Crisis, bankruptcy, liquidation of companies are kind of stories that give fodder to newspapers. However, what if it happens to the newspaper itself? This is precisely what Deccan Chronicle Holdings Ltd has been facing for almost a decade now.
The Hyderabad-based publisher of the English-language daily, Deccan Chronicle, Financial Chronicle, and The Asian Age, and Telugu daily Andhra Bhoomi had already battled the worst crisis faced by an Indian media company in recent years. Along with this, the company is burdened with debt; its owners are facing fraud and forgery charges, it’s stock had drastically fallen during the last few years.
The Mumbai-listed company of 1930, was acquired by the Reddy family, in 1976 after the founders Rajagopal Mudaliar declared bankrupt. In recent years, DCHL had expanded beyond its home state of Andhra Pradesh and spread across India.
It all started when IFCI made a severe allegation in its petition that Deccan Chronicle Holdings had debt “running into thousands of crores of rupees,” putting the investors in shock. It also accused the publisher of defaulting on other liabilities and said it expected winding up petitions would be filed by other creditors.
The situation only worsed after this, as when Karvy Stock Broking Ltd (KSBL), on July 31, 2012, filed a petition against the Deccan Chronicle Holdings, stating that the promoters forged documents to misrepresent the total number of shares they held to raise loans. However, DCHL owners denied the same. The company was facing financial crises, and the situation got worse as the year passed.
In February 2015, T Venkatram Reddy, chairman of Deccan Chronicle Holdings Ltd (DCHL), and his brother and company vice chairman and MD Vinayak Ravi Reddy, were arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation. It was alleged that they are involved in the Rs 357.77 crore fraud with Canara Bank. Later CBI confirmed that there were several other similar cases filed against them.
It was found that the total outstanding amount due to all the banks put together had crossed more than Rs 8,000 crore.
The total bank fraud which was charge-sheeted by CBI, involves ₹357.77 crore of Canara Bank, ₹225.77 crore of Andhra Bank, ₹72.61 crore of Indian Overseas Bank, ₹72.03 crore of Central Bank of India, ₹116.35 crore of Corporation Bank and ₹317.4 crore of IDBI Bank totalling to ₹1161.93 Crore.
Last August Enforcement Directorate (ED) had raided residences and offices of the promoters and had previously attached 19 immovable and movable assets worth ₹263 crores in 2017. ED revealed that there are various other fraud cases related to them, and the investigation is in process.
The appointment of Aditya Sinha as Editor-in-Chief of the Deccan Chronicle and Asian Age replacing AT Jayanthi earlier this year (August) brought another ray of hope, but all in vain.
Amidst the cases and internal changes, earlier this month, DCHL closed it’s Kochi edition, which was a small operation bureau when compared to others. Now it is reported that on December 27, they have officially closed their Bengaluru bureau as well, leaving employees with hopes as they might be shifted to other bureaus across India.
Last month the management had assured the employees that they would pay their dues and that Bengaluru edition would remain operational. Though, the course of action turned out to be opposite to what was assured never saw the result.
By having a good reach among the readers along with stories on civic issues, DCHL was able to create its unique identity among the media houses. Moreover, starting from 2009, the Bengaluru edition of the Deccan Chronicle had become a trusted brand in the city and one of the most profitable bureaus of the media house, which also owns the Asian Age and Financial Chronicle.
Despite all this, it promoters alleged fraud cases with banks, lender and other financial crises took a toll on DCHL.
The staff of DCHL stated that delay in the payment of salaries had been a recurrent problem and which forced many to leave previously. Some of the employees in the Bengaluru and Mumbai bureau had not been paid for nearly six months. This delay trend was seen for the past two years, wherein salaries were credited with a delay of about three months only after employees protested.
Employees of the Bengaluru bureau said that they were not given a heads-up about the closure, which is an add on to the non-payment of salary issue. Delay in salary had forced many of the employees to take other jobs such as delivery agents, cab drivers, or others.
With the current situation, employees feel that they have been unfairly treated even after giving their best to the organisation.
LLP Amendment Bill Passed
The Limited Liability Partnership(Amendment) Bill was introduced in Rajya Sabha(Upper House) on July 29, 2021, after the approval of the Union Cabinet on July 28, 2021. Before understanding the LLP Amendment Bill let’s first understand what is LLP.
What is LLP?
Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) is an alternative corporate business form that gives the benefits of limited liability of a company and the flexibility in a partnership. It is a separate legal entity, which is liable to the full extent of its assets but the liability of the partners is limited to their agreed contribution in Limited Liability Partnership. One of the advantages of LLP is that it can continue its validity irrespective of changes in partners. It is capable of joining into new contracts and holding equity in its name.
In this corporate business form, no partner is liable on account of the independent or unauthorised actions of other partners, thus individual partners are shielded from joint liability created by another partner’s illicit business decisions or misbehaviour. Common rights and duties of the partners within a Limited Liability Partnership are governed by an agreement between the partners. However, the LLP is not reassured of the liability for its other obligations as a separate entity. As it contains components of both a ‘corporate structure’ as well as a ‘partnership firm structure’, LLP is called a hybrid between a company and a partnership.
Which are the countries where the LLP form is functional?
Countries like the United Kingdom, United States of America, Australia, various Gulf countries and Singapore are the nations where the LLP structure is functional. As per the advice of experts who have studied LLP legislations in various countries, the LLP Act is extensively based on the UK LLP Act of 2000 and the Singapore LLP Act 2005. Both the Acts allow the creation of LLP in a corporate body form which means as a separate legal entity, separate from its partners.
What is the LLP Amendment Bill & what are the key highlights of the bill?
Limited Liability Partnership Amendment Bill was passed by Rajya Sabha on August 4, 2021. All the members of the Upper House had agreed to pass this bill and have been working towards it since July 29, 2021. The Amendment Bill aims to boost greater ease of living to law-abiding corporates and to legitimize certain provisions of the Act.
Some of the important highlights of the bill are:
- Decriminalize certain offences: As per the Bill, it defines the way of operating the LLP’s provided that violation of these requirements will lead to punishment with a fine varying from 25,000 INR to five lakh INR. The requirements consist of changes in partners of the LLP, change in registered office, filing declaration of account and annual returns & agreement between the partners and an LLP. The bill exacts a monetary fine.
- Punishment on fraud: Under the Act, if a partner or an LLP carry out any forgery activities to their creditors and every individual who is involved in the hoax will be punished with up to two years of imprisonment, along with the 50,000 INR to five lakh INR of fine. The Bill increases the term of imprisonment from two to five years.
- Compounding of offences: The bill amends to provide an officer who will be appointed by the central government, may compound the offences and impose a punishable fine. If the offence was compounded by an LLP or its partners, then in this case a similar offence cannot be compounded within three years.
- Institution of Special Court: This bill enables the central government to establish special courts for assuring active trail of offences under the Act. The special court consists of a Sessions Judge or an Additional Sessions Judge. They will adjudicate offences punishable with three or more years of imprisonment and a Metropolitan Magistrate or a Judicial Magistrate for other offences. They will be selected with the accord of the Chief Justice of the High Court.
- Opening of Small LLP’s: This Bill contributes to the formation of small LLP’s in which the partners contribute up to 25 lakh INR, turnover for the coming year is up to 40 lakh INR. The government can declare certain LLP as start-up LLP.
- Non-compliance with tribunal orders: As per the Act, non-compliance with an ordinance of the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) is a punishable offence of up to six months imprisonment and a fine of 50,000 INR. This bill removes such offences.
- Adjudicating Officers: As per the bill, the central government may assign adjudicating officers for allotting penalties under the Act. These officers will be central government officers only. Appeals against the orders of the Adjudicating officer will lie in the hand of the Regional Director.
- Institution of Appellate Tribunal: As per the bill, the appeals cannot be made against an order that he’s passed along with the permission of the parties. The Appeals should be filed within the time frame of 60 days of order.
- Standards of accounting: According to the bill, the central government may specify the criteria of accounting and auditing for groups of LLP in meeting with the National Financial Reporting Authority.
These are the salient parts of the amended bill.
India-Bangladesh: Reopen Cross-Border Rail Lines After 56 years
On August 1, 2021, Indian Railways sent the first stone-filled freight train to Bangladesh from Damdim Station of the Northeast Frontier Railway, resuming activity on the Haldibari Chilahati route. The network between Bangladesh and India will improve due to the continuing rail course that snapped in 1965.
After the partition in 1947, seven rail joins were functional among India and then East Pakistan till 1965. The Haldibari-Chilahati rail interface is one of those courses. As indicated by the railway authorities, the main products train to convey stone chips left from Damdim station of Jalpaiguri area in West Bengal on Sunday morning.
It came to a halt at Chilahati station in the Nilphamari region in the early evening. Aside from the Haldibari-Chilahati rail connect, at present, there are four working rail routes between India and Bangladesh. The current operational rail routes are – Petrapole (India)- Benapole (Bangladesh), Gede (India)– Darshana (Bangladesh), Singhabad (India)- Rohanpur (Bangladesh) and Radhikapur (India)– Birol (Bangladesh).
This railway interface between Haldibari (India) and Chilahati (Bangladesh) was initiated by the Prime Ministers of India and Bangladesh during the PM level virtual summit on December 17, 2020. Things that can be transported from India to Bangladesh via this railway combining rocks and boulders, food grains, fresh fruits, chemical fertilizers, onions, chilli, garlic, ginger, fly ash, clay, limestone, wood, and lumber, etcetera. From Bangladesh to India, everything is allowed which exported.
“The commissioning of this rail interface will establish the India-Bangladesh rail connection and future trade. Likewise, the revamped rail network to key ports and dry docks will help boost neighbourhood trade and improve the monetary and social well-being of the space,” the high commission said.
The Government of India gave over ten-wide-measure diesel trains as an aid to help Bangladesh Railways. The virtual event was attended by External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar and Railways Minister Piyush Goyal, and their Bangladeshi accomplices Md Nurul Islam Sujon and Dr A K Abdul Momen on July 27, 2020. Feni Bridge (Maitree Setu) interfacing LCS Sub room (Tripura) and LCS Ramgarh (Bangladesh) have been introduced on a virtual stage by both the Prime Ministers on March 09, 2021.
This will fundamentally further develop availability with Bangladesh. The preliminary attempt of the parcel of Indian merchandise from Kolkata to Agartala through Chattogram had led in July 2020, notwithstanding the pandemic. Bangladesh – India, the connection is presently supposed to be at its best.
The year 2021, regardless of the continuous COVID-19 pandemic, has been seeing a significant level of commitment at political and official levels. Prime Minister Modi paid a state visit to Bangladesh from March 26 – 27. He participated in the Golden Jubilee celebration of Independence of Bangladesh, the centenary of the birth of the founding father Benjabandu Sheikh Mujipur Rahman, and the 50th anniversary of the establishment of peaceful relations between India and Bangladesh. Both governments are trying different measures to rebuild the railway hub before 1965 and, another connection network existed between India and Bangladesh.
During the visit of PM Hasina to New Delhi in October 2019, the two governments chose to initiate Dhaka-Siliguri-Gangtok-Dhaka and Dhaka-Siliguri-Darjeeling-Dhaka transport administration to upgrade people to people contact between both the nations. The path run of Dhaka-Siliguri-Gangtok-Dhaka was likewise held in December 2019.
In May 2020, the second appendix of the Inland Waters Transit and Trade Protocol (PIWTT) approved two new routes in the India-Bangladesh Protocol (Sonamura Daudkandi on the Gomti waterway, and from Dhulia to Godagiri to Aricha in the current Padma), five new ports of call and two extended ports of call. Sonamura-Daudkandi Protocol Route had also operationalized in September 2020.
Haldibari-Chilahati Rail Link – Connectivity benefits:
The Haldibari-Chilahati route will give travel association with Bangladesh from Assam and West Bengal in India. The rail network will connect the prime ports, dry ports, to help the development. It will boost the financial and social advancement of the area.
Businesses and everyday citizens of the two nations will want to receive the rewards of the two merchandise and traveller train administrations when all trains are anticipated procedure on the course. With the new rail route, individuals from Bangladesh can visit tourist destinations like Darjeeling, Sikkim, Dooars in India.
Also, the Karimganj and Mahisashan rail connection between Assam and Bangladesh is to be functional from 2022. The other rail connection between Akhaura (Bangladesh) and Agartala (India) will be operational by the end of the year.
Assam Issues Travel Advisory Due To Safety Concerns
Assam Government on Thursday issued a travel advisory asking its residents not to travel to Mizoram due to safety concerns and asked those already in the state to exercise caution. The travel advisory came after the tension between the neighbouring states, days after the violent border clashes erupted in which seven people were killed.
Advisory issued by MS Manivannan, Commissioner and secretary in Assam’s home and the political department said, “Given the critical prevailing situation, the people of Assam advised not to travel to Mizoram as any threat to the personal safety of people of Assam cannot be accepted”.
A day before the Assam travel advisory, Mizoram issued a public notice stating that “It is hereby notified that there shall be no restrictions on the movement of non-residents of Mizoram traveling through Kolasib district”, followed by the phone numbers of the officers if any problem arises.
Mizoram Police has filed an FIR against Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and four police officers, along with two officials connected with the clashes at the inter-state border. On charges of Attempt to murder and criminal conspiracy in connection with the violent border clashes.
On the other hand, Assam police Summoned Mizoram Rajya Sabha member K Vanlalvena And six top officials over the alleged role in border tension. K Vanlalvena told reporters on Wednesday, “More than 200 policemen entered a territory and they pushed back our policeman from our own post and they gave firing orders first before we fired. They are lucky that we didn’t kill them all. If they come again, we shall kill them all.”
Assam and Mizoram share a 164.6-km-long border, which has long been a cause of dispute. Three districts in the south of Assam Hailakandi, Cachar, and Karimganj share the border with Mizoram’s Kolasib, Aizawl and Mamit districts.
On 26 July, border tensions erupted between Both the neighbouring States Assam and Mizoram, in which 6 Assam police personnel and a civilian were dead. Both states are blaming each other for the violence on Twitter, asking the centre to intervene and resolve the situation amicably.
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