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Better to buy than compete?

Whether de-merger is the right solution or resorting to other remedies like compulsory licencing would be viable remains to be seen. However, in this process, one thing the authorities need to keep in mind is that the solution must cure the problem without compromising or disincentivising the innovation.

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INTRODUCTION

 In the past 15 years, the social networking industry has certainly been one of the fastest-growing industries in the world. A recent study estimated that the global market for mobile social networking stood at 3.2 billion users in the year 2020 and is projected to reach a revised size of 4.9 billion users by 2027, growing at an annual growth rate of 6.5% over next seven years. The numbers depict how deeply personal social networking has penetrated our lives and hence the conduct of these booming service providers has also become more relevant than ever. Other than a host of data privacy concerns raised against these service providers, there have also been recent complaints of antitrust violations being flagged up against them.

Recently, two lawsuits have been filed by the US Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) & governments of 48 US states and territories, accusing Facebook of eliminating competition by acquiring its competitors and resorting to anticompetitive trade practices. The lawsuit has once again brought the conduct and the present structure of the giant social media company under the scanner. Ian Conner, director of FTC’s Bureau of Competition, has remarked that “Facebook’s actions to entrench and maintain its monopoly deny consumers the benefits of competition. Our aim is to roll back Facebook’s anticompetitive conduct and restore competition so that innovation and free competition can thrive,” This complaint and the statement is particularly interesting as it suggests a significant shift in the United States’ antitrust policy. FTC, which generally follows a non-interventionist approach – unlike the CCI in India and the CMA in the UK, through this complaint seems to have heralded a new era where even the FTC wants to intervene and review the business practices in the digital world.

 The FTC’s complaint also resembles very closely to the recent Competition and Markets Authority’s (“CMA”) report on Facebook. Both – the complaint and the report, highlights noteworthy anti-competitive practices adopted by Facebook.

FACEBOOK’S BUSINESS MODEL IN A NUTSHELL

Facebook, formed in February 2004, was one of the first personal social networks to gain significant popularity. In contrast to the limited functionalities of email and messaging, Facebook’s personal social network gained immediate popularity by providing a distinct and richer way for people to maintain personal connections. Generally, personal social networking providers e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Google+, have introduced a unique business model where on one side of the market – the social networking services, there is no monetory price for the services, but on the other side – the digital advertisement, the advertisers are charged heavily and are faced with take it or leave it situation. Facebook too monetizes its businesses by selling advertising that is displayed to users based on the personal data about their lives that Facebook collects. This business model has been highly profitable for Facebook, both in the market of social networking as well as in the display advertising. Advertisers pay billions – nearly $70 billion in 2019 – to display their “specific ads” to “specific audiences”, which is facilitated by Facebook using proprietary algorithms that analyse the vast quantity of user data it collects from its users.

FTC’S LAWSUIT

FTC has filed a lawsuit before the District Court of Columbia alleging that Facebook has maintained its monopoly position by buying up companies that present competitive threats and by imposing restrictive policies that unjustifiably hinder actual or potential rivals that Facebook does not or cannot acquire. Facebook’s 2012 acquisition of Instagram for $1 billion and the 2014 acquisition of WhatsApp for $19 billion have been cited as attempts to illegally eliminate competition. Furthermore, the complaint highlights the exclusionary trade conditions imposed by Facebook on third-party applications for using its Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). The case has been filed under S. 2 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. §2, which the F.T.C imposes through S. 5 of the FTC Act. Section 2 of the Sherman Act penalizes companies for using anti-competitive means to acquire or maintain a monopoly. The suit has been petitioned for a permanent injunction to restrain Facebook from imposing anticompetitive conditions on access to APIs and data, along with a prayer for divestitures of assets, including Instagram and WhatsApp.

DEFINING RELEVANT MARKET

 Under every antitrust regime, abuse of dominance investigation begins with defining the relevant market. The relevant market is essentially a tool to identify and define the boundaries of competition between firms. In the instant suit, the personal social networking service is defined as the relevant product market along with the United States as the relevant geographical market. Interestingly, an attempt has been made to define the relevant product market as narrowly as possible. Three key elements have been highlighted that make personal social networking services market distinct from the market for other forms of online services:

That the personal social networking services are built on a ‘social graph’ that maps the connections between users and their friends, family, and other personal connections. This social graph forms the foundation upon which users connect and communicate with their connections. Personal social networking providers use this social graph to inform what content they display to users in the shared social space and when.

That the personal social networking services include features that many users regularly employ to interact with personal connections and share their personal experiences in a shared social space, including in a one-tomany “broadcast” format.

That the personal social networking services include features that allow users to find and connect with other users, to make it easier for each user to build and expand their set of personal connections.

Further, the suit has specifically distinguished the market for personal social networking with; the market for specialized social networking services like LinkedIn as these services are designed for and are utilized by a narrow and specialized set of users primarily for sharing a narrow and highly specialized category of content;

 the market for online video or audio consumptionfocused services such as YouTube, Spotify, Netflix as users employ these for passive consumption and posting of specific media content (e.g., videos or music) from and to a wide audience of often unknown users. These services are not used primarily to communicate with friends, family, and other personal connections.

the market for mobile messaging services as these do not feature a shared social space in which users can interact, and do not rely upon a social graph that supports users in making connections and sharing experiences with friends and family.

ASSESSING DOMINANCE

 The second step in an ‘abuse of dominance’ investigation is to assess the market strength enjoyed by the enterprise. The strength of an enterprise is usually assessed through a variety of factors. The FTC’s complaint takes under consideration two important factors i.e. market share and entry barrier, to show that Facebook holds a dominant position in the relevant market. The suit alleges that Facebook has maintained a dominant share of more than 60% in the U.S. personal social networking market since the time of establishment, until the present day.

The suit also alleges that Facebook’s dominant position in the U.S. personal social networking market is resilient, due to significant entry barriers, like direct network effects and high switching costs. A strong network effect is a significant entry barrier because the personal social network is generally more valuable to a user when more of that user’s friends and family are already members, and hence a new entrant faces significant difficulties in attracting a sufficient user base to compete with Facebook. Therefore, even an entrant with a “better” product often cannot succeed against the overwhelming network effects enjoyed by a dominant personal social network.

Another significant entry barrier is in form of high switching costs, which means that the users are reluctant to shift to a new service provider because they have already built connections and develop a history of posts and shared experiences, which they would lose by switching to another personal social networking provider. Thus, significant entry barriers in the market facilitate Facebook’s continuing dominance.

ANTI-COMPETITIVE CONDUCT

FTC has accused Facebook of using its dominance and strength to deter, suppress and neutralise competition by either acquiring its competitors or by imposing anticompetitive conditions that automatically drive its competitors out of the market.

 FTC has alleged that due to the strong network effect existing in the digital market, a competing product can only become relevant at moments of social transition, for instance, with the advent of smartphones, there was a significant transition in personal social networking because smartphones were portable and offered integrated digital cameras, making social networking with family and friends through taking, sharing, and commenting on photographs via a mobile app optimized for that activity increasingly popular. However, Facebook was struggling to provide a strong user experience for this kind of personal social activity. It was built and optimized for desktop use, not smartphones, and its performance with sharing photos on mobile devices was weak. Facebook feared that its personal social networking monopoly would be toppled by a mobilefirst, photo-based competitor emerging and gaining traction. It was soon clear that Instagram was just that competitor and thus Facebook decided to buy than to compete. In sum, Facebook’s acquisition and control of Instagram represent the neutralization of a significant threat to Facebook Blue’s personal social networking monopoly and the unlawful maintenance of that monopoly by means other than merits competition.

Similarly, FTC’s complaint throws light on another social transition that started around 2010 in consequence of the increased popularity of smartphones. Consumers shifted from using traditional shortmessage-service (“SMS”) to using text messaging via the internet through overthe-top mobile messaging apps (“OTT Mobile Messaging Services”). At that time, Whatsapp was emerging as an increasingly popular OTT mobile messaging app. As a result, Whatsapp posed a threat to make a move into the personal social networking market. Facebook’s leadership feared that Whatsapp would serve as a path for a serious competitive threat to enter the personal social networking market as a mobile messaging app as it had reached sufficient scale and just by adding additional features and functionalities, it could enter the personal social networking market at competitive scale and undermine or displace Facebook’s social networking monopoly. Therefore, Facebook neutralized yet another threat by acquiring Whatsapp.

This conduct of Facebook deprived users of the benefits of competition from an independent Instagram or Whatsapp, which had the potential to penetrate the U.S personal social networking market. Moreover, Whatsapp’s strong focus on the protection of user privacy and Instagram’s unique functionality could have provided an important form of product differentiation for them to be an independent competitive threat in personal social networking.

The third aspect of the FTC’s complaint stresses on the imposition of unfair trade conditions by Facebook on access to its valuable platform interconnections – APIs, that it makes available to third-party software applications. To communicate with Facebook ((i.e., send data to Facebook, or retrieve data from Facebook) third-party apps must use Facebook APIs. FTC has alleged that for many years, Facebook has made key APIs available to third-party apps only on the condition that they refrain from providing the same core functions that Facebook offers, including Facebook Blue and Facebook Messenger, and also refrain from connecting with or promoting other social networks. These conditions have helped Facebook maintain its monopoly in personal social networking, in two ways:

First, these restrictive conditions have deterred thirdparty apps that relied upon the Facebook ecosystem, from including features and functionalities that might compete with Facebook or from engaging with other firms that compete with Facebook. This deterrence, according to FTC, suppresses the emergence of threats to Facebook’s personal social networking monopoly.

Second, the enforcement of these conditions by terminating access to valuable APIs hinders and prevents promising apps from evolving into competitors that could threaten Facebook’s personal social networking monopoly.

FACEBOOK’S DEFENCE

 Facebook has responded to these charges in an extensive post calling these lawsuits as revisionist history. Facebook’s defence can be divided into two parts:

On the acquisition of Instagram and Whatsapp, Facebook primarily contends that the FTC which had itself approved the mergers years ago, cannot now retroactively kill those mergers. Moreover, Facebook has pressed on the defence of ‘consumer benefit’. It argues that both the acquisitions have resulted in better products for consumers. Since the merger, Instagram has grown over a billion users worldwide due to improved features and better experiences. Meanwhile, Facebook has enabled Instagram to help millions of businesses engage their customers and grow. Similarly, Facebook made WhatsApp free worldwide, adding valuable new features like voice and video calling, and making it more secure by encrypting it end-to-end.

On the accusation about the imposition of anti-competitive conditions, Facebook maintains that it had created this platform for innovation on which millions of developers have created new apps, but there are certain thirdparty apps which unfairly duplicate services already being provided by Facebook. The objective behind the imposition of such conditions is to only avoid the use of Facebook’s platform to essentially replicate Facebook. Moreover, these restrictions are standard in the industry, where platforms give restricted access to other developers, while many do not provide access at all, but all of this is only to prevent duplication of core functions.

 REMEDYING THE DISTORTION OF COMPETITION BY A MERGER: WHAT DOES THE INDIAN REGIME HOLD?

The FTC’s lawsuit has attracted a lot of academic discussion on powers of antitrust authorities globally to kill mergers retroactively, which they once approved. Under the US Antitrust regime, the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act provides a mechanism for agency review of and preconsummation challenges to reported mergers through a challenge under S. 7 of the Clayton Act. Moreover, nothing in the statute prohibits the agencies from challenging a reported merger at some later stage, including after merger review, merger clearance, and merger consummation. In fact, Section 7(A)(i) of the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act states that any action under this section shall not bar any proceeding or any action with respect to such acquisition at any time under any other section of this Act or any other provision of law. Thus, by the express terms of Section 7(A)(i), the fact that the agencies reviewed and cleared a reported merger does not preclude the agencies from challenging the transaction at a later date.

This problem is more complex under the Indian competition regime as there is nothing like Section 7(A)(i) under the Indian Competition Act. Moreover, under the Indian merger control regime, the transaction which meet the jurisdictional threshold provided under Section 5 constitues a combination and requires the approval of the CCI, while the trasnations which do not neet the threshold limits of S. do not require prior approval. The Indian problem can be analysed in three parts; first, whether the CCI can hear an ex-post challenge to a previously approved combination; second, whether the CCI can hear an ex-post challenge to an unnotified transaction; and third, whether the CCI has the power to grant a structural remedy in terms of causing the breakup of the merged firm or divestiture of the assets of the enterprise. In cases of previously approved mergers, the statute gives a categorical power to the CCI to conduct an expost review of such a merger. Under S. 20(1), Commission can inquire into whether a notified combination under S. 5 has caused or is likely to cause an appreciable adverse effect on competition in India. However, the proviso restricts such review only up to one year of consummation. The question then arises is whether the commission can hear an ex-post challenge after a year of consummation? The answer may lie in S. 3(1) of the Act since the provision specifically includes an acquisition agreement. Therefore, even after a year of consummation, nothing precludes the CCI from conducting an ex-post facto analysis of the acquisition agreement under Section 3. Needless to say, it has to be shown that such trasncation has caused AAEC in the marketSimilarly, for unnotified mergers, since no provision restricts an ex-post review, the CCI has valid powers under S. 3(1) to check the anti-competitive effect of such agreement at any point of time. In India, the problem with the FacebookInstagram-Whatsapp acquisition was that it was never notified as it didn’t fall under the threshold limit and therefore the commission couldn’t even conduct an ex-ante review. However, looking at the wide powers under S. 3(1), the commission today may certainly look at the acquisition agreements in light of the factors under S. 19(3) and pass necessary orders.

On the question of powers of the commission to break up the enterprises, S. 27 and S. 28 of the Indian Competition Act gives the commission vide enforcement powers to remedy the distorted competition in the market. S. 28 empowers the commission to direct division of an enterprise enjoying a dominant position to ensure that such an enterprise doesn’t abuse its dominant position. Moreover, S. 27(g) empowers the commission to pass any order or issue any direction to remedy the abuse of dominance. Thus, by using these unequivocal powers given to it by the statute, CCI can impose structural remedies on already consummated mergers, causing the breakup of the merged firm or divestiture of some of the acquired assets.

CONCLUSION

It is one thing to see if the antitrust authorities theoretically possess the power to divest assets of a firm, and totally another thing to see if the antitrust authorities would use such power to demerge an enterprise. Despite the antitrust authorities’ ability to challenge reviewed and cleared mergers after the fact and the pro-competitive benefits of such ex-post challenges, the cases of such demergers are extremely rare. That’s the reason why the Competition and Markets Authority (“CMA”), even after finding tech giants abusing their dominance, didn’t take the responsibility of breaking them up. Technical experts have also vehemently argued against breaking up these tech giants as demergers might be counter-productive. Facebook has spent years integrating Instagram and WhatsApp: weaving their ad systems, user profiles, databases and other technology with Facebook. What to the public appear as distinct products are one giant social network on the back end. Therefore, the problem might not be solved only at the grant of prayer for demerger, the Courts would have to play a pivotal role in facilitating such de-merger, keeping in mind the importance of the tech-giant for the US economy. A famous line by an economist is worth keeping in mind, “it is dangerous to apply twentiethcentury economic intuitions to twenty-first-century economic problems”. Whether de-merger is the right solution or resorting to other remedies like compulsory licencing would be viable remains to be seen. However, in this process, one thing the authorities need to keep in mind is that the solution must cure the problem without compromising or disincentivising the innovation. It would be interesting to see how the court goes about developing the remedy package if it holds Facebook abusive of its dominant position.

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PUNJAB & HARYANA HC GRANTS BAIL TO MAN BOOKED UNDER POSCO ACT ON CHARGES BY WIFE REGARDING INCIDENT THAT TOOK PLACE WHEN SHE WAS A MINOR

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The Punjab and Haryana High Court in the case Dinesh Versus State of Haryana observed and has recently granted a regular bail to a man booked under the POCSO Act after the complainant, the petitioner wife, accused him of penetrative sexual assault in an incident that allegedly took place prior to their marriage, when the petitioner wife was still a minor.

The bench comprising of Justice Vikas Bahl observed that no date of the alleged incident has been mentioned in the FIR and it was registered after the petitioner moved a plea for restitution of conjugal rights, the bench noted that the FIR was registered after much delay.

It was observed that the FIR was registered under Sections 6, 12 and 17 of POCSO Act and Sections 506, 376(2) (N), 323, 328 and 406 of Indian Penal Code, 1860.

The Court noted that no date of incident has been mentioned in the FIR and the said FIR has been registered after filing of the petition by the petitioner under Section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. Prima facie, it also appears that after much delay, the FIR has been registered.

Further, the Court observed that the affidavit suggests that the complainant married the petitioner without coercion or pressure and also the Aadhaar Card that suggests her to have attained the majority age at the time of her marriage.

The bench after considering the fact that the petitioner is not involved in any other matter and prosecution is to take time and also that the co-accused Yogesh has been granted interim protection. It was stated that this court deemed it fit to extent the relief of regular bail to the petitioner. It observed that since 07.12.2021, the petitioner has been in custody and there are 22 prosecution witnesses and none of them have been examined. Therefore, the trial is likely to take time.

Moreover, the court allowed the instant petition and released the petitioner on regular basis subject to its cancellation if he threatens or influences the witness.

The present petition is allowed by the court, while keeping in view the facts and circumstances and the petitioner is ordered to be released on bail on his furnishing bail or surety bonds to the satisfaction of the concerned trial Court or Duty Magistrate and subject to him not being required in any other case. In the present case, it is made clear, the petitioner threatens or influences any witness, it would be open to the State to move an application for cancellation of the present regular bail granted to the petitioner by the court.

Accordingly, the petition is disposed off in above terms.

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Allahabad High Court refuses to quash case against government, madrasa teachers allegedly found with cow meat, 16 live cattle stock

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The Allahabad High Court in the case Parvez Ahmad And 3 Others v. State of U.P. and Another observed and refused to quash the criminal case against a government teacher and a madrasa teacher from whose alleged possession cow meat (beef) and 16 live cattle were recovered.

The bench comprising of Justice Rohit Ranjan Agarwal observed that the First Information Report (FIR) that prima facie cognizable offence is made out against the applicants and thus, no case was made out against them, to quash the case.

Facts of the Case:

In the present matter, the court was dealing with the 482 CrPC plea filed by 4 applicants booked under Sections 153- A, Section 420, Section 429, Section 188, Section 269, Section 270, Section 273 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and section 3/5/8 of Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act, 1955 and section 11 of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1979 and section 7/8 of Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, plea seeking to quash the case.

An Assistant teacher, Applicant no. 1 in the education department of the State. As Assistant Teacher, the applicant no. 2 is also working in the Madrasa Darul Ulum Gausia Kasba Salempur. A medical shop is run by the applicant no. 3 and applicant no. 4 is Hafiz Quran.

It was observed that their submission that a report from the Forensic Investigation Laboratory had received did not disclose that the sample sent for analysis was of the cow. Their case was case that no case under the Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act was made out.

It was argued by the State counsel that the FIR is a detailed report, the FIR which categorically mentioned that out of 16 live cattle stock which included 7 buffaloes, 1 cow, 2 female buffalo’s calf, 5 male buffalo’s calf, and one male cow-calf.

It was further argued by the state that it was wrong to say that the FSL report gave a clean chit to the applicants. Moreover, as 16 cattle were found in the possession of the applicants and other co-accused and they were not having any license to run the slaughterhouse.

Court Analysis:

The argument of the Applicant was discarded by the Court on the ground that no offence was made out from the reading of the First Information Report. It was underscored by the court that even though the FSL report had revealed that the sample which was sent for chemical analysis was not cow meat, but from the custody of the applicants and another co-accused, 16 live cattle were also recovered.

The court observing that defence regarding the FSL report shall be considered by the trial court as such defence set up in the present application cannot be considered at this stage by this Court, at the stage of quashing of the charge sheet

Accordingly, the case was dismissed.

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MP HIGH COURT SEEKS DGP’S REPLY: DOES POLICE’S FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE FULL CRIMINAL ANTECEDENTS OF ACCUSED AMOUNTS TO MISCONDUCT, INTERFERENCE WITH JUSTICE?

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The Madhya Pradesh High Court in the case Kuldeep Dohare Versus the State of Madhya Pradesh observed, recently the Gwalior bench directed the Director General of Police, State of Madhya Pradesh to file an affidavit explaining as to whether non-communication of criminal antecedents of an Applicant or Accused to the Court is a minor misconduct or if it amounts to interference with the criminal justice dispensation system. Before the next date of hearing, the affidavit is to be filled.

The bench comprising of Justice G.S. Ahluwalia observed and remarked that the court was frequently finding that the police authorities were not sending the complete criminal antecedents, in spite of the circular issued by Police Headquarters.

It was observed that the police authorities did not send the criminal antecedents of the applicant. Furthermore, it is clear that it is a clear attempt to facilitate the applicant to obtain bail by projecting that he has no criminal antecedents. The issue raised is weather the conduct of police officers can be said to be a minor negligence or it is an interference with the criminal justice dispensation system?

In the present case, the court was dealing with a bail application moved by the accused applicant for offences punishable under section 307, Section 149, section 148, section 147, section 506, section 294, section 201. On an earlier hearing, the court had observed that even though the case diary did not reflect any criminal antecedents on the part of the Applicant. The impugned order passed by the lower court rejecting his bail application mentioned otherwise.

It was observed that a reply was sought by the court from the Superintendent of Police, District Bhind as to why the important information with regard to the criminal antecedents of the Applicant were withheld by the respective SHO. The SP informed the Court on the subsequent hearing that the SHO concerned as well as the Investigating Officer in the case were found guilty of misconduct and were fined with Rs. 2,000 and Rs. 5,000, respectively.

The Court observed that since the problem was stemming from different police stations. However, the DGP should file his reply regarding the prevailing situation-

Since in different police station, this situation is prevailing. Therefore, an affidavit is directed to be filled by the DGP, State of Madhya Pradesh as to whether non- communication of criminal antecedents of an applicant is a minor misconduct or it amounts to interfere with the criminal antecedents of justice dispensation system.

Accordingly, the affidavit needs to be filled within a period of 1 week, the matter would be heard next on 08.07.2022.

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HIGH COURT OF MADHYA PRADESH: SECTION 5 OF THE LIMITATION ACT APPLIES TO ARBITRATION REFERENCE UNDER NATIONAL HIGHWAY ACT, 1956

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The High Court of Madhya Pradesh in the case Ghanshyam Gupta v. State of Madhya Pradesh and Ors observed and stated that Section 5 of the Limitation Act would be applicable to reference to arbitration under the National Highways Act, 1956.

The Division Bench comprising of Justice Ravi Malimath and Justice Purushiandra Kumar Kaurav observed and reiterated that since no limitation is provided under Section 3G (5) of the National Highways Act. The bench stated that the provisions of Article 137 of the Schedule to the Limitation Act, 1963 would apply to such proceedings.

Therefore, the court held that the limitation period for filing an appeal against the decision of the competent authority before the arbitrator from the date of expiry of 90 days is three years from the decision of the competent authority.

FACTS OF THE CASE:

The petitioner, Mr. Ghanshyam Gupta was the landowner of the land which was acquired by the Respondent, Madhya Pradesh Road Development Corporation. Thereafter, the competent authority determined the quantum of compensation payable to the petitioner and passed an award to that effect on 30.07.2015.

The petitioner being dissatisfied with the quantum of compensation determined by the competent authority. On 04.12.2019, an appeal was filled by the petitioner before the arbitrator. The appeal was dismissed by the arbitrator as time-barred filed after the expiry of three years limitation period.

the petitioner filed a writ petition before the High Court, Aggrieved by the decision of the arbitrator.

Contentions Raised by the Parties:

It is stated that Section 5 of the Limitation Act is applicable to arbitration reference under Section 3G (5) of the National Highways Act, 1956.

It was observed that the petitioner was unaware of the availability of the remedy of appeal against the decision of the competent authority, the petitioner only after consulting his lawyer, that the petitioner came to know that he could seek enhancement. Further, there is a valid ground to condone the delay.

The submissions of the petitioner were countered by the Respondent on the following grounds:

Though, in the absence of a period of limitation for filing an appeal under Section 3G (5) of the Act of 1956, it was construed that the provisions of Article 137 of the Limitation Act would stand applicable.

It was stated that Article 137 provides for 3 years period, and the petitioner filed the appeal after a delay of 4 years.

COURT ANALYSIS:

The court observed and stated that since no limitation is provided under Section 3G (5) of the National Highways Act, the provisions of Article 137 of the Schedule to the Limitation Act would apply to such proceedings.

Therefore, the court held that the limitation period for filing an appeal against the decision of the competent authority before the arbitrator from the date of expiry of 90 days is three years from the decision of the competent authority.

The court observed that there is nothing in the National Highways Act that excludes the applicability of Section 5 of the Limitation Act. However, Section 5 of the Limitation Act would be applicable to reference to arbitration under the National Highways Act, 1956 and the arbitrator has the power to condone the delay against the award, in filing an appeal by the competent authority.

The court noted that the petitioner was not aware that an appeal could be filed against the decision of the Competent Authority and it is only after consulting his lawyer that the petitioner came aware of any such right, therefore, there is sufficient reason to condone the delay.

Accordingly, the application was allowed by the court and the court directed the arbitrator to decide the case of the petitioner on merit.

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KERALA HIGH COURT APPOINTS AMICUS CURIAE IN SARITHA NAIR’S PLEA; IS A STATEMENT RECORDED U/S 164 CRPC A PUBLIC DOCUMENT?

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The Kerala High Court in the case Saritha S. Nair v. Union of India & Anr observed and appointed an amicus curia to assist the court to decide the legal question of whether a statement recorded under Section 164 of the CrPC is a public document.

The bench comprising of Justice Kauser Edappagath appointed the amicus curiae, in the petition filled by Saritha S. Nair, the prime accused in the infamous solar panel scam seeking a direction to provide her with copies of the Section 164 statement given by Swapna Suresh, the accused in the gold smuggling case.

The court appointed Advocate K.K. Dheerendrakrishnan, as the amicus curiae in the case.

In the present case, it was observed that Saritha Nair is accused of having duped several influential people to the tune of 70 lakhs, by offering to install solar power units for them or by making them business partners and by receiving advance payments for the same.

Moreover, Swapna Suresh is accused of smuggling 30 kilograms of gold through diplomatic cargo dispatched to UAE Consulate at Thiruvananthapuram.

It was observed that when the petition came up for hearing, the counsel appearing for the petitioner, Advocate B.A Aloor appearing that the statement given by Swapna was a public document and therefore the petitioner was entitled to get a copy.

Further, Nair approached the Court apprehending that certain allegation may have been brought on record against her in the statement given by Suresh. It was prayed by Nair, that the c court allow her plea, directing the production of certified copies of the said document to her, failing which she would sustain an irreparable injury, the hardship and as well as physical and mental agony.

It was observed that the Nair had had initially moved the Principal District and Sessions Court of Ernakulam, with the same request, but this was denied. The court noted and adjourned the matter to July 11, while on a petition filed by the accuse, Saritha S. Nair in the solar scam cases, for seeking a directive to provide a copy of the statement given by Swapna Suresh, accused in the diplomatic gold smuggling case before a subordinate court.

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Supreme Court issues notice in an SLP; can section 156 (3) CRPC be invoked after failing to get desired relief in a civil suit?

It was observed that before the Calcutta High Court, it was contended by the accused that the allegations made in the application under Section 156(3) CrPC fails to make out any offence against them. Further, it was submitted that a frustrated unsuccessful litigant before the Civil Court has approached the Criminal Court and the Criminal Investigation.

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The Supreme Court in the case Usha Chakraborty vs State of West Bengal observed and issued a notice in a Special Leave Petition filled, raising an issue whether in a dispute essentially in a dispute of civil nature that can a person, after having failed to get the desired relief from a civil suit, invoke Section 156(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure?

In the present case, an FIR was registered against the accused under Sections 323, Section 384, Section 406, Section 423, Section 467, Section 468, Section 420 and Section 120B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 following an order passed by the Magistrate under Section 156(3) CrPC.

It was observed that before the Calcutta High Court, it was contended by the accused that the allegations made in the application under Section 156(3) CrPC fails to make out any offence against them. Further, it was submitted that a frustrated unsuccessful litigant before the Civil Court has approached the Criminal Court and the Criminal Investigation, which has commenced, is for the purposes of throttling them. The petition was dismissed by the High Court observing that the materials which have already been collected by the Investigating Agency, prima facie, make out a case for investigation. The issue raised before the court was weather the same would make out an offence after the investigation is concluded is absolutely at the end of the investigation to be analysed.

Therefore, challenging this order, one of the accused approached the Apex Court. However, It was submitted that the dispute is essentially of civil nature, for which the applicant in Section 156(3) CrPC petition filed a civil suit but having failed to get the desired relief, he invoked Section 156(3) CrPC.

The bench comprising of Justice Surya Kant and the Justice JB Pardiwala, while issuing notice also stayed further proceedings in FIR lodged against the accused.

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