Facing challenges over its jurisdiction in various matters and without authority to recruit its workforce, the country’s fair trade regulator — Competition Commission of India (CCI) — is learnt to have written to the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, seeking more autonomy.
A government official said that CCI has written to the Ministry of Corporate Affairs asking for powers to recruit its workforce based on its requirement and has also asked for its own building, instead of operating from a rented office.
When contacted by The Indian Express, MS Sahoo, member, CCI did not confirm it but said that it was not fair to compare autonomy of one regulator with that of another. He, however, pointed out: “On human resource and financial matters CCI has limited flexibility.”
While other regulators — Sebi, RBI etc – have powers to recruit their workforce and are sectoral regulators with issues of jurisdiction mostly sorted, the CCI, a relatively young regulator, is still evolving.
Operating from a rented office in KG Marg, New Delhi, with a 250-odd strong workforce that mostly includes — government officials on deputation and contractual employees, CCI, which is six years old, is now asking for more. While government sources say that regulators need trained workforce to carry out their work, in case of CCI, rules for employment of workforce are decided by the government.
The Competition Act states that the government will decide on the number, qualification and salary structure of the employees to be hired and thus leaves little scope for the regulator to decide on its own.
A regulatory expert said that it is a structural issue for the regulator which needs professionals and full-time employees to deal with issues and cases that it has to fight in courts. “People coming on deputation will not strengthen the regulator, which is faced with a situation that several orders passed by the regulator have been challenged in the courts. CCI must have the ability to respond to those issues,” said the expert.
The regulator, which is entrusted with the task of eliminating monopolistic trade practices to promote and sustain competition and protect the interest of consumers, is also dealing with a situation where a number of orders passed by it are challenged in the courts — mostly questioning its jurisdiction.
Insiders, however, say that going to higher courts has brought more clarity on CCI’s jurisdiction. “This brings clarity and develops jurisprudence. I would say that the courts have been very kind and pragmatic and they have reaffirmed powers of the Commission. For example, in a recent judgement, honourable courts have held that the Commission has powers to review and recall its orders on investigation. Its jurisdiction extends to regulatory orders of registrar of societies if such order limits supply of any products,” said Sahoo.
But it is a challenge, accepts Sahoo, as he adds that competition law and the Commission are evolving in India and all stakeholders are on a steep learning curve. He added that, while a lot of things are being done first time and may have been questioned in the past, jurisprudence and practices develop after deliberations at various levels over time and before different fora.