Competition panel may not start work till ’10

Competition panel may not start work till ’10

New Delhi: The Competition Commission of India, or CCI, which was expected to start work by the end of December, could be delayed by as much as a year because the government is yet to appoint its top officials.

“Not only appointments of the chairman and members for CCI has to happen, a three-member Competition Appellate Tribunal also has to be in place," said a government official close to the development, who didn’t want to be named.

The commission is seen as a watchdog of anti-competitive practices such as cartelization, monopolies and mergers and acquisitions. It is currently functioning as an advisory body staffed by a dozen officials.

“Besides, at least 240 staff, specializing in economics, finance and law, who would execute the functioning of the CCI, need to be recruited and trained for anywhere between three and six months," the official said. “Keeping all these things in mind, I don’t think the CCI will start functioning before January 2010."

A high-level selection panel headed by Supreme Court justice Altamas Kabir, a nominee of the Chief Justice of India, in September gave the government a shortlist of candidates for the post of chairman and five other members.

The ministry of corporate affairs has forwarded the recommendations made by the committee, which also includes Planning Commission member B.K. Chaturvedi and Nitish Sengupta, chairman of the Board for Reconstruction of Public Sector Enterprises, to the appointments committee of the cabinet (ACC).

All appointments for the position of joint secretary and above are cleared by ACC with the Prime Minister’s consent.

These appointments need to be finalized by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance before it announces parliamentary polls, expected by May. Otherwise, only the next government will be able to do so.

Anil Sachdev, chief executive of the School of Inspired Leadership, said: “A fast-track mechanism should be devised in the government so that the Prime Minister is reminded by some key officials that certain critical appointments to enable certain legislations are pending, and he has to take an immediate call on this."

Parliament cleared the CCI Bill last year but practically no work has started on it because it does not have key personnel.

In an interview to Mint last month, minister of corporate affairs Prem Chand Gupta had said CCI should be operational by December-end.

“We are hoping that these appointments will be done by January-end and we can proceed with other works almost immediately. But operationalizing the CCI will take at least six months," a ministry official said on condition of anonymity.