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Thursday, Nov 04, 2004

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Come up with more changes to competition panel Act: SC tells Govt

J. Venkatesan

New Delhi , Nov. 3

NOT satisfied with the Centre's assertion that only a technical expert and not a judge would be the Chairperson of the Competition Commission of India (CCI), the Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Government to come out with further amendments to the Act.

In its affidavit filed last week, the Centre made it clear that "the Chairperson of the CCI should be an expert and not a Judge" and only the Chief of an appellate tribunal would be a judicial person.

However, a three-Judge Bench comprising the Chief Justice, Mr R.C. Lahoti, Mr Justice G.P. Mathur and Mr Justice P.K. Balasubramanyan, hearing a petition filed by an advocate, Mr Brahm Dutt, challenging the constitutional validity of the CCI Act, was not impressed with the arguments advanced on behalf of the Centre and granted time till November 29 to consider fresh proposals to amend the Act further.

The Bench asked the Government counsel, Mr Vivek Tankha, to submit the amendments proposed by the Centre on the questions of whether adjudication functions could be given to an expert body such as CCI, whether the judiciary should have primacy in choosing the CCI Chairperson and whether the Government should have the right to dissolve it.

The Bench told the counsel that "in the name of experts you appoint Police Commissioners as Sessions Judges to decide criminal cases and you pack up all the courts."

Mr Tankha submitted that international experience had shown that heading of such commissions by persons with relevant experience had been found to be efficacious. He said the amendments proposed by the Centre last week would meet the grievances of the petitioner.

The Senior counsel for the petitioner, Mr R.K. Jain, contended that the composition of the CCI and its functions would go to show that the CCI was to perform judicial functions that could not be usurped by the executive. He said the Chairperson should be a retired Judge who should be selected either by the Chief Justice of India or his nominee. He argued that since most of the functions to be carried out by the CCI were adjudicatory in nature, the executive could not be permitted to entrust such a function to a bureaucrat without any judicial training.

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