Putting to rest a long standing serious contentious issue, the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) has, in a landmark ruling, said judicial member is not a must for the Competition Commission of India (CCI) to validly discharge its functions.
In the recent beer cartel ruling issued on Friday, the NCLAT has emphatically rejected the contention of the parties who challenged the CCI penalty on the ground that the ruling was not given by a commission comprising judicial member and hence the entire proceedings are void.
“On perusal of provisions (on composition of Competition Commission), it is evident that nowhere it has been indicated that CCI must consist a judicial member. The Act (Competition Act) does not reflect to add a judicial member for deciding the proceeding... the objection raised by the learned counsel for appellant that in absence of Judicial Member order impugned is illegal has got no substance,” said the order by NCLAT Bench comprising Justice Rakesh Kumar, member (judicial) and Ashok Kumar Mishra, member (technical).
The ruling comes on the heels of the Standing Committee on Finance noting in its recent report on Competition (Amendment) Bill that the matter of whether or not a judicial member should form part of CCI is sub judice before the Supreme Court of India and therefore, any decision in this regard need to await the outcome of the case.
Currently, the CCI has only two members and none are from the judicial background. In 2018, the Union Cabinet had decided it will not appoint anyone other than the chairman and three members.