The Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance Bill, 2017 was introduced in Parliament during Monsoon Session 2017. The Bill proposes to create a framework for monitoring financial firms such as banks, insurance companies, and stock exchanges; pre-empt risk to their financial position; and resolve them if they fail to honour their obligations (such as repaying depositors). To ensure continuity of a failing firm, it may be resolved by merging it with another firm, transferring its assets and liabilities, or reducing its debt. If resolution is found to be unviable, the firm may be liquidated, and its assets sold to repay its creditors.
After introduction, the Bill was referred to a Joint Committee of Parliament for examination, and the Committee’s report is expected in the Winter Session 2017. The Committee has been inviting stakeholders to give their inputs on the Bill, consulting experts, and undertaking study tours. In this context, we discuss the provisions of the Bill and some issues for consideration.
What are financial firms?
Financial firms include banks, insurance companies, and stock exchanges, among others. These firms accept deposits from consumers, channel these deposits into investments, provide loans, and manage payment systems that facilitate transactions in the country. These firms are an integral part of the financial system, and since they transact with each other, their failure may have an adverse impact on financial stability and result in consumers losing their deposits and investments.
As witnessed in 2008, the failure of a firm (Lehman Brothers) impacted the financial system across the world, and triggered a global financial crisis. After the crisis, various countries have sought to consolidate their laws to develop specialised capabilities for resolving failure of financial firms and to prevent the occurrence of another crisis. 
What is the current framework to resolve financial firms? What does the Bill propose?
Currently, there is no specialised law for the resolution of financial firms in India. Provisions to resolve failure of financial firms are found scattered across different laws.2 Resolution or winding up of firms is managed by the regulators for various kinds of financial firms (i.e. the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) for banks, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) for insurance companies, and the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) for stock exchanges.) However, under the current framework, powers of these regulators to resolve similar entities may vary (e.g. RBI has powers to wind-up or merge scheduled commercial banks, but not co-operative banks.)
The Bill seeks to create a consolidated framework for the resolution of financial firms by creating a Resolution Corporation. The Resolution Corporation will include representatives from all financial sector regulators and the ministry of finance, among others. The Corporation will monitor these firms to pre-empt failure, and resolve or liquidate them in case of such failure.
How does the Resolution Corporation monitor and prevent failure of financial firms?
Risk based classification: The Resolution Corporation or the regulators (such as the RBI for banks, IRDA for insurance companies or SEBI for the stock exchanges) will classify financial firms under five categories, based on their risk of failure (see Figure 1). This classification will be based on adequacy of capital, assets and liabilities, and capability of management, among other criteria. The Bill proposes to allow both, the regulator and the Corporation, to monitor and classify firms based on their risk to failure.
Corrective Action: Based on the risk to failure, the Resolution Corporation or regulators may direct the firms to take certain corrective action. For example, if the firm is at a higher risk to failure (under ‘material’ or ‘imminent’ categories), the Resolution Corporation or the regulator may: (i) prevent it from accepting deposits from consumers, (ii) prohibit the firm from acquiring other businesses, or (iii) require it to increase its capital. Further, these firms will formulate resolution and restoration plans to prepare a strategy for improving their financial position and resolving the firm in case it fails.
While the Bill specifies that the financial firms will be classified based on risk, it does not provide a mechanism for these firms to appeal this decision. One argument to not allow an appeal may be that certain decisions of the Corporation may require urgent action to prevent the financial firm from failing. However, this may leave aggrieved persons without a recourse to challenge the decision of the Corporation if they are unsatisfied.
Figure 1: Monitoring and resolution of financial firms
How will the Resolution Corporation resolve financial firms that have failed?
The Resolution Corporation will take over the administration of a financial firm from the date of its classification as ‘critical’ (i.e. if it is on the verge of failure.) The Resolution Corporation will resolve the firm using any of the methods specified in the Bill, within one year. This time limit may be extended by another year (i.e. maximum limit of two years). During this period, the firm will be immune against all legal actions.
The Resolution Corporation can resolve a financial firm using any of the following methods: (i) transferring the assets and liabilities of the firm to another firm, (ii) merger or acquisition of the firm, (iii) creating a bridge financial firm (where a new company is created to take over the assets, liabilities and management of the failing firm), (iv) bail-in (internally transferring or converting the debt of the firm), or (v) liquidate the firm to repay its creditors.
If the Resolution Corporation fails to resolve the firm within a maximum period of two years, the firm will automatically go in for liquidation. The Bill specifies the order of priority in which creditors will be repaid in case of liquidation, with the amount paid to depositors as deposit insurance getting preference over other creditors.
While the Bill specifies that resolution will commence upon classification as ‘critical’, the point at which this process will end may not be evident in certain cases. For example, in case of transfer, merger or liquidation, the end of the process may be inferred from when the operations are transferred or liquidation is completed, but for some other methods such as bail-in, the point at which the resolution process will be completed may be unclear.
Does the Bill guarantee the repayment of bank deposits?
The Resolution Corporation will provide deposit insurance to banks up to a certain limit. This implies, that the Corporation will guarantee the repayment of a certain amount to each depositor in case the bank fails. Currently, the Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation (DICGC) provides deposit insurance for bank deposits up to 1 lakh rupees per depositor. The Bill proposes to subsume the functions of the DICGC under the Resolution Corporation.
. The Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance Bill, 2017, http://www.prsindia.org/uploads/media/Financial%20Resolution%20Bill,%202017/Financial%20Resolution%20Bill,%202017.pdf
. Report of the Committee to Draft Code on Resolution of Financial Firms, September 2016, http://www.prsindia.org/uploads/media/Financial%20Resolution%20Bill,%202017/FRDI%20Bill%20Drafting%20Committee%20Report.pdf
. The Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation Act, 1961, http://www.prsindia.org/uploads/media/Financial%20Resolution%20Bill,%202017/DICGC%20Act,%
The Uttarakhand Assembly concluded a two-day session on November 30, 2022. The session was scheduled to be held over five days. In this post we look at the legislative business that was carried out in the Assembly, and the state of state legislatures.
13 Bills were introduced and passed within two days
As per the Session Agenda, a total of 19 Bills were listed for introduction in the span of two days. 13 of these were listed to be discussed and passed on the second day. These included the Uttarakhand Protection of Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Bill, 2022, University of Petroleum and Energy Studies (Amendment), Bill, 2022, and the Uttarakhand Anti-Littering and Anti-Spitting (Amendment) Bill, 2022.
The Assembly had proposed to discuss and pass each Bill (barring two) within five minutes (see Figure 1). Two Bills were allocated 20 minutes each for discussion and passing - the Haridwar Universities Bill, 2022, and the Public Service (Horizontal Reservation for Women) Bill, 2022. As per news reports, the Assembly passed all 13 Bills within these two days (this excludes the Appropriation Bills). This raises the question on the amount of scrutiny that these Bills were subject to, and the quality of such laws when the legislature intends to pass them within mere minutes.
Figure 1: Excerpt of Uttarakhand Assembly's November 2022 Session Agenda
Law making requires deliberation, scrutiny
Our law-making institutions have several tools at their disposal to ensure that before a law is passed, it has been examined thoroughly on various aspects such as constitutionality, clarity, financial and technical capacity of the state to implement provisions, among others. The Ministry/Department piloting a Bill could share a draft of the Bill for public feedback (pre-legislative scrutiny). While Bills get introduced, members may raise issues on constitutionality of the proposed law. Once introduced, Bills could be sent to legislative committees for greater scrutiny. This allows legislators to deliberate upon individual provisions in depth, understand if there may be constitutional challenges or other issues with any provision. This also allows experts and affected stakeholders to weigh in on the provisions, highlight issues, and help strengthen the law.
However, when Bills are introduced and passed within mere minutes, it barely gives legislators the time to go through the provisions and mull over implications, issues, or ways to improve the law for affected parties. It also raises the question of what the intention of the legislature is when passing laws in a hurry without any discussion. Often, such poorly thought laws are also challenged in Courts.
For instance, the Uttarakhand Assembly passed the Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Bill, 2022 in this session (five minutes had been allocated for the discussion and passing of the Bill). The 2022 Bill amends the 2018 Act which prohibits forceful religious conversions, and provides that conversion through allurement or marriage will be unlawful. The Bill has provisions such as requiring an additional notice to be sent to the District Magistrate (DM) for a conversion, and that reconversion to one’s immediate previous religion will not be considered a conversion. Some of these provisions seem similar to other laws that were passed by states and have been struck down by or have been challenged in Courts. For example, the Madhya Pradesh High Court while examining the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2021 noted that providing a notice to the DM for a conversion of religion violates the right to privacy as the right includes the right to remain silent. It extends that understanding to the right to decide on one’s faith. The Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2006 exempted people who reconvert to their original religion from giving a public notice of such conversion. The Himachal Pradesh High Court had struck down this provision as discriminatory and violative of the right to equality. The Court also noted that the right to change one’s belief cannot be taken away for maintaining public order.
Uttarakhand MLAs may not have had an opportunity to think about how issues flagged by Courts may be addressed in a law that regulates religious conversions.
Most other state Assemblies also pass Bills without adequate scrutiny
In 2021 44% states passed Bills on the day it was introduced or on the next day. Between January 2018 and September 2022, the Gujarat Assembly introduced 92 Bills (excluding Appropriation Bills). 91 of these were passed in the same day as their introduction. In the 2022 Monsoon Session, the Goa Assembly passed 28 Bills in the span of two days. This is in addition to discussion and voting on budgetary allocation to various government departments.
Figure 2: Time taken by state legislatures to pass Bills in 2021
Note: The chart above does not include Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim. A Bill is considered passed within a day if it was passed on the day of introduction or on the next day. For states with bicameral legislatures, bills have to be passed in both Houses. This has been taken into account in the above chart for five states having Legislative Councils, except Bihar (information was not available for Council).
Sources: Assembly websites, E-Gazette of various states and Right to Information requests; PRS.
Occasionally, the time actually spent deliberating upon a Bill is lesser than the allocated time. This may be due to disruptions in the House. The Himachal Pradesh Assembly provides data on the time actually spent discussing Bills. For example, in the August 2022 Session, it spent an average of 12 minutes to discuss and pass 10 Bills. However, the Uttarakhand Assembly allocated only five minutes to discuss each Bill in its November 2022 Session. This indicates the lack of intent of certain state legislatures to improve their functioning.
In the case of Parliament, a significant portion of scrutiny is also carried out by the Department Related Standing Committees, even when Parliament is not in session. In the 14th Lok Sabha (LS), 60% of the Bills introduced were sent to Committees for detailed examination, and in the 15th LS, 71% were sent. These figures have reduced recently – in the 16th LS 27% of the Bills were sent to Committees, and so far in the 17th LS, 13% have been sent. However, across states, sending Bills to Committees for detailed examination is often the exception than the norm. In 2021, less than 10% of the Bills were sent to Committees. None of the Bills passed by the Uttarakhand Assembly had been examined by a committee. States that are an exception here include Kerala which has 14 subject Committees, and Bills are regularly sent to these for examination. However, these Committees are headed by their respective Ministers, which reduces the scope of independent scrutiny that may be undertaken.