Business Laws & Regulations in India

Many business laws in India precede the country’s independence in 1947. For example, the Indian Contract Act of 1872 is still in force, although specific contracts such as partnerships and the sale of goods are now covered by newer laws. The Partnership Act of 1932 covers partnership firms in India. Business laws regulating chartered accountants and cost accountants were passed in 1949 and 1959, respectively. The Banking Regulation Act of 1949 continues to regulate private banking companies and manage banks in India. In 2012, it was amended by the Banking Law (Amendments) Act. Under these amendments, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) was given power to restrict voting rights and shares acquisition in a bank. The RBI established the Depositor Education and Awareness Fund. Banks are now able to issue both equity and preference shares under RBI guidelines.

While India is often criticized for complex regulations, it is important to keep in mind that that in some cases, these laws are simpler than those of the U.S. Furthermore, most regulations are consistent across the country, and attorneys in India can practice in any state. Filing lawsuits is seldom productive in most commercial disputes since court cases can drag on for decades and collection can take even longer. For large deals, binding third-country arbitration can be the best way to resolve disputes.

Following India’s economic development in the 21st century, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs passed the Competition Act of 2002 and the Limited Liability Act in 2008. These promote sustainable competition in markets, prohibit anti-competitive business practices, and protect consumer interests while ensuring free trade.

The Parliament of India passes and amends regulations for both businesses and investors. In addition to provisions from the Companies Act of 1956, the Companies Act of 2013 features provisions regarding mergers and acquisitions, board room decision-making, related party transactions, corporate social responsibility, and shareholding. The act was further amended through the Companies Act of 2015 which eliminated the procedural common seal, declarations for commencement of businesses, and minimum paid-up capital requirements. The amendment also relaxed governing-related party transactions while limiting access to strategic corporate resolutions in India.

As a member of the International Labor Organization, India offers protections for employees. These include the Payment of Wages Act of 1936, the Industrial Employment Act of 1946, the Industrial Disputes Act of 1947, the Payment of Bonus Act of 1965, and the 1972 Payment of Gratuity Act. Protections include annual bonuses of 8.33% and separation fees of about 15 days per year of employment. Other labor laws such as the Building and Other Construction Workers Acts of 1996 and the Workmen’s Compensation Act of 1923 (amended in 2000) are in effect. Passed in 1926, the Trade Unions Act deals with the registration, rights, liabilities, and responsibilities of trade unions. The Industrial Disputes Act of 1946 regulates trade unions and matters between industrial employers and employees.

Business laws in India include consumer protection. The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 mandates Consumer Dispute Redressal Forums at local and national levels. Older laws, such as the Standards of Weights & Measures Act of 1956, ensure fair competition in the market and free flow of correct information from providers of goods and services to consumers.

Due to the growth of trade, the Indian government passed the Foreign Trade (Development and Regulation) Act of 1992 to facilitate imports and augment exports. The latest EXIM Policy, known as the Foreign Trade Policy, was issued for April 2015 to March 2020. The Service Exports from India Scheme (SEIS) replaced the Served from India Scheme. The SEIS extends the duty-exempted scrip to Indian service providers and provides notified services in a specified mode outside the country. Under the Export Promotion Capital Goods Scheme, the export obligation requires six times the duty saved on imported capital goods; in the case of local sourcing of capital goods, the export obligation is reduced by 25%. Beyond goods and services, the Foreign Exchange Management Act of 1999 regulates foreign exchange transactions including investments abroad.

As a founding member of the World Trade Organization in 1995, India has updated business laws regarding copyrights, patents, and trademarks to meet the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights. Indian companies and the federal government honor global IP rights. However, because music copyrights are different in India, both Indian and Western IP owners in the entertainment industry have suffered due to digital piracy. Even so, there are few IP-related disputes outside of several celebrated pharmaceutical industry cases. In 2013, India’s Supreme Court denied Novartis an extension to update its cancer drug Glivec due to “evergreening” charges.

E-commerce and online expansion of companies prompted India to create regulations to cover cyber law and security compliances, such as the techno legal regulatory provisions in the Companies Act of 2013. The Information Technology Act of 2000 is the primary law for e-commerce regulation in India. In 2008, the IT Act was amended to provide explicit legal recognition of electronic transactions.

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