Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Friday, Jan 21, 2005
Marketing - Courts/Legal Issues
SC allows amendment to Competition Act
New Delhi , Jan. 20
THE Supreme Court on Thursday allowed the Centre to bring in amendment to the Competition Commission Act as suggested by the court that the Chairperson of the CCI would be an expert and not a judge and only the Chief of an appellate tribunal would be a judicial person.
A three-judge Bench comprising the Chief Justice, Mr R.C. Lahoti, Mr Justice G.P. Mathur and Mr Justice P.K. Balasubramanyan thereby disposed of the petitions filed by advocates, Mr Brahma Dutt and Mr R. Gandhi, challenging the constitutional validity of the Act.
The Bench, leaving the issues open, said the court could consider the questions raised in the petitions after the Centre carried out the amendments proposed by it.
The National Democratic Alliance Government, while introducing CCI, provided for appointment of a bureaucrat to head the Competition Commission. But the apex court stayed this and the Centre was asked to consider amendments to the Act. However, the UPA Government, too, endorsed the stand of its predecessor and informed the Supreme Court that only a technical expert and not a judge would be the Chairperson of the Competition Commission.
Body of experts
In its fresh proposals, the Centre, while reiterating that the CCI needed to be a body of experts, said that if at all a judge was included in the CCI, it would be on the strength of his expertise in the field and not because of his judicial background. It said the CCI, apart from the Chairperson, should have a maximum of six members (total seven members).
It, however, said there would be an Appellate Tribunal to hear appeals against the orders of the commission and that this tribunal would be headed by a sitting or retired Supreme Court judge or chief justice of a High Court. The other two members of the tribunal would be persons with expertise in competition and related matters.
No powers to detain
The Centre also agreed to amend the controversial provision relating to execution of the orders of the CCI by the High Courts and substituted the High Courts with civil courts. In another modification, the Government said that the CCI would be divested of the power to detain a person in civil prison in the event of contravention of provisions of the Act.
The Bench has now said that the legality or otherwise of the provisions could be tested only after the amended Act was put in place and disposed of the petitions.
The petitioners had argued that the composition of the CCI and its functions would go to show that the CCI was to perform judicial functions, which could not be usurped by the executive. They said the Chairperson should be a retired judge who should be selected either by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) or his nominee.
Since most of the functions to be carried out by the CCI were adjudicatory in nature, the executive could not be permitted to entrust such a function to a bureaucrat without any judicial training.
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