Over a month after the competition watchdog Competition Commission of India (CCI) filed an appeal in the Supreme Court against the interim stay order by the Karnataka High Court to probe into the alleged malpractices by Amazon and Flipkart, the apex court on Monday declined to intervene. The Supreme Court, in fact, sent the case back to the Karnataka High Court to decide within six weeks on whether CCI could carry out its probe. However, the Supreme Court said that if the Karnataka High Court doesn’t dispose of the application by CCI for the vacation of stay within six weeks, then the “special leave petition may be revived in Supreme Court by CCI,” CAIT’s Secretary General Praveen Khandelwal confirmed to Financial Express Online citing the information shared by lawyers attending the proceeding.
The bench directing CCI on the matter was headed by Justices AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheswari, and Sanjiv Khanna while Solicitor General Tushar Mehta represented CCI and Congress leader-cum-senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi appeared for e-commerce companies, Khandelwal said. During the proceeding, Mehta maintained that the investigation is administrative and that it doesn’t affect anyone’s liberty, according to the lawyers attending the case on Monday, he added. The appeal by CCI was filed in the Supreme Court on September 21 even as Amazon had also filed a caveat in the apex court for the same.
The Supreme Court’s order “has landed into a unique situation where both CAIT and Delhi Vyapar Mahasangh has already filed an appeal in the double bench of the Karnataka High Court challenging the single judge bench order of the High Court made on February,14,2020,” Khandelwal said in a statement. While the appeal has been pending before the two-judge Bench, the single judge bench, Khandelwal added, is to hear the matter again and decide the same within six weeks. CAIT would be consulting its lawyers on the implications of today’s order but it “will not spare any tool for Amazon & Flipkart to go scot-free.”
CCI had in January issued a probe based on a complaint by the Delhi Vyapar Mahasangh against Amazon and Flipkart over alleged deep discount of prices and partnering with select sellers. CCI had asked the DG office for completing the investigation in 60 days. In response, Amazon India in February had filed a writ petition in the Karnataka High Court seeking a stay on the order calling the findings of the CCI order “perverse, arbitrary, untenable in law,” and that the “present Impugned order has been passed without prima facie application of mind” and that “irreparable loss and injury would be caused to the petitioner and its reputation/goodwill.” A copy of the petition was seen by Financial Express Online.