New details have come to come to light on the domain registrar Net 4 India’s alleged questionable business practices by the company’s chair and CEO Jasjit Sawhney. According to a National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) order, Sawhney has been accused of leaving Net 4 India as a “dummy company” with no revenues, but with significant debt.

The company is undergoing bankruptcy NCLT. On September 25, NCLT issued an order (uploaded several days later on its website) revealing fresh details about steps taken by the company before insolvency proceedings.

Many Net 4 customers are currently facing major problems in renewing their domain names and other services from the company — domain names are website names like “medianama.com” sold by registrars like Net 4. The National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI) has made some provisions for the .in domain name, wherein it won’t cancel those bought from Net 4, which are set to expire in 2020. However, this is just for .in domains. Thousands of other customers still have no clear way ahead, with some of their domain names expiring soon.

Net 4 India was left to become a ‘dummy company’

The lawyer for the Resolution Professional (RP) assigned to the case indicated that, Sawhney, who lives in the United Kingdom now, left Net 4 India as “a dummy company” with no revenues, but with significant outstanding debt. Net 4 India’s business was transferred to other companies run by Sawhney. However, Net 4 India retained its contracts with domain name registries, along with the registrants it has served so far (clients who it sold domain names to). Resultantly, Net 4 India did not receive any income, leading to debt and ultimately rendering it incapable of paying the registries or serve its clients. The RP has applied to “assail” the deal that sold off shareholding in the Net 4 subsidiary to a third company.

The NCLT noted that this case was serious as the general public, including Government Agencies, would suffer if they were not provided services by Net 4. Subsequently, it ordered Sawhney to clear the dues by October 1. It is not clear if this happened, as judgements by NCLT after September are only re-notifying the case to a later date.

“The net result is, the contracts with Registries and Registrants remained in the name of the Corporate Debtor [Net 4 India] but the business of the Corporate Debtor has slipped into the hands of the other companies of the Promoter-Director/Jasjit Singh Sawhney,” the NCLT order said, summarising the RP’s arguments.

  • ₹30 lakh due to domain registries: Net 4 has dues outstanding to at least three registries, which amount to ₹30 lakh in Indian rupees. These fees are, per the order, US$14,082 to ICM Registry Fee USD, US$8185 to Public Information Registry, and US$18,823.54 to ICANN.
  • Over 200 complaints from registrants: Over 200 complaints were sent to Vikram Bajaj, the Resolution Professional who was appointed by the NCLT in the insolvency proceedings, according to the order.

This is what the Insolvency Resolution Professional (RP) assigned to the case told the tribunal:

[Counsel for] RP has expressed her predicament that originally this Corporate Debtor [Net 4 India Limited] was an Accredited Registrar taking accreditations from Domain Name Registries and providing services to the Registrants. Earlier Net 4 Network Services Limited (Net 4 Network) was [a] wholly owned subsidiary of the Corporate Debtor. She submits this Promoter director (R1) [Sawhney] is in the Corporate Debtor and other companies.

The RP discovered that the entire business and income of the Corporate debtor has been diverted to Net 4 Network [Services Limited], thereafter 70% shareholding of the Corporate Debtor in Net4 Network was surreptitiously transferred to a related company called Track Online India Private Limited, which is another company of the same Promoter-Director and thereafter the business of the Corporate Debtor was on 20.10.2016 transferred to Net4 Network [Services Limited] (once upon a time wholly owned subsidiary of the Corporate Debtor company) through Master Reseller Agreement (MSA), which has made Net4 Network “Master Reseller”, therefore as on the date the Corporate Debtor has remained for name sake because its shareholding in Net4 Network was transferred leaving no control over Net4 Network [Services Limited] and then strategically business as well. (Emphasis added)

Disclosure: MediaNama has domains under management by Net 4 that it is unable to transfer.

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