The Delhi High Court on Wednesday rejected a plea by Monsanto, Monsanto Holdings, and the Indian arm of the company Mahyco Monsanto Biotech India to quash probe proceedings initiated by the Competition Commission of India (CCI). The CCI had, in 2016, asked its Director General to initiate a probe against Monsanto and its subsidiaries for alleged abuse of dominant position in the manufacture and sale of Bt Cotton seeds in the country.
A single-judge Bench of Justice Vibhu Bakhru held that the order passed by the CCI was an administrative order which was well within the rights of the anti-trust body, and therefore could not interfered by at this stage. “A review on merits is impermissible at this stage, and therefore, this court is refraining from examining the merits of the dispute,” Justice Bakhru said in his judgment.
The probe against Monsanto and its subsidiaries was initiated based on a complaint by Nuziveedu Seeds. The Hyderabad-based company had in its complaint to the CCI also said that Monsanto had been seeking very high prices for its bollworm resistant Bt Cotton seeds, and had further pressured it to sign unfair sub-licensing agreements.
Nearly all the cotton grown in India used the bollworm resistant Bt Cotton seeds developed by Monsanto. Local seed firms, which sub-license from Monsanto to sell genetically-modified seeds, pay a “trait fee” fixed by the government.
Last January, the Supreme Court had held that Bayer Corporation-owned Monsanto was the rightful patent over for Bt Cotton technology in India. Overturning a Division Bench judgment of the Delhi HC, the apex court had then said that the high court should have only checked whether the injunction granted against Monsanto was fair or not.