Saturday, September 11, 2010

CCI v. SAIL: Conclusions of the SC

Here are some of the important conclusions reached by the Supreme Court in the CCI v. SAIL &Anr.(civil appeal no. 7779 of 2010):

“In terms of Section 53A(1)(a) of the Act appeal shall lie only against such directions, decisions or orders passed by the Commission before the Tribunal which have been specifically stated under the provisions of Section 53A(1)(a). The orders, which have not been specifically made appealable, cannot be treated appealable by implication. For example taking a prima facie view and issuing a direction to the Director General for investigation would not be an order appealable under Section 53A (emphasis mine).”

Neither any statutory duty is cast on the Commission to issue notice or grant hearing, nor any party can claim, as a matter of right, notice and/or hearing at the stage of formation of opinion by the Commission, in terms of Section 26(1) of the Act that a prima facie case exists for issuance of a direction to the Director General to cause an investigation to be made into the matter.”(emphasis mine)

The Commission, in cases where the inquiry has been initiated by the Commission suo moto, shall be a necessary party and in all other cases the Commission shall be a proper party in the proceedings before the Competition Tribunal. The presence of the Commission before the Tribunal would help in complete adjudication and effective and expeditious disposal of matters. Being an expert body, its views would be of appropriate assistance to the Tribunal. Thus, the Commission in the proceedings before the Tribunal would be a necessary or a proper party, as the case may be.” (emphasis mine)

“During an inquiry and where the Commission is satisfied that the act is in contravention of the provisions stated in Section 33 of the Act, it may issue an order temporarily restraining the party from carrying on such act, until the conclusion of such inquiry or until further orders without giving notice to such party, where it deems it necessary. This power has to be exercised by the Commission sparingly and under compelling and exceptional circumstances. The Commission, while recording a reasoned order inter alia should : (a) record its satisfaction (which has to be of much higher degree than formation of a prima facie view under Section 26(1) of the Act) in clear terms that an act in contravention of the stated provisions has been committed and continues to be committed or is about to be committed; (b) It is necessary to issue order of restraint and (c) from the record before the Commission, it is apparent that there is every likelihood of the party to the lis, suffering irreparable and irretrievable damage or there is definite apprehension that it would have adverse effect on competition in the market.” (emphasis mine)

In consonance with the settled principles of administrative jurisprudence, the Commission is expected to record at least some reason even while forming a prima facie view. However, while passing directions and orders dealing with the rights of the parties in its adjudicatory and determinative capacity, it is required of the Commission to pass speaking orders, upon due application of mind, responding to all the contentions raised before it by the rival parties.” (emphasis mine)

At first blush the finding of the Supreme Court seems to be correct. However I shall analyze the decision in greater detail in a subsequent post.

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