2 Jun 2023 8:13 AM GMT
The Delhi High Court on Friday held that power of the Competition Commission of India is limited to regulating markets and does not extend to reviewing the decisions taken by statutory regulators in exercise of their statutory powers. Emphasizing that the power does not extend to “addressing any grievance” regarding arbitrary action by any statutory authority, Justice Vibhu Bakhru...
The Delhi High Court on Friday held that power of the Competition Commission of India is limited to regulating markets and does not extend to reviewing the decisions taken by statutory regulators in exercise of their statutory powers.
Emphasizing that the power does not extend to “addressing any grievance” regarding arbitrary action by any statutory authority, Justice Vibhu Bakhru said:
“The CCI has wide powers under the Competition Act but this Court is unable to accept that the said powers extend to reviewing all decisions made by statutory bodies or a foreign government, which are not relatable to a sovereign function of the Government. The scope of examination must be confined to only those areas of economic activities, which have a bearing on the market that engages entities involved in trade and commerce.”
The court made the observations while setting aside an order passed by the CCI on February 28, 2014, directing the Director General to conduct investigation into the matter relating to Continuing Professional Education (CPE) program being conducted by Institute of Chartered Accountants of India.
Allowing the plea moved by ICAI, the court refused to accept the contention that the CCI can compel an organisation or an enterprise to outsource its activities.
The court said that the decision of ICAI to frame the CPE Program for maintenance of professional standards could not be considered as abuse of its dominant position.
“As noticed above, ICAI is charged with the function of maintaining professional standards and it conducts the educational program for structured CPE Credits, in-house or through its organs. Thus, in essence, the Informant seeks that the said function be outsourced. Such outsourcing would create a market as the other entities would be entitled to participate as market players in that market,” the court said.
Justice Bakhru also said that the Competition Act does not contemplate the CCI to act as an appellate court or a grievance redressal forum against the decisions taken by statutory regulators, in exercise of their statutory powers and are not interfaced with trade or commerce.
“A statutory body may in course of its functions, also make decisions which involve trade and commerce. As an illustration, the concerned body may purchase equipment and consumables or avail services of professionals. There is no cavil that any decision in this regard may, if it falls foul of the provisions of the Competition Act, be examined by the CCI,” court said.
It added that the ICAI falls within the definition of a statutory authority within the meaning of Clause (w) of Section 2 of the Competition Act.
“ICAI being a statutory body and charged with taking the necessary powers to take decisions regarding the conduct of the CPE program for enrolling as a chartered accountant as well as for maintaining the standards of the profession; its decisions in this regard cannot be a subject matter of review by the CCI. Such decisions do not operate in any market of trade or commerce. Such decisions do not operate in any market of trade and commerce,” the court observed.
Title: INSTITUTE OF CHARTERED ACCOUNTANTS OF INDIA v. THE COMPETITION COMMISSION OF INDIA AND ORS.
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Del) 480
Click Here To Read Order