The Union Cabinet, on Tuesday, approved the reworked Competition (amendment) Bill that seeks to bring comprehensive changes to the current competition law, official sources confirmed. This revamped Bill is likely to be taken up in upcoming Budget session of Parliament starting on January 31.

Reworking has been done after the Standing Committee on Finance gave its report on the Bill last month. This is the first time the government is going in for comprehensive changes to the Competition law since its coming into force in 2009.

Although the government is not bound to accept and incorporate the recommendations given by the Standing Committee, indications are that the government may find merit in some. However, no details were available about the specific amendments or provisions that are being introduced in the Bill as it has to be first moved in Parliament.

The Competition (amendment) Bill 2022 — which proposes many substantive, procedural and institutional changes — was introduced in Parliament on August 5 last year.

The Bill seeks to, among other things, broaden the scope of anti-competitive agreements; reduce time limit for approval of mergers & acquisitions from the existing 210 days to 150 days; introduce deal value threshold as an additional criteria for notifying M&As to capture killer acquisitions in digital markets which were hitherto falling below the notification criteria due to asset and revenue light business models of new age companies; provide limitation period of three years for filing cases relating to anti-competitive agreements and abuse of dominant position; introduce settlement & commitment framework; deepen scope of inter-regulatory consultations; incentivize parties in an ongoing cartel investigations in terms of lesser penalty to disclose information regarding other cartels (leniency plus).

The Parliamentary Panel headed by Jayant Sinha had made a slew of recommendations to the Bill including periodic revision of basic deal value threshold of ₹ 2,000 crore and its indexation to inflation; retention of existing overall time limit of 210 days for CCI to assess M&A deals; inclusion of cartels under the proposed Settlement and Commitment framework and the controversial one of requiring the CCI to establish ‘effects’ of anti competitive conduct of dominant undertakings. 

Statement of objects and reasons for amendment in the original bill says it is being done with a view to provide regulatory certainty and trust-based business environment. Initial provisions included changes in certain definitions like “enterprise”, “relevant product market”, “Group”, “Control”, etc., to provide clarity in various provisions.