New Delhi: Days after President Pratibha Patil issued an ordinance transferring cases from the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission (MRTPC) to the Competition Appellate Tribunal (CAT), there’s still confusion over unfair trade practice disputes and compensation claims.
The three-member CAT, headed by justice Arijit Pasayat, which will hear appeals against the Competition Commission of India (CCI), was originally supposed to take cases pending before MRTPC only two years from now. There are about 2,500 pending MRTPC cases.
While cases relating to unfair trade practices (UTP) were to be transferred to the National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission, or National Commission, those dealing with monopolies and restrictive trade practices (RTP) were to be transferred to CAT under the Competition Act.
While UTP relates to false promises or misleading advertisements, RTP relates to cartelization and monopolies pertain to dominance-related offences. Compensation cases can fall into any of these categories.
Lawyers have been thronging the makeshift CAT office in New Delhi (which will deal only with MRTPC cases) to find out which agency will hear their cases.
“While there are over 700 cases relating to UTP, those relating to compensation are more than 1,100,” said a CAT official, who didn’t want to be named. “We have written to the ministry of corporate affairs to clarify as to who will deal with compensation cases.”
Pending cases: The Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission office in New Delhi. Rajkumar/Mint
An official at the ministry of corporate affairs said it was examining the issue and that a clarification would be issued soon. He declined to be identified as he is not authorized to speak to the media.
Senior advocates practising at the MRTPC are worried that the National Commission may not be able to handle fresh cases, given the number of cases that are already pending before it.
“It already has a long list of pending cases relating to consumer protection,” said O.P. Dua, senior Supreme Court advocate. Dua said things would have been different had these cases been transferred after the original two-year timetable, when most of them would have been dealt with.
“In my opinion, existing cases of UTP as also compensation should be transferred to CAT, which does not have any pendency as it is a new body and cases from the CCI have not yet started reaching it.”
The ordinance does not say whether UTP and compensation cases should be transferred to the National Commission. “Consumers are bound to suffer because of this confusion,” Dua added.
The CAT official, however, reiterated that UTP cases have to be dealt with by the National Commission.
CAT, formed on 19 October, has started disposing of cases pending since the 1980s at the MRTPC.
“On 4 November, CAT heard the first few cases of of monopolies as also restrictive trade practices and disposed of two cases and dismissed one,” Pasayat said. “The copies of orders will be made public soon.”