Ministry of Finance grants Rs. 12351 crore for Rural Local Bodies

The Department of Expenditure under the Ministry of Finance has recently released Rs, 12,351.5 crores to 18 States for providing grants to the Rural Local Bodies (RLBs). This amount is the 2nd installment of basic grants released in the financial year 2020-21.

The amount is released to 18 States who have provided the Utilisation Certificate for the first installment on the recommendation of the Ministry of Panchayati Raj. The 15th Finance Commission has recommended two types of grants to the RLBs – basic and tied grants.  Basic grants are untied and can be used by the local bodies for location-specific felt needs except for salary or other establishment expenditure.  The tied grants can be used for the basic services of

 (a) Sanitation and maintenance of Open Defecation Free (ODF) status and

 (b) Supply of drinking water, rain water harvesting and water recycling.

The grants are meant to ensure additional funds to RLBs over and above the funds allocated by the Centre and the State for sanitation and drinking water under the Centrally Sponsored Schemes like Swachh Bharat and Jal Jeevan Mission. 

The States are required to transfer the grants to the RLBs within 10 working days of receipt from the Union Government.  Any delay beyond 10 working days requires the State Governments to release the grants with interest.  Earlier, the first installment of basic grants to RLBs and arrears of the 14th Finance Commission amounting to Rs.18,199 crore were released to all the States in June 2020.  Subsequently, the 1st installment of tied grants amounting to Rs.15,187.50 crore was also released to all the States.   Thus, a total amount of Rs.45,738 crore of both basic and tied grants has been released so far by the Department of Expenditure to the States for RLBs.  The state-wise amount of the grants released so far is enclosed.

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New NCLT bench inaugurated by Finance Minister in Chennai

On 25th January 2021, the Finance Minister Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman inaugurated the Chennai Bench of National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) through video conferencing. The Chennai Bench of NCLAT shall have jurisdiction to hear the Appeals arising out of the orders passed by the benches of NCLT having jurisdiction of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Lakshwadeep, and Puducherry.

The inaugural ceremony was held in presence of Shri. Justice Bansi Lal Bhat, Acting Chairperson, NCLAT, Shri Rajesh Verma, Secretary, Ministry of Corporate Affairs, other members of NCLAT and the National Company Law Tribunals, officers of Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Ministry of Finance as well as members of the Bar. Two Members of NCLAT, New Delhi, Hon’ble Shri. Balvinder Singh, Member (Technical) and Hon’ble. Shri. Justice Venugopal M. has taken charge of the newly constituted Chennai Bench of the NCLAT.

Hon’ble Shri. Justice Bansi Lal Bhat welcomed Finance Minister Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman and expressed his gratitude for inaugurating the Chennai Bench of the NCLAT. He also expressed his gratitude to Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi who has very aptly underscored the role of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 in providing freedom of exit to insolvent entities. He stated that the Central Government has demonstrated a proactive approach by bringing successive amendments to the Code and that the Government is taking all steps to strengthen the NCLT in terms of the number of Benches and number of courts at heavily loaded benches.

Five new Benches of NCLT have been announced at Jaipur, Cuttack, Kochi, Indore, and Amaravati, bringing the total number of Benches to 16 (including the Principal Bench). The NCLAT now functions at a strength of 5 courts, 4 at the Principal Bench in New Delhi and the 5th at NCLAT, Chennai.

While congratulating the citizens of the country, she emphasized the significance of constituting another Bench of the NCLAT at Chennai and stated that the Bench of the NCLAT at New Delhi shall henceforth be known as the Principal Bench of the NCLAT which shall hear appeals other than those in the jurisdiction of Chennai Bench of the NCLAT.

The Finance Minister stated that the Union Government’s decision to set up a bench of the NCLAT at Chennai will give a major relief to the companies and litigants in the Southern States of India, who faced great difficulty in traveling to Delhi for work pertaining to filing and arguing of appeals in the NCLAT. This will reduce the pendency of cases, shorten the period of the process, and shall result in speedier disposal of the cases. Smt. Sitahraman further stated that the advent of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), 2016 has benefited the economy in several ways.  

The Finance Minister stated that along with the Hon’ble Supreme Court as the apex forum, the NCLAT and the NCLTs have done a commendable job in ironing out the issues and difficulties faced in implementing the new law. On the one hand, the judiciary and quasi-judicial Tribunals have been working tirelessly, at the same time; she stated that it was heartening to note that these institutions have kept themselves technologically up to date. While the COVID-19 Pandemic brought physical hearings to a halt, the NCLTs and the NCLAT continued to function on video mode. At the NCLAT even during the period of lockdown, nearly 69% of cases were adjudicated during this time between March 2020 and December 2020; 985 cases were filed and 681 cases were heard and disposed of.

The Finance Minister observed that a large part of the Insolvency Law’s evolution can be accredited to the development of jurisprudence which happens under the very able guidance of our judicial and quasi-judicial institutions. Before the NCLAT, out of approximately 5,600 cases filed as of December 2020, approximately 3,800 cases pertaining to IBC matters have been handled. Also, out of the total matters filed before the NCLAT, 4200 matters have been disposed of, indicating a disposal rate of 75%. She stated that the Government is committed to ensuring continued efforts to ensure speedy and cost-effective delivery of justice and ensure ease of doing business in India.

Hon’ble Shri Justice Venugopal M. extended his vote of thanks to Finance Minister Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman, Hon’ble Shri. Justice Bansi Lal Bhat, Acting Chairperson, NCLAT, Shri. Rajesh Verma, Secretary, MCA. He thanked the Finance Minister for being instrumental in the establishment of the Chennai Bench of the NCLAT. He conveyed his appreciation for the former chairperson of NCLAT, Hon’ble Shri. Justice S. J. Mukhopadhaya. Hon’ble Shri. Justice Bansi Lal Bhat, Acting Chairperson, NCLAT, and other Members of the NCLAT for as well as learned advocates for their support.

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RBI introduced the grievance redress mechanism in banks

RBI had announced in the ‘Statement on Developmental and Regulatory Policies’ issued as part of the Monetary Policy statement that with a view to strengthen and improve the efficacy of the grievance redress mechanism of banks, a comprehensive framework will be put in place during January 2021.

Accordingly, a framework comprising of

  1. enhanced disclosures on complaints to be made by the banks;
  2. recovery of the cost of redress of maintainable complaints from the banks against whom the number of complaints received in the Offices of Banking Ombudsman (OBOs) is in excess of their peer group averages; and
  3. An intensive review by RBI of the grievance redress mechanism of banks having persisting issues in their redress mechanism has been issued today.

The redress of complaints will continue to be cost-free for the customers of banks and members of public.

The framework intends to, inter-alia, provide greater insight into the volume and nature of complaints received by the banks as also the quality and turnaround time of redressal, promote satisfactory customer outcomes and improved customer confidence, and identify remedial steps to be taken by the banks having persisting issues in grievance redress mechanism.

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