After a decade, the central government of India has introduced a Competition Law Amendment Bill 2022 to amend procedural and seminal aspects of the Competition Act 2002.
It was first introduced for public consultation in February 2020 and now it has been finally tabled before the lower house of the parliament of India and it will be debated in the winter session of the Parliament. This bill was firstly recommended by Competition Law Review Committee in 2019 and the feedback of Public Stakeholders on the draft of the Competition Law Amendment Bill 2020.
Competition Law Amendment Bill 2022 is a game-changing bill, it is drafted to fulfill the loopholes and to synchronize with the modern conditions of the market which is rapidly growing with the new technologies and methods.
The bill will provide more authority and flexibility to the competition Act 2002 by broadening the scope of Anti-Competitive Agreements, modification of several definitions provided under the Competition Act, approvals of fast-track for mergers & acquisitions etc.
Major Changes Through Competition Law Amendment Bill 2022
Some of the critical changes by this amendment bill are addressed below:-
BROADENING THE SCOPE OF ‘CONTROL’
The existing competition law act defines “control” as controlling or managing the affairs of a company but this amendment bill proposes a wider scope of control.
Through this Bill, CCI adopted a widening and comprehensive definition of control comprising de facto control, de jure control and material influence.
INTRODUCTION OF DEAL-VALUE THRESHOLD IN MERGER AND ACQUISITION CONTROL
This amendment bill proposes new criteria to determine whether any acquisition or merger requires approval from the CCI or not. The current threshold is based on the turnover and assets of the parties to the transactions. It was noticed that there are some transactions which have the power to impact the competition in the market, especially in the digital economy, they were able to avoid scrutiny under the current regime. But after applying the “Deal-Value Threshold” any acquisition or merger that crosses the value of 2000 crores INR will require approval from CCI. The introduction of the deal-value threshold in the amendment bill is one of the major and important provisions. It is practised internationally and it will bring several such transactions annexing “asset lite” and “low revenue” technology sturt-up under the CCI’s scrutiny.
HUB & SPOKE CARTEL
Here’s the new addition to Hub & Spoke cartel in the Anti-trust Provisions. It gives more teeth and flexibility to the anti-trust agreements in India. Hub and spoke agreements are the horizontal inhibition on the supplier or the retailer level i.e spokes, which are executed through the vertically related players that serve as common manufacturers, retailers called the hub. The “hub” facilitates the coordination between the spokes without direct contact between the spokes. Hence, here is the transfer of information from the spokes to the hub and the hub act as a medium to facilitate the cartels.
The phrase gun-jumping is nowhere mentioned in the Competition Act 2002 but the Competition Commission of India explained gun jumping to allude any pursuant to the proposed combination which has the effect of consummating the combination or any part thereof without approval, express or implied from the competition authority. In the given framework CCI has the power to penalize the parties up to 1% of the “total assets or turnover” without prior approval of CCI but in the amendment bill, CCI has the power to punish up to 1% of the “deal value” of the transaction.
APPOINTMENT AND THE POWERS OF THE DIRECTOR GENERAL
The central government has the power to appoint the Director General under the current framework of the Competition Act but the amendment bill proposes a process regarding the appointment of the director general in which CCI empower to appoint the DG with the prior approval of the Central Government. The bill also widens the powers of the DG by (i) scrutinising the agents of the company like legal advisors, bankers, officers, employers etc. (ii) can seek information from a third party about the affairs of the company under the investigation process.
INTRODUCTION OF THE LIMITATION PERIOD FOR FILING INFORMATION
The Competition Law Amendment Bill 2022 proposes a limitation period for filing information before CCI regarding violation of the anti-trust law which has a limitation period of three years from the date of cause of action and the current framework does not have any limitation in the filing of information.
ENCHASING PENALTY AND PENALTY GUIDELINES
The bill propones higher penalties in terms of anti-trust violations. The penalty for making a false statement has been increased from 1 crore INR to 5 crore INR. The bill also mandates the Competition Commission of India to publish the guidelines concerning the amount of penalty to be levied violations for of the provisions of the competition law.
The major changes envisaged above lucidly indicate that the bill has adequate contention that will give more flexion and flexibility to the existing legal framework. This bill will innovate the competition law regime in our country with detailed guidelines and strict regulations.
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Delhi HC finds Axis Bank in breach of its own undertaking given before the court
The court says Axis Bank is bound by its undertaking given to the court in February 2021 & then in March 2021 that it will not go ahead with the substitution of the concessionaire in the PS Toll Road project, without court’s nod.
Delhi HC says Axis Bank’s undertaking was unconditional, and therefore it cannot rely upon any event under the Concession Agreement or the Substitution Agreement, to appoint a new concessionaire in the project.
PS Toll Road Pvt Ltd (PSTR), the concessionaire of the Pune Satara Toll Road project, had challenged the appointment of a new concessionaire in the project by the Axis Bank despite a stay on the process by the Delhi HC in March 2021.
PS Toll Road Pvt Ltd, in its appeal before the Delhi HC, has contended that Axis Bank was in breach of its own undertaking given before the court in 2021, that it will not finalize the bids or award the contract to a third party, thereby substituting the PS Toll Road Pvt Ltd
Court has issued notice to Axis Bank and the matter will be heard on 28 September. PS Toll Road Pvt Ltd is a subsidiary of Reliance Infrastructure Ltd. and was awarded the contract for six laning of 140 KM of stretch between Pune and Satara in Maharashtra on BOT basis. The project is now complete.
Supreme Court: Permanent injunction cannot be sought on the basis of an unregistered agreement to sell
The Supreme Court in the case Balram Singh vs Kelo Devi observed and stated that a relief of permanent injunction cannot be sought on the basis of such an unregistered document/agreement to sell.
The bench comprising of Justice MR Shah and Justice Krishna Murari observed that a plaintiff cannot get the relief indirectly which otherwise he/she cannot get in a suit for specific performance.
In the present case, a suit has been filled by the plaintiff praying for a decree of permanent injunction restraining the defendant from disturbing her possession in the suit property, which was claimed on the basis of the agreement to sell of which was an unregistered agreement/document to sell on ten rupees stamp paper. The suit was dismissed by the Trial Court by the original plaintiff and refused to grant permanent injunction and allowed the counter-claim of the defendant. However, the First Appellate Court reversed the Trial Court judgment and decreed the suit. The second appeal filled by the defendant was dismissed by the High Court.
In appeal, the defendant-appellant contended that an unregistered agreement to sell is not admissible in evidence and that the suit filed by the original plaintiff was only for permanent injunction and she did not seek the relief for specific performance of agreement to sell by adopting a clever drafting as she was well aware that she would not succeed in the suit filled for specific performance on the basis of an unregistered agreement to sell. On the other hand, it was contended by the respondent-plaintiff that an unregistered document can be used for collateral purpose and therefore both, the first appellate Court as well as the High Court have rightly passed a decree for permanent injunction while considering the agreement for selling of collateral purpose for grant of permanent injunction.
The Apex Court observed, while allowing the appeal:
However, having conscious of the fact that the plaintiff might not succeed in getting the relief of specific performance of such agreement to sell as the same was unregistered, a suit was filed by the plaintiff simplicitor for permanent injunction only. In a given case, it may be true that an unregistered document can be used and/or considered for collateral purpose and at the same time, the plaintiff cannot get the relief indirectly which otherwise he/she cannot get in a suit for substantive relief, namely, in the present case filled for the relief of specific performance. Thus, the plaintiff cannot get the relief even for permanent injunction on the basis of such an unregistered document/agreement to sell, more particularly when the defendant specifically filed the counter-claim for getting back the possession which was being allowed by the learned trial Court. It has been cleverly prayed by the plaintiff for a relief of permanent injunction only and did not seek for the substantive relief of specific performance of the agreement to sell as the agreement to sell was an unregistered document and therefore on such unregistered agreement/document to sell, no decree for specific performance could have been passed. By clever drafting, the plaintiff cannot get relief.
Therefore, the court restored the Trial Court judgment dismissing the suit and allowing the counter-claim.
Supreme Court refuses to stay EC proceedings on Shinde’s claim, ‘real’ Shiv Sena tussle
On Tuesday, a constitution bench of the Supreme Court allowed the Election Commission of India to go ahead and decide Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde’s claim that his faction represents the “real” Shiv Sena.
The bench comprising of Justice D.Y. Chandrachud dismissed the plea of Uddhav Thackeray camps to stay the ECI proceedings. It was argued by Mr. Thackeray that the Shinde faction was facing disqualification proceedings for defection under the 10th schedule and that the ECI should wait until the question of disqualification was decided.
The Supreme Court stated during the hearing that there was a bit of problem with Mr. Thackeray’s argument that the ECI proceedings under the Symbols Order of 1968 should be “stultified” merely because of a disqualification process against the Shinde function was pending before the Assembly Speaker.
Also, the bench comprising of Justice M.R. Shah, Krishna Murari, Hima Kohli and P.S. Narasimha stated that “we direct that there would be no stay of the proceedings before the Election Commission”.
It was observed that the Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government had collapsed after a revolt by Mr. Shinde and the 39 other legislators against the Sena leadership.
On June 30, Mr. Shinde was sworn in as the CM along with BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis as his deputy.
The Supreme Court had referred to a five-judge bench on August 30, the plea filled by the Thackeray and Shinde-led factions raising several constitutional questions related to defection, disqualification and merger.
It was also stated that it had been asked the Election Commission Of India (ECI) not to pass any orders on the Shinde faction’s petition that it be considered the “real” Shiv Sena and be granted the party’s poll symbol.
However, the bench led by the then Chief Justice N.V. Ramana has said that the batch of petitions raise important constitutional issues which is relating to the 10th schedule of the Constitution pertaining to the disqualifications, power of the speaker and the governor, and judicial review.
It is provided by the 10th schedule of the Constitution for the prevention of defection of the elected and the nominated members for their political parties and contains stringent provisions against defection.
Earlier, it has been submitted by Thackeray faction that party MLAs loyal to Shinde can save themselves from disqualification under the 10th schedule of the constitution only by merging with another political party.
It has been contended by the Shinde group that the anti-defection law is not a weapon for a leader who has lost the confidence of his own party.
Supreme Court Collegium Recommends To Elevate Bombay HC Chief Justice Dipankar Datta As Judge Of Supreme Court
The Supreme Court Collegium has recommended to elevate Bombay High Court Chief Justice Dipankar Datta as a Judge of the Supreme Court.
Justice Datta is the son of a former Calcutta High Court Judge, late (J) Salil Kumar Datta and brother-in-law of Justice Amitava Roy, former Supreme Court Judge and was born in February 1965.
However, in 1989, he obtained his LL.B. degree from the University of Calcutta and was enrolled as an Advocate on November 16, 1989. Further, he worked as a Junior Standing Counsel for the State of West Bengal from May 16, 2002 to January 16, 2004 and as a Counsel for the Union of India since 1998.
From June 22, 2006., he worked as a Judge of the Calcutta High Court. On April 28, 2020., he was elevated as the Chief Justice of Bombay High Court.
He has passed several significant judgements as CJ of the Bombay High Court, including home vaccination for the bedridden and has directed a preliminary enquiry against Anil Deshmukh – Maharashtra Home Minister at the time, and an authoritative pronouncement on an illegal construction.
Supreme Court: Notice issued on DCPCR plea challenging Juvenile Justice Act 2021 amendments making certain offences non-cognizable
The Supreme Court in the case Delhi commission for protection of child rights v UOI observed and issued in a petition filled by the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) challenging the 2021 amendment made to the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act 2015 (JJ Act), which came into force on 1st September, 2022, whereby certain categories of offences against children have been made non-cognizable.
The bench comprising of Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and the Justice Hima Kohli observed, the counsel, Advocate, Mr. Preteek K Chadha appearing for DCPCR argued that the amendment sets out a less stringent standard than the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 or the unamended JJ Act.
However, the commission is challenging the 2021 Amendment to the extent it made the following categories of offences non-cognizable:
A. Using of children for drugs peddling
B. Using of children by terrorists
C. Exploitation of the child employee
D. Cruelty against the children
It was observed when the offences are non-cognizalbe, the police cannot register FIR and the investigation can commence only on the basis of a complaint filed before the concerned Magistrate.
Further, in 2021, the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Act, 2021 was passed to amend various provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 which received the assent of the President on 07th August 2021. As the Amendement Act is yet to be notified. Thus, there are 29 Amendments carried out in the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 by the Amendment Act, 2021.
It is stated that Section 26 of the Amendment Act categorizes serious offences i.e., offences with an imprisonment for a term of three years and above, but not more than seven years as non-cognizable offence. Such offences include sale and procurement of children, employment of children for child begging, exploitation of child employee, giving intoxicating liquor or narcotic drug to a child, etc.
It is argued by the commission that such categorization violates Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India and also various other international obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child for which India is a signatory. However, such categorization is contrary to the scheme of the Juvenile Justice Act which is progressive in nature and protects children against all forms of exploitation.
Before the Court, it was argued that the categorization is also contrary to the general scheme of IPC wherein offences punishable with imprisonment for more than three years are categorized as Cognizable whereas offences are punishable with imprisonment for up to three years as non-cognizable offence. Consequently, there is no reasonable justification or rational nexus sought to be achieved by reclassifying the cognizable offences as non-cognizable offences.
The petition stated that on 08.04.2022, it is mentioned that five State Commissions for Protection of Child Rights representing the States and Union Territories of Chandigarh, Delhi, Punjab, Rajasthan and West Bengal in exercise of their powers vested under Section 15 of the Commissions for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005 recommended to the Government of India that a Bill be tabled in the Parliament for further amending the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 in order to restore the cognizability status of the serious offences under the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015. It is stated by DCPCR that no such response has been received from the Central Government on the recommendations.
Against this backdrop, the plea has been filled seeking a declaration that declaring the amendment to Section 86 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 by way of Section 26 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2021 as unconstitutional and violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India to the extent it makes offences under the Act which are punishable with imprisonment for a term of three years and above, but not more than seven years as non-cognizable.
Supreme Court live-streaming hearings for first time today
The Supreme Court went live for the first time on Tuesday when the cases’ hearings, which were planned to be livestreamed during the day, could be viewed online. One of the three cases slated for live streaming was from Maharashtra and pitted Team Uddhav Thackeray against Team Eknath Shinde over a dispute over the Shiv Sena’s symbol, with the Election Commission already involved. This was the second live hearing where the attorney, Kapil Sibal, could be seen arguing.
Live broadcasting was recommended by the Supreme Court around four years ago.
The former chief justice of India, Dipak Misra, had passed the landmark ruling on September 27 on the live telecast of important proceedings, saying “sunlight is the best disinfectant”.
Following discussion on the issue by the whole top court on September 20, it was decided to begin live-streaming constitutional bench hearings this week. Chief Justice of India (CJI) Uday Umesh Lalit presided over the whole court meeting, and all the judges agreed that constitutional matters should be the first to be streamed live on a regular basis.
A bold plan to integrate the use of information and technology with India’s judiciary, the e-courts project’s third phase included the proposal to have an exclusive platform for live-streaming Supreme Court sessions.
The high courts in Gujarat, Orissa, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Patna, and Madhya Pradesh are some of the high courts that broadcast hearings live as well.
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