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Delhi HC dismisses CCI appeal against order on supplying non-confidential documents to Forech

The order was passed by a Division Bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Asha Menon.

Aditi Singh

The Delhi High Court has dismissed an appeal by the Competition Commission of India (CCI) challenging a Single Judge Bench order on supplying all non-confidential documents, statements collected by Director General (DG) during the course of investigation along with other details to Forech India Ltd.

The order was passed by a Division Bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Asha Menon.

The CCI had initiated an investigation in alleged cartelisation in conveyor belt sector, based on a leniency petition filed by one of the manufacturers.

Subsequently, notice was sent to Forech India Ltd by the Director General to submit certain information and data including personal appearance of officials of Forech for recording of statement.

Forech then sought inspection of public files before CCI, which was declined stating that entire file was ‘confidential’.

Forech moved the High Court seeking directions for supply of all non-confidential documents collected by DG during the investigation, orders granting confidentiality, opportunity to cross examine the witnesses and legal representation before DG.

After CCI consented to supply all non-confidential documents, orders granting confidentiality, cross examination and legal representation, the petition was disposed of by the Single Judge Bench of the Court.

Thereafter, CCI recorded the statement of the official of Forech but did not supply the abovementioned documents/ orders as per consent order.

CCI then moved the Single Judge Bench for modification of the earlier order to the extent that only those documents shall be supplied which were to be relied upon against Forech.

The modification application was dismissed by the Single Judge after observing that CCI was “trying to wriggle out of the consent order".

Aggrived by the rejection of the modification plea, CCI moved the Division Bench in appeal.

While deciding the appeal, the Court observed that the Letters Patent Appeal was filed with a delay of 67 days.

The Court observed that after going through the averments made in the application for condonation of delay, it was apparent that “no explanation was offered” for the delay.

Taking note of the administrative and procedural explanation cited by CCI as reasons for the delay, the Court stated that it showed the lackadaisical and casual approach adopted by CCI in processing the case knowing very well that the period of limitation had long expired.

The Court then perused the original order passed by the Single Judge and observed that CCI had itself consented to furnish all the documents of the investigation available with it to Forech, except for those with respect to which a party had claimed confidentiality, without it being treated as a precedent.

The Court thus rejected CCI’s contention that the Single Judge’s order, if not set aside, shall have wide ramifications or shall be treated as a precedent in the future.

In view of the above, the Court dismissed the application for condonation of delay as well as the appeal.

“There is no justification to modify the impugned order in the light of the statement made by learned counsel for the appellant/CCI on 2.12.2015, as noted in the order dated 2.12.2015. Thus, even on merits, no case for interference is made out by the appellant/CCI.”
Delhi High Court

CCI was represented by Advocates Balaji Subramanian, Ishani Banerjee.

Forech was represeneted by Senior Advocate Krishnan Venugopal with IndusLaw Partners Rahul Goel and Anu Monga.

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