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Meaning and Nature of Company notes – CSEET

Meaning and Nature of Company notes – CSEET

Meaning and Nature of Company notes – CSEET:

ICSI CSEET: The Council of the ICSI has released a notice regarding CSEET on the day of the inauguration of ICSI Golden Jubilee Celebrations on 4th Oct 2017.

The Gazette Notification on the Company Secretaries (Amendment) Regulations, 2020 has been published on 3rd February 2020 in the Official Gazette of India and the same shall be applicable from the said date of publication.

Now ICSI Published a notice regarding CSEET Test which going to start from 2020 May.

We are now going to discuss the details of CSEET Paper-2 Legal Aptitude and Logical Reasoning – Meaning and Nature of Company notes.

Meaning and Nature of Company

Meaning and Nature of Company

Meaning and Nature of Company India:


The word ‘company’ is derived from the Latin word (Com=with or together; panis =bread), and it originally referred to an association of persons who took their meals together. In the leisurely past, merchants took advantage of festive gatherings, to discuss business matters. Now a days, the business matters have become more complicated and cannot be discussed at length at festive gatherings. Therefore, the word company has assumed greater importance. It denotes a joint stock enterprise in which the capital is contributed by a large number of people. Thus, in popular parlance, a company denotes an association of like-minded persons formed for the purpose of carrying on some business or undertaking. A company is a corporate body and a legal person having status and personality distinct and separate from that of the members constituting it.

It is called a body corporate because the persons composing it are made into one body by incorporating it according to the law and clothing it with legal personality. The word ‘corporation’ is derived from the Latin term ‘corpus’ which means ‘body’. Accordingly, ‘corporation’ is a legal person created by the process other than natural birth. It is, for this reason, sometimes called artificial legal person. As a legal person, a corporate is capable of enjoying many of the rights and incurring many of the liabilities of a natural person.

In the legal sense, a company is an association of both natural and artificial persons incorporated under the existing law of a country. In terms of the Section 2(20) of the Companies Act, 2013, Company means a company incorporated under this Act or under any previous company law. In common law, a company is a “legal person” or “legal entity” separate from, and capable of surviving beyond the lives of its members. However, an association formed not for profit acquires a corporate life and falls within the meaning of a company by reason of a licence under Section 8 of the Act.

But a company is not merely a legal institution. It is rather a legal device for the attainment of any social or economic end. It is, therefore, a combined political, social, economic and legal institution. Thus, the term company has been described in many ways. “It is a means of cooperation and organisation in the conduct of an enterprise”. It is “an intricate, centralised, economic and administrative structure run by professional managers who hire capital from the investor(s)”. Lord Justice James has defined a company as “an association of many persons who contribute money or money’s worth to a common stock and employ it in some trade or business and who share the profit and loss arising therefrom. The common stock so contributed is denoted in money and is the capital of the company. The persons who form it, or to whom it belongs, are members. The proportion of capital to which each member is entitled is his “share”.

From the foregoing discussion it is clear that a company has its own corporate and legal personality distinct and separate from that of its members. A brief description of the various attributes is given here to explain the nature and characteristics of the company as a corporate body.

Meaning and Nature of Company India:


Since a corporate body (i.e. a company) is the creation of law, it is not a human being, it is an artificial person (i.e. created by law); it is clothed with many rights, obligations, powers and duties prescribed by law; it is called a ‘person’. Being the creation of law, it possesses only the properties conferred upon it by its Memorandum of Association. Within the limits of powers conferred by the charter, it can do all acts as a natural person may do.

The most striking characteristics of a company are:

Characteristics of company

Characteristics of company

(i)    Corporate Personality

By incorporation under the Act, the company is vested with a corporate personality quite distinct from individuals who are its members. Being a separate legal entity it bears its own name and acts under a corporate name. It has a seal of its own. Its assets are separate and distinct from those of its members. It is also a different ‘person’ from the members who compose it. As such it is capable of owning property, incurring debts, borrowing money, having a bank account, employing people, entering into contracts and suing or being sued in the same manner as an individual. Its members are its owners but they can be its creditors simultaneously as it has a separate legal entity. A shareholder cannot be held liable for the acts of the company even if he holds virtually the entire share capital. The shareholders are not the agents of the company and so they cannot bind it by their acts. The company does not hold its property as an agent or trustee for its members and they cannot sue to enforce its rights, nor can they be sued in respect of its liabilities. Thus, ‘incorporation’ is the act of forming a legal corporation as a juristic person. A juristic person is in law also conferred with rights and obligations and is dealt with in accordance with law. In other words, the entity acts like a natural person but only through a designated person, whose acts are processed within the ambit of law [Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee v. Shri Sam Nath Dass AIR 2000 SCW 139].

The case of Salomon v. Salomon and Co. Ltd., (1897) A.C. 22 has clearly established the principle that once a company has been validly constituted under Companies Act, it becomes a legal person distinct from its members and for this purpose it is immaterial whether any member has a large or small proportion of the shares, and whether he holds those shares beneficially or as a mere trustee.

In the case, Salomon had, for some years, carried on a prosperous business as a leather merchant and boot manufacturer. He formed a limited company consisting of himself, his wife, his daughter and his four sons as the shareholders, all of whom subscribed for 1 share each so that the actual cash paid as capital was £ 7. Salomon sold his business (which was perfectly solvent at that time), to the Company for the sum of £ 38,782. The company’s nominal capital was £ 40,000 in £ 1 shares. In part payment of the purchase money for the business sold to the company, debentures of the amount of £10,000 secured by a floating charge on the company’s assets were issued to Salomon, who also applied for and received an allotment of 20,000 £ 1 fully paid shares. The remaining amount of £8,782 was paid to Salomon in cash. Salomon was the managing director and two of his sons were other directors.

The company soon ran into difficulties and the debenture holders appointed a receiver and the company went into liquidation. The total assets of the company amounted to £6050, its liabilities were £10,000 secured by debentures, £8,000 owning to unsecured trade creditors, who claimed the whole of the company’s assets, viz., £6,050, on the ground that, as the company was a mere ‘alias’ or agent for Salomon, they were entitled to payment of their debts in priority to debentures. They further pleaded that Salomon, as principal beneficiary, was ultimately responsible for the debts incurred by his agent or trustee on his behalf.

Their Lordships of the House of Lords observed:

“When the memorandum is duly signed and registered, though there be only seven shares taken, the subscribers are a body corporate capable forthwith of exercising all the functions of an incorporated company. It is difficult to understand how a body corporate thus created by statute can lose its individuality by issuing the bulk of its capital to one person. The company is at law a different person altogether from the subscribers of the memorandum; and though it may be that after incorporation the business is precisely the same as before, the same persons are managers, and the same hands receive the profits, the company is not in law their agent or trustee. The statute enacts nothing as to the extent or degree of interest which may be held by each of the seven or as to the proportion of interest, or influence possessed by one or majority of the shareholders over others. There is nothing in the Act requiring that the subscribers to the memorandum should be independent or unconnected, or that they or any of them should take a substantial interest in the undertakings, or that they should have a mind or will of their own, or that there should be anything like a balance of power in the constitution of company.”

The case of Lee v. Lee’s Air Farming Ltd. (1961) A.C. 12 (P.C.) illustrates the application of the principles established in Salomon’s case (supra). In this case, a company was formed for the purpose of aerial top-dressing. Lee, a qualified pilot, held all but one of the shares in the company. He voted himself the managing director and got himself appointed by the articles as chief pilot at a salary. He was killed in an air crash while working for the company. His widow claimed compensation for the death of her husband in the course of his employment. The company opposed the claim on the ground that Lee was not a worker as the same person could not be the employer and the employee. The Privy Council held that Lee and his company were distinct legal persons which had entered into contractual relationships under which he became, the chief pilot, a servant of the company. In his capacity of managing director he could, on behalf of the company, give himself orders in his other capacity of pilot, and the relationship between himself, as pilot and the company, was that of servant and master. Lee was a separate person from the company he formed and his widow was held entitled to get the compensation. In effect the magic of corporate personality enabled him (Lee) to be the master and servant at the same time and enjoy the advantages of both.

The decision of the Calcutta High Court in Re. Kondoli Tea Co. Ltd., (1886) ILR 13 Cal. 43, recognised the principle of separate legal entity even much earlier than the decision in Salomon v. Salomon & Co. Ltd. case. Certain persons transferred a Tea Estate to a company and claimed exemptions from ad valorem duty on the ground that since they themselves were also the shareholders in the company and, therefore, it was nothing but a transfer from them in one name to themselves under another name. While rejecting this Calcutta High Court observed: “The company was a separate person, a separate body altogether from the shareholders and the transfer was as much a conveyance, a transfer of the property, as if the shareholders had been totally different persons.

(ii)   Limited Liability

“The privilege of limited liability for business debts is one of the principal advantages of doing business under the corporate form of organisation.” The company, being a separate person, is the owner of its assets and bound by its liabilities. The liability of a member as shareholder, extends to contribution to the assets of the company up to the nominal value of the shares held and not paid by him. Members, even as a whole, are neither the owners of the company’s undertakings, nor liable for its debts. In other words, a shareholder is liable to pay the balance, if any, due on the shares held by him, when called upon to pay and nothing more, even if the liabilities of the company far exceed its assets. This means that the liability of a member is limited. For example, if A holds shares of the total nominal value of Rs. 1,000 and has already paid Rs. 500/- (or 50% of the value) as part payment at the time of allotment, he cannot be called upon to pay more than Rs. 500/-, the amount remaining unpaid on his shares. If he holds fully-paid shares, he has no further liability to pay even if the company is declared insolvent. In the case of a company limited by guarantee, the liability of members is limited to a specified amount mentioned in the memorandum.

Buckley, J. in Re. London and Globe Finance Corporation, (1903) 1 Ch.D. 728 at 731, has observed: ‘The statutes relating to limited liability have probably done more than any legislation of the last fifty years to further the commercial prosperity of the country. They have, to the advantage of the investor as well as of the public, allowed and encouraged aggregation of small sums into large capitals which have been employed in undertakings of “great public utility largely increasing the wealth of the country”.

There are, however, some statutory exceptions to the principle of limited liability. As the Companies Act, 2013 the members become personally liable if the membership falls below prescribed minimum and the business is carried on for more than six months thereafter.

(iii)  Perpetual Succession

An incorporated company never dies except when it is wound up as per law. A company, being a separate legal person is unaffected by death or departure of any member and remains the same entity, despite total change in the membership. A company’s life is determined by the terms of its Memorandum of Association. It may be perpetual or it may continue for a specified time to carry on a task or object as laid down in the Memorandum of Association. Perpetual succession, therefore, means that the membership of a company may keep changing from time to time, but that does not affect its continuity.

The membership of an incorporated company may change either because one shareholder has transferred his shares to another or his shares devolve on his legal representatives on his death or he ceases to be a member under some other provisions of the Companies Act. Thus, perpetual succession denotes the ability of a company to maintain its existence by the constant succession of new individuals who step into the shoes of those who cease to be members of the company. Professor L.C.B. Gower rightly mentions, “Members may come and go, but the company can go on for ever. During the war all the members of one private company, while in general meeting, were killed by a bomb, but the company survived — not even a hydrogen bomb could have destroyed it”.

(iv)  Separate Property

A company being a legal person and entirely distinct from its members, is capable of owning, enjoying and disposing of property in its own name. The company is the real person in which all its property is vested, and by which it is controlled, managed and disposed off. Their Lordships of the Madras High Court in R .F Perumal v. H. John Deavin, A.I.R. 1960 Mad. 43 held that “no member can claim himself to be the owner of the company’s property during its existence or in its winding-up”. A member does not even have an insurable interest in the property of the company.

(v)   Transferability of Shares

The capital of a company is divided into parts, called shares. The shares are said to be movable property and, subject to certain conditions, freely transferable, so that no shareholder is permanently or necessarily wedded to a company. When the joint stock companies were established, the object was that their shares should be capable of being easily transferred, [In Re. Balia and San Francisco Rly., (1968) L.R. 3 Q.B. 588]. Companies Act, 2013 enunciates the principle by providing that the shares held by the members are movable property and can be transferred from one person to another in the manner provided by the articles.

A member may sell his shares in the open market and realise the money invested by him. This provides liquidity to a member (as he can freely sell his shares) and ensures stability to the company (as the member is not withdrawing his money from the company). The Stock Exchanges provide adequate facilities for the sale and purchase of shares.

Further, as of now, in most of the listed companies, the shares are also transferable through Electronic mode i.e. through Depository Participants instead of physical transfers.

(vi)  Capacity to Sue and Be Sued

A company being a body corporate, can sue and be sued in its own name. To sue, means to institute legal proceedings against (a person) or to bring a suit in a court of law. All legal proceedings against the company are to be instituted in its own name. Similarly, the company may bring an action against anyone in its own name. A company’s right to sue arises when some loss is caused to the company, i.e. to the property of the personality of the company. Hence, the company is entitled to sue for damages in libel or slander as the case may be [Floating Services Ltd. v. MV San Fransceco Dipaloa (2004) 52 SCL 762 (Guj)]. A company, as a person separate from its members, may even sue one of its own members for libel.

A company has a right to seek damages where a defamatory material published about it, affects its business. Where video cassettes were prepared by the workmen of a company showing, their struggle against the company’s management, it was held to be not actionable unless shown that the cassette would be defamatory. The court did not restrain the exhibition ofthe cassette. [TVS Employees Federation v. TVS and Sons Ltd., (1996) 87 Com Cases 37]. The company is not held liable for contempt committed by its officer. [Lalit Surajmal Kanodia v. Office Tiger Database Systems India (P) Ltd., (2006) 129 Comp Cas 192 Mad].

(vii) Contractual Rights

A company, being a separate legal entity different from its members, can enter into contracts for the conduct of the business in its own name. A shareholder cannot enforce a contract made by his company; he is neither a party to the contract nor entitled to the benefit of it, as a company is not a trustee for its shareholders. Likewise, a shareholder cannot be sued on contracts made by his company. The distinction between a company and its members is not confined to the rules of privity, however, it permeates the whole law of contract. Thus, if a director fails to disclose a breach of his duties to his company, and in consequence a shareholder is induced to enter into a contract with the director which he would not have entered into had there been disclosure, the shareholder cannot rescind the contract.

Similarly, a member of a company cannot sue in respect of torts committed against the company, nor can he be sued for torts committed by the company. [British Thomson-Houston Company v. Sterling Accessories Ltd., (1924) 2 Ch. 33]. Therefore, the company as a legal person can take action to enforce its legal rights or be sued for breach of its legal duties. Its rights and duties are distinct from those of its constituent members.

(viii) Limitation of Action

A company cannot go beyond the power stated in the Memorandum of Association. The Memorandum of Association of the company regulates the powers and fixes the objects of the company and provides the edifice upon which the entire structure of the company rests. The actions and objects of the company are limited within the scope of its Memorandum of Association. In order to enable it to carry out its actions without such restrictions and limitations in most cases, sufficient powers are granted in the Memorandum of Association. But once the powers have been laid down, it cannot go beyond these powers unless the Memorandum of Association is itself altered prior to doing so.

(ix)  Separate Management

As already noted, the members may derive profits without being burdened with the management of the company. They do not have effective and intimate control over its working and elect their representatives to conduct corporate functioning. In other words, the company is administered and managed by its managerial personnel.

(x)   Voluntary Association for Profit

A company is a voluntary association for profit. It is formed for the accomplishment of some public goals and whatsoever profit is gained is divided among its shareholders or restored for the future expansion of the company. Only a Section 8 company can be formed with no profit motive.

(xi)  Termination of Existence

A company, being an abstract and artificial person, does not die a natural death. It is created by law, carries on its affairs according to law throughout its life and ultimately is effaced by law. Generally, the existence of a company is terminated by means of winding up. However, to avoid winding up sometimes companies change their form by means of reorganisation, reconstruction and amalgamation.

To sum up, “a company is a voluntary association for profit with capital divisible into transferable shares with limited liability, having corporate entity and a common seal with perpetual succession”.

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