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CCI’S COMPLIANCE WITH PRINCIPLES OF NATURAL JUSTICE: A NEED FOR UNIFORM APPROACH

This post is authored by Mahima Chhabrani, a third-year student of B.A. LL.B (Hons.) at the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata.

Image by Ezequiel Octaviano from Pixabay

INTRODUCTION


Section 26(1) of the Competition Act, 2002 (hereinafter Act) confers power on the Competition Commission of India (hereinafter CCI) to order an investigation when it finds the prima facie contravention of the Act. Before passing the order of the investigation to the Director-General (hereinafter DG), CCI, in most cases, relies on the information produced by the Informant in forming a prima facie opinion. Much recently, there has been an on-going debate about the mandatory requirement of the CCI to allow both the Informant and the opposite party (hereinafter OP) to present their case before launching the investigation. Failure to do so will be a violation of principles of natural justice of the audi alteram partem. This debate arises in the backdrop of a shift in the trend of CCI to hear both the Informant and the OPs despite there being no statutory requirement to do so. The article attempts to address the question regarding the compliance of principles of natural justice, pointing out the benefits of adopting this approach.


COMPLIANCE WITH PRINCIPLES OF NATURAL JUSTICE


There has been an on-going debate about the need for the CCI to comply with all the facets of natural justice while passing an order and imposing a penalty (if any) under section 27 of the Act. Once again, the point of contention remains whether CCI is mandatorily required to serve a notice and give the Respondent an opportunity to present their case. The judicial trend suggests that CCI is not expected to serve a notice or hear the parties since this investigation is merely a preparatory step and not a final order.