CCI Loosing It’s Teeth – The Need For Developing Jurisprudence

The Competition commission of India (CCI) succeeded the erstwhile MRTP Commission with a larger role as a market watchdog with suo moto powers to take cognizance of matters that could have an appreciable adverse effect on competition. CCI exercises jurisdiction in Rem (without a lis between parties). With a mandate to regulate across all sectorsof Indian business, empowered beyond the earlier ‘cease and desist’ regime to impose heavy financial penalties, imprisonment for non compliance of the orders of the Commission, it is undoubtedly the most powerful regulatory in the Indian economy. The need for a robust competition regime has been put in place and CCI has adjudicated upon hundreds of cases across various sectors. In it’s seventh year, CCI has decided more than 600 behavioral cases and approved more than 350 combinations. Several enforcement decisions are strongly contested before COMPAT and various High Courts. CCI decisions are frequently challenged on due process violations. The COMPAT has either remanded the cases back to the CCI for reconsideration or set aside the order in entirety.

This article discusses how the procedures of the competition commission are inadequate for enforcing competition law effectively. The process does not match the seriousness and prestige of the institution. The cases decided by CCI have global importance and CCI has signed cooperation agreements with the antitrust agencies of EU, US and BRICS countries. This issue gains urgency due to the huge implications on businesses that are subjected to investigation, found guilty of infringing competition rules resulting in huge financial penalties. Suggesting some tranquillizers that would enable consistency & judicial discipline, the author argues that the commission and the tribunal must work harmoniously, respecting each other’s role to develop a consistent body of jurisprudence that is central to practical application of law and would go a long way in bridging the existing gaps.