New Delhi: The Delhi high court on Monday asked the Competition Commission of India (CCI) to consider a plea by search engine giant Google Inc. to recall an order passed by the antitrust regulator to investigate it for alleged abuse of dominant position.

A bench of chief justice G. Rohini and justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw asked the CCI to consider Google’s plea to remove the preliminary finding of abuse of dominant position while ordering the probe.

“It is now for the CCI to consider whether the application of the appellants discloses any grounds to, without requiring any investigation, dislodge the prima facie opinion earlier formed by the CCI, while ordering investigation," the order said.

The CCI ordered a probe of Google on 15 April last year for alleged unfair trade practices. Google approached the court seeking to restrain CCI from proceeding with the probe.

The antitrust regulator acted on a complaint by Vishal Gupta, owner of Delaware-based Audney Inc., who alleged that Google’s AdWords programme contravened fair trade practices. Google had suspended Gupta’s AdWords account.

A Google spokesperson said the company welcomed the high court’s order, adding: “We will continue to assist CCI in its investigation."

Google had earlier asked the CCI to recall its 15 April 2014 order as it had been passed without Google’s case being heard. The CCI dismissed this plea. The high court, too, found that the CCI could take a preliminary view on a complaint and order a probe without hearing the party against whom the complaint has been filed.

On Monday, the court held that the CCI’s decision to order an investigation, although administrative, could still be recalled and reviewed by it even when the power was not specifically granted.

The court also directed that an arrangement to not take any precipitative step or conclude the investigation against Google would remain in place till such time the CCI considers the issue again.

“The judgment has effectively provided Google the opportunity of placing their arguments before the Commission as to why the Commission shouldn’t even prima facie (on the face of it) exercise jurisdiction in the complaint. It has, therefore, brought the parties back to square one," said Vaibhav Gaggar, managing partner at law firm Gaggar and Associates.

Vidhi Choudhary contributed to this report.

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