Understanding Control in Indian Corporate Law: A Comprehensive Guide

Posted On - 4 June, 2024 • By - King Stubb & Kasiva

Control in a company is a fundamental concept that determines who makes the crucial decisions and how the company is run. In India, the concept of control is embedded in various legislative and regulatory frameworks, including the Companies Act, 2013, the SEBI (Substantial Acquisition of Shares and Takeovers) Regulations, 2011, the FDI Policy, and the Competition Act. This article explores what control means under these laws, its implications on the day-to-day management of a private limited company in India, and how control can be regulated, especially in the context of mergers and acquisitions (M&A).

Control under the Companies Act, 2013

The Companies Act, 2013, serves as the cornerstone of corporate governance in India. Under Section 2(27), the Act defines control as the right to appoint the majority of directors or to control the management or policy decisions of a company. This can be achieved through shareholding, management rights, shareholders’ agreements, or voting agreements.

Implications on Day-to-Day Management:

Board Composition: Control impacts the composition of the board of directors, which in turn influences company policies and strategic decisions.

Decision-Making: Those in control have the final say in significant business decisions, affecting everything from investments to operations.

Accountability: The Act mandates that directors and those in control uphold their fiduciary duties, ensuring they act in the company’s and shareholders’ best interests.

SEBI (Substantial Acquisition of Shares and Takeovers) Regulations, 2011

The SEBI Takeover Code is crucial for maintaining transparency and protecting shareholders during acquisitions. It defines control similarly to the Companies Act but adds layers specific to acquisitions.

Key Aspects:

Trigger Points: Acquisition of 25% or more of the voting rights triggers an open offer, allowing other shareholders to exit if they wish.

Indirect Control: Even without direct shareholding, acquiring significant influence over management decisions can constitute control.


Transparency: Ensures that all shareholders are aware of significant changes in control and have the opportunity to exit if they disagree with the new control.

Fair Play: Prevents hostile takeovers and ensures that the acquisition process is fair and transparent.

Control under the FDI Policy

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in India is subject to various regulations, with control being a critical aspect. The FDI Policy distinguishes between ownership and control, particularly in sectors where foreign investment caps exist.


Strategic Sectors: In sectors like defense or telecom, control is closely monitored to protect national security and strategic interests.

Regulatory Oversight: Ensures that foreign investments align with India’s economic and policy objectives.

Control under the Competition Act

The Competition Act, 2002, aims to prevent practices that have an adverse effect on competition. It views control through the lens of anti-competitive practices.

Key Aspects:

Merger Control: Any combination that causes or is likely to cause an appreciable adverse effect on competition is regulated.

Abuse of Dominance: Entities in control must not abuse their dominant position to stifle competition.


Market Fairness: Ensures that no single entity can dominate the market to the detriment of competitors and consumers.

Consumer Protection: Protects consumers from monopolistic practices that could lead to higher prices or reduced choices.

Implications of Control on Day-to-Day Management

Control in a private limited company can significantly impact its operations:

Operational Decisions: Those in control make crucial decisions regarding the company’s day-to-day operations.

Strategic Direction: Control influences long-term strategic planning and policy formulation.

Financial Management: Decision-makers control financial policies, impacting profitability and growth.

How Control Can Be Regulated

Regulating control is essential to ensure fair play and protect minority shareholders and other stakeholders. Here are some ways control can be kept in check:

  1. Governance Frameworks: Implementing robust corporate governance frameworks ensures transparency and accountability.
  2. Board of Directors: Ensuring the directors sitting on Board are fair and not only working under control of a majority shareholder is important for the functioning of the company. Independent directors also are appointed to bring in balance to the board of a company.
  3. Shareholder Agreements: These agreements can outline specific rights and obligations, providing a check on unilateral decision-making.
  4. Regulatory Oversight: Regulatory bodies like SEBI and the Competition Commission of India (CCI) monitor and regulate control to prevent abuse.

Role of Control in Mergers and Acquisitions

Control plays a pivotal role in M&A transactions. Here’s how:

Due Diligence: Assessing control structures is a critical part of due diligence, affecting the valuation and feasibility of the deal. It also helps in identifying potential risks related to control, such as shareholder disputes or hostile takeovers

Negotiation: Control issues are central to negotiation, determining the future governance structure, key management positions and the extent of control over day-to-day operations post-merger. Negotiating control provisions is crucial for both parties to ensure their interests are protected and that they have a say in the future direction of the combined entity.

Regulatory Approval: Many M&A deals require regulatory approval to ensure that the new control structure does not violate existing laws or create anti-competitive effects.

No-objections: A lot of contracts that company enters into have a change in control clause which mandates procurement of no-objections/consent from the other party prior to effecting any change in control of the company. In the absence of such no-objections/consent, the M&A transaction can be dragged to the court.

Exit strategies: It is important to have control over exit from a company. Ensure provisions like Drag Along, Tag Along are in place that allow or compel minority shareholders to exit under the same terms as the majority. Clearly defined exit strategies help in managing control disputes and provide a roadmap for future transitions in ownership.

The Bottom Line: Keeping Things in Check

We’ve unpacked the whole concept of “control” in Indian companies, and it’s clear that control is about much more than just who owns the most shares. It’s about who gets to make the big decisions and pick the leaders. The Companies Act, 2013, along with other regulatory frameworks like the SEBI Takeover Code, FDI Policy, and the Competition Act, ensures this power is used wisely, protecting everyone involved—from investors to employees.

In today’s dynamic business environment, companies are becoming increasingly complex. New structures and deals emerge regularly, requiring constant vigilance to prevent the abuse of control. The law needs to stay sharp, and regulatory bodies must remain vigilant to ensure fairness and transparency.

For investors and company stakeholders, understanding the nuances of control is crucial. It is the key to navigating the corporate world with confidence. By knowing the rules and how they work, you can ensure that things are running smoothly and everyone gets a fair shot. Effective management of control issues can lead to a more stable and strategically aligned organization, maximizing the benefits of the M&A transaction and fostering a healthy business environment.

King Stubb & Kasiva,
Advocates & Attorneys

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