CCI denies leaking of confidential probe report against Google

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on September 24, 2021

Delhi High Court to further hear on the matter on Monday

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) on Friday denied leaking the confidential probe report against Google and told the Delhi High Court that Google should sue the media houses which allegedly published the report.

It said that Google’s plea against the alleged leak of confidential probe information was wholly misplaced and an attempt to frustrate proceedings related to its Android smartphone agreements.

Google’s writ petition

The development comes after Google on Thursday filed a writ petition in the Delhi High Court against the CCI alleging unlawful disclosures of the confidential interim fact-finding report submitted by the Director General’s office to CCI relating to an ongoing investigation into Android smartphone agreements.

Also see: Google takes CCI to Delhi HC for leak of Android probe report

Google said it has not yet received or reviewed this confidential report, but it was already leaked to the media last week, which impairs “Google’s ability to defend itself and harms Google and its partners.”

Google, in a statement, had said that on September 18, 2021, a confidential interim fact-finding report submitted by the Director General’s office to CCI relating to an investigation into Google’s Android smartphone agreements was leaked to the media.

Frustrate proceedings

However, Additional Solicitor General N Venkataraman, representing CCI, stated that the Commission stood by the legal obligation with respect to maintenance of confidentiality and clarified that there was no lapse on the part of the body.

“There are accusations against a government body and there is not a word (in Google’s affidavit) showing when and how it was done...They are trying to frustrate the proceedings. If they are aggrieved, they should file a suit against (the media),” he said.

Venkataraman also informed the court that one of the officials of Google wrote to the CCI Chairperson, saying “We will sue you”.

Justice Rekha Palli stated that she did not appreciate the US-based tech giant directly approaching the authority. “If he (Google) wants to function in the country, he has to know the law. I don’t appreciate this...If he felt so strongly, he should have addressed the letter to the registrar (of CCI),” the judge stated.

Habitual defaulter

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing Google, highlighted that the allegedly leaked information was only in the possession of the Director General (DG) who further passed it on to CCI, and no other person, including the parties, are privy to it.

Also see: Antitrust probe finds Google abused Android dominance

“Please see the habitual defaulter. Everyday leakage is happening...Give a dog a bad name and hang him by selective leakage,” he said, urging the court to pass an order protecting his client from further prejudice.

He argued that the CCI order, on Google’s appeal against the DG order on its “confidentiality claim”, was passed without following the principles of natural justice.

The judge has listed the matter for further hearing on Monday (September 27).

Published on September 24, 2021

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