MUMBAI, July 17 (Reuters) - India’s Gujarat High Court on Monday dismissed Essar Steel India Ltd’s appeal against a central bank order that asked creditor banks to start insolvency proceedings against the steelmaker, lawyers on the case said.
The ruling is a boost to the government, which in May tweaked Indian banking laws to empower the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to tackle the country’s bad debt issue, allowing the RBI for the first time to direct lenders to force defaulters into insolvency courts.
The ruling paves the way for the start of bankruptcy proceedings against Essar Steel, although the company could appeal the ruling. The company did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
Essar Steel had argued that it should have been given an opportunity to present its case before the Reserve Bank of India decided to include the company among 12 defaulters that would be referred to bankruptcy court.
Essar had also argued that proceedings could result in the company’s demise when it was “almost in the stage of revival” and working to resolve its debt problems, according to court documents.
The RBI had in June asked lenders to start insolvency proceedings against 12 companies, as part of new powers it gained this year to help the country cut down on the more than $150 billion in stressed assets in the banking system.
Essar Steel owes lenders around 450 billion rupees ($6.99 billion), of which 316.7 billion rupees had become non-performing as of March 31, 2016, Mint newspaper previously reported citing court hearings.
$1 = 64.3700 Indian rupees Reporting by Rupam Jain and Devidutta Tripathy; Editing by Christopher Cushing