With the sole CCI Member, Sangeeta Verma, having superannuated on Friday, the Competition Watchdog has now been rendered into a single-member body under its Chairperson Ravneet Kumar. 

Ravneet Kaur assumed charge at the helm of this regulatory body in May this year and is now left to preside over a Commission under a singular leadership structure without any Members. 

“CCI Member Sangeeta Verma superannuated on Friday”, sources said.

After the superannuation of erstwhile Member B S Bishnoi in August, the Competition Commission only had its Chairperson Ravneet Kaur and Sangeeta Verma. Bishnoi’s superannuation had rendered the CCI inquorate with three Members being the criterion for satisfying the quorum norms.

With Verma having superannuated, industry and CCI observers are concerned that CCI may become dysfunctional in the absence of the Centre not yet appointing Members to the Commission. There is an apprehension that M&A approvals would get delayed, and FDI inflows may face regulatory bumps.

While the CCI has been invoking the Doctrine of Necessity (when quorum issues had arisen earlier) to clear M&A cases, experts noted that the doctrine is a nebulous proposition and the validity of the CCI approvals can be challenged in courts if orders lack quorum.

CCI plays a crucial role in an open economy structure that India has adopted. As a watchdog, it promotes fair competition and prevents anti-competitive practices in the Indian market. 

The CCI enforces the Competition Act 2002 by investigating cases of abuse of dominance, anti-competitive agreements, and combinations that may adversely affect competition. 

This helps create an environment encouraging innovation, efficiency, and economic growth while safeguarding consumers’ interests.

It may be recalled that after the erstwhile Chairman Ashok Kumar Gupta demitted office on October 25 last year, the CCI had been inquorate for seven months till the new Chairperson Ravneet Kaur assumed office in May this year.

The Corporate Affairs Ministry (MCA) had, on January 23 this year, invited applications for the three CCI Members posts and kept the last date for submitting applications at March 9. However, in April this year, the last date for receiving applications was extended to May 1.

Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud led Panel and shortlisted candidates in May 2023 for the three CCI members’ posts. This came close on the heels of the Centre appointing Ravneet Kaur, an IAS officer, as the full-time Chairperson of CCI.

It remains to be seen if the Centre adheres to the Delhi High Court’s directions to appoint a Judicial member for the CCI.

If a Judicial Member were indeed to be appointed, it would be more than four years after the Delhi High Court division bench directed the government to appoint such a Member to CCI.