Procedure, powers, etc., of inspectors (Section 217 of the Companies Act, 2013) :
Section 217 of the Companies Act, 2013 provides for procedure, powers, etc., of inspectors as under:
(i) As per sub- section (1), it shall be the duty of all officers and other employees and agents including the former officers, employees and agents of a company which is under investigation in accordance with the provisions contained in this Chapter, and where the affairs of any other body corporate or a person are investigated under section 219, of all officers and other employees and agents including former officers, employees and agents of such body corporate or a person —
(a) to preserve and to produce to an inspector or any person authorised by him in this behalf all books and papers of, or relating to, the company or, as the case may be, relating to the other body corporate or the person, which are in their custody or power; and
(b) otherwise to give to the inspector all assistance in connection with the investigation which they are reasonably able to give.
(ii) The inspector may require any body corporate, other than a body corporate referred in point (i) to furnish such information to, or produce such books and papers before him or any person authorised by him in this behalf as he may consider necessary, if the furnishing of such information or the production of such books and papers is relevant or necessary for the purposes of his investigation [Sub section (2)].
(iii) The inspector shall not keep in his custody any books and papers produced under point (i) or point (ii) for more than 180 days and return the same to the company, body corporate, firm or individual by whom or on whose behalf the books and papers were produced [Sub section (3)].
However, the books and papers may be called for by the inspector if they are needed again for a further period of 180 days by an order in writing.
(iv) As per sub-section (4), an inspector may examine on oath—
(a) any of the persons referred to in point (i); and
(b) any other person with the prior approval of the Central Government, in relation to the affairs of the company, or other body corporate or person, as the case may be, and for that purpose may require any of those persons to appear before him personally.
However, in case of an investigation under section 212, the prior approval of Director, Serious Fraud Investigation Office shall be sufficient under point (b) above (instead of the Central Govt).
(v) As per sub- section (5), notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force or in any contract to the contrary, the inspector, being an officer of the Central Government making an investigation under this chapter, shall have all the powers as are vested in a civil court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, while trying a suit in respect of the following matters, namely:—
(a) the discovery and production of books of account and other documents, at such place and time as may be specified by such person;
(b) summoning and enforcing the attendance of persons and examining them on oath; and
(c) inspection of any books, registers and other documents of the company at any place.
(vi) If any director or officer of the company disobeys the direction issued by the Registrar or the inspector under this section, the director or the officer shall be punishable with imprisonment which may extend to one year and with fine which shall not be less than 25,000 rupees but which may extend to 1 lakh rupees [Sub section (6) (i)].
If a director or an officer of the company has been convicted of an offence under this section, the director or the officer shall, on and from the date on which he is so convicted, be deemed to have vacated his office as such and on such vacation of office, shall be disqualified from holding an office in any company [Sub section (6) (ii)].
(vii) The notes of any examination under sub section (4) above, shall be taken down in writing and shall be read over to, or by, and signed by, the person examined, and may thereafter be used in evidence against him [Sub section (7)].
(viii) As per sub-section (8), if any person fails without reasonable cause or refuses—
(a) to produce to an inspector or any person authorised by him in this behalf any book or paper which is his duty under point (i) or point (ii) to produce;
(b) to furnish any information which is his duty under point (ii) to furnish;
(c) to appear before the inspector personally when required to do so under point (iv) or to answer any question which is put to him by the inspector in pursuance of that point; or
(d) to sign the notes of any examination referred to in sub section (7) above, he shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 6 months and with fine which shall not be less than 25,000 rupees but which may extend to 1 lakh rupees, and also with a further fine which may extend to 2,000 rupees for every day after the first during which the failure or refusal continues.
(ix) The officers of the Central Government, State Government, police or statutory authority shall provide assistance to the inspector for the purpose of inspection, inquiry or investigation, which the inspector may, with the prior approval of the Central Government, require [Sub section (9)].
(x) The Central Government may enter into an agreement with the Government of a foreign State for reciprocal arrangements to assist in any inspection, inquiry or investigation under this Act or under the corresponding law in force in that State and may, by notification, render the application of this Chapter in relation to a foreign State with which reciprocal arrangements have been made subject to such modifications, exceptions, conditions and qualifications as may be deemed expedient for implementing the agreement with that State [Sub section (10)].
(xi) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act or in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 if, in the course of an investigation into the affairs of the company, an application is made to the competent court in India by the inspector stating that evidence is, or may be, available in a country or place outside India, such court may issue a letter of request to a court or an authority in such country or place, competent to deal with such request, to examine orally, or otherwise, any person, supposed to be acquainted with the facts and circumstances of the case, to record his statement made in the course of such examination and also to require such person or any other person to produce any document or thing, which may be in his possession pertaining to the case, and to forward all the evidence so taken or collected or the authenticated copies thereof or the things so collected to the court in India which had issued such letter of request [Sub section (11)].
Provided that, the letter of request shall be transmitted in such manner as the Central Government may specify in this behalf.
Provided further that every statement recorded or document or thing received under this subsection shall be deemed to be the evidence collected during the course of investigation.
According to the Companies (Inspection, investigation and inquiry) Rules, 2014, the ‘letter of request’, in terms of section 217, shall be transmitted in such manner as specified by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs.
(xii) Upon receipt of a letter of request from a court or an authority in a country or place outside India, competent to issue such letter in that country or place for the examination of any person or production of any document or thing in relation to affairs of a company under investigation in that country or place, the Central Government may, if it thinks fit, forward such letter of request to the court concerned, which shall thereupon summon the person before it and record his statement or cause any document or thing to be produced, or send the letter to any inspector for investigation, who shall thereupon investigate into the affairs of company in the same manner as the affairs of a company are investigated under this Act and the inspector shall submit the report to such court within 30 days or such extended time as the court may allow for further action [Sub section (12)].
Provided that the evidence taken or collected as above or authenticated copies thereof or the things so collected shall be forwarded by the court, to the Central Government for transmission, in such manner as the Central Government may deem fit, to the court or the authority in country or place outside India which had issued the letter of request.