SC issues notice to Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Idea on CCI’s challenge
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday issued notices to telcos Bharti Airtel Ltd, Vodafone India Ltd and Idea Cellular Ltd on a challenge by Competition Commission of India (CCI) to setting aside a probe against them on allegations of cartelisation.
A bench headed by justice A.K. Sikri refused to grant an interim stay on the probe order and said that the matter would be heard on merits.
CCI opposed setting aside of the probe by the Bombay high court through counsel P.S. Narasimha, who told the court, “A high court cannot injunction investigation. Once its complete, then such a right may arise.”
CCI had moved the apex court on 24 January in appeal against an order of the Bombay HC setting aside a probe against the three telecom companies on complaints of cartelisation by Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd.
Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing on behalf of the complainant, said that the investigation procedure was non-evasive and paper-based where telcos would be required to submit documents sought by them for the purpose.
On 21 September, the Bombay HC had ruled that the CCI had no jurisdiction to interpret contract conditions or policies of the telecom sector, which was governed by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) Act, 1997.
The order was passed on a plea by Idea, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) seeking quashing of the CCI order directing an investigation into allegations of cartelisation made by Reliance Jio.
Reliance Jio had questioned the jurisdiction of the Bombay HC and said the case must be heard by the Delhi HC since the CCI order was passed in Delhi. This was rejected by the court.
The matter will be heard next on 19 February.
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