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The Power Play: Official Liquidators v. SFIO Investigations


In a landmark decision by the Allahabad High Court (‘the HC’), in the case of Reserve Bank of India v. Kubar Mutual Benefits Ltd.[i], the HC negated doubts about the Official Liquidator’s (‘OL’) capability to detect misallocation of funds, recognizing the instrumental support of Chartered Accountants (‘CA’) in these endeavours. It was determined that neither the Companies Act, 1956 nor its 2013 successor precludes investigations under certain conditions, including cases of voluntary or ongoing liquidation processes. Importantly, the HC highlighted the necessity for substantial allegations prior to commissioning an investigation, citing a pertinent precedent.


  • An application was filed by an ex-director of a company in liquidation, seeking recall of the court order dated 13.12.2019. This order had previously authorized the Serious Fraud Investigation Officer (‘SFIO’) to resume an investigation into the affairs of the company in liquidation.

  • The OL supported the court’s mandate, stressing the importance of obtaining original sale deeds to examine hidden asset transfers and revealed the OL’s limitations in resources and expertise for investigating financial misappropriations.

  • The applicant contested this order, referencing a previous decision on 04.12.2008 that recalled an ex-parte order for an SFIO investigation. Following this, the HC suspended the SFIO investigation directive, instructing the ex-directors to deposit Rs. 1 crore, which they complied with.

  • The applicant cited orders dated 06.5.2009 and 06.7.2012, as evidence of the ex-directors’ cooperation with the OL and their commitment to settle the creditors’ claims. The applicant contended that the OL’s report did not substantiate any fraudulent intent, misfeasance, or misconduct by the ex-director, thereby questioning the grounds for referring the case to the SFIO under ss. 235 and 238 of the Companies Act, 1956 (‘the CA1956’).

  • The applicant argued that SFIO investigations should be exceptional, requiring concrete evidence rather than unsubstantiated or speculative claims, referencing ss. 237, 241, and 242 of the CA1956. The applicant referenced an 18.09.2018 order, disputing the OL’s ambiguous claims about interconnected group companies and their financial dealings. They argued that the OL already had adequate means and resources, thereby challenging the necessity for SFIO engagement in the matter.

  • The respondent emphasized the necessity of cooperation from the company post-winding-up order dated 24.03.2002, for the OL to assume control over the company’s assets. It was alleged that the ex-director failed to provide crucial financial documents, such as balance sheets and details on group companies, and did not surrender the original title deeds of the company’s properties to the OL.

  • The respondent supported the need for SFIO investigation due to the alleged fraudulent activities and misappropriation of funds by the company and its group entities. This stance was supported by the OL’s 2008 Report and grievances regarding partial payments to investors, prompting the request for SFIO investigation under ss. 235 to 238 of the CA1956.


  • The HC recalled its order dated 13.12.2019 which directed the SFIO to investigate the affairs of the company in liquidation. However, the HC rejected claims questioning the OL’s capability to identify fund misappropriations, recognizing the valuable assistance provided by CAs in such investigations. The HC clarified that both the CA1956 and 2013 do not preclude the conduct of investigations during voluntary winding-up processes or throughout ongoing winding-up proceedings. The HC mentioned that mere vague allegations do not constitute a sufficient basis to initiate an inquiry.

  • It was observed that under s. 456 of the CA1956, the OL is endowed with sufficient powers regarding the custody and management of a company’s properties. This was deemed adequate by the HC, thereby negating the need for an SFIO investigation. It was observed that the allegations made by the OL lacked specific references to entries in the balance sheet and books of account.

  • The HC pointed out that despite the OL possessing an ‘Allegations Table’ detailing the company’s properties, there was no evidence to demonstrate the ex-director’s intention to defraud creditors or engage in fraudulent activities.

  • The HC directed the OL to utilize the powers granted under the Companies Act, 2013 (‘the CA2013’), for securing company properties and to apply for court orders to address depositors’ claims.


The HC’s decision highlights the nuanced application of the CA2013, in liquidation scenarios, emphasizing the OL’s capabilities, particularly with CA’s support. It clarifies that investigations permitted under the CA2013 are not automatically applicable to liquidated companies and stresses the necessity for concrete allegations before launching inquiries. This judgment illustrates a preference for leveraging existing legal frameworks and resources effectively, advocating for the judicious exercise of administrative powers based on substantial evidence over vague claims, thereby delineating the boundaries of OL’s authority and investigative actions.

End Note:

[i] [2023] 157 677 (Allahabad) [22.12.2023]

Authored by Pranav Dabas, Advocate at Metalegal Advocates. The views expressed are personal and do not constitute legal opinion.


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