner.

(19) It has been contended on behalf of the petitioner that even if it has been proved that the petitioner was a director of the company at the relevant time, she could not have committed an offence either under section 159/162 or under section 220/162 as she was not an officer in default within the meaning of section 5 of the Companies Act, for two reasons, namely-

(1)that the petitioner was not proved to have been in control of the affairs of the company nor was it proved that she was aware of the default committed by the other directors ; and (2) that the annual returns and the balance-sheets,etc. had not been placed before a general meeting of the shareholders of the company by reason of the fact that, no such genual meeting was at all held at any time.

Both these reasons are not tenable. Even if the petitioner was not the Managing Director of the company or even one of its first directors, the duty was cast on her by virtue of her being a director of the company to comply with all the requirements under the Companies Act. Nothing prevented her from finding out whether the annual returns and the balance-sheet, etc. had been sent by the company to the registrar and when she found that these documents had not been sent she ought to have taken steps to see that these documents are sent to the Registrar. If she had done what all she could possibly do as a director of the company to see that these documents are sent and if in spite of her efforts, the default .had been committed by the other directors, she could then plead that she did not knowingly commit the default. Under what circumstances is an officer guilty of default within the meaning of section of the Companies Act, has been explained by the Madras High Court in Re : Arcot Citizen Bank Ltd Arcot, in the following terms :-

'IT would be enough if the evidence makes out blameful inadvertence on the part of the offiender ; that is, first, the accused must be shown under this third group to have had guilty knowledge that the forbidden event is happening. Secondly, that the accused, with such knowledge and being in a position to prevent the. event happening does nothing about it.'

The above observation was quoted with approval by the Calcutta High Court in Madan Gopal Dev and another v. State another, and it was further held as follows .-

'SOlong as the company is not wound up nothing stood in the way of the company and its directors holding a meeting or in preparing bank balance and profit and loss account and in submitting the annual returns. The fact that the company did not function is in my view no excuse though it might extenuate the offence to some extent.

So far as the plea that the annual returns and the balance-sheets, etc. could not be. sent to the Registrar because no general meetings of the shareholders were a all held is concerned, the Supreme Court has rejected such a plea in State of Bombay v. Bandhan Ram Bhandani and others, and it was held as follows:-

'THATthe fact that no general meeting of the company was held was, in the circumstances, no defense to the charge of not complying with the requirements of S .32. The person charged with offence could not rely on his own default as an answer to the charge.'

Therefore, the contention that the petitioner was not an officer in default in view of section 5 of the Companies Act has no merit.

(20) Another contention that has been advanced on behalf of the petitioner is that the annual returns and the balance-sheets, etc, were not liable to be filed on the dates given in the complaints filed by the Registrar as, according to section 166 of the Companies Act; these returns and balance-sheets could be filed at a later date. It is no doubt true that according to the provisions of section 166, the company had some more time to, file the annual returns and balance sheets, etc. then indicated in the complaints. But the fact remains that the company did not file these returns and the balance sheets, etc. even within the time permitted under . section 166. 'The company and its directors would still be liable for default in view of the fact that they had not filed the returns or the documents within the time permitted under section 166.

(21) Certain irregularities alleged to have been committed in the proceedings before the trial Court have been pointed out and it was contended that the trial of the petitioner is vitiated on account of these irregularities. For instance, it has been pointed out that the petitioner was not personally examined under section 342, Cr. P.C, but was examined through her counsel' It is no doubt true that the accused has to be examined in person under section 342 and not through her pleader, but such an irregularity does not by itself vitiate the trial unless prejudice was caused to the accused by such an irregularity. It has also been pointed out that Public Witness 1 has not been separately examined in each of the 8 cases filed against the accused, and that he was examined only in one case and the copy of his deposition in that case was incorporated in the other cases. No doubt, the trial Court should have been well advised to have examined Public Witness 1 separately in each case, but this again is not such an irregularity which would vitiate his trial in the absence of any prejudice caused to the accused.

(22) In view of my finding that the prosecution has Hot proved that the petitioner was a director of the company at the relevant time, her conviction under sections 159/162 and 220/162 cannot be sustained. Her conviction and the sentences passed against her in all the cases are set aside and the revision petitions are allowed. Fine, if any, already realised shall be refunded to her.


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