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Amarchand vs ELP in IOC & Reliance v CCI writ

Amarchand Mangaldas has challenged the Competition Commission of India’s (CCI) jurisdiction in a writ petition filed for Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) to prevent the anti-trust regulator, which is represented by Economic Laws Practice, from deciding on an aviation fuel suppy dispute with Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) represented by R Sariprabhu Advocates.

Amarchand Mangaldas Delhi instructed additional solicitor general Parag Tripathy who was assisted by advocates V P Singh, Anuj Berry, Harman Sandhu, Dushyant Manocha and Kunal Bahri for clients IOC.

The three state-owned oil marketing companies led by Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) with Bharat Petroleum and Hindustan Petroleum filed a writ petition and were first heard on 8 December 2010. They were granted a favourable ex-parte order against removal of the CCI as a party in the dispute and a stay on the ongoing CCI proceedings, reported Mint this week.

ELP partners Tarun Gulati and Samir Gandhi are representing the regulator through senior advocate Ramji Srinivasan assisted by senior associate Neil Hildreth. It is understood that the firm has been able to convince the court that the CCI should be reimpleaded because it was a necessary party to the dispute.

Mukesh Ambani-owned RIL drafted in senior advocate Mukul Rohtagi and R Sariprabhu Advocates as legal counsels.

The dispute had its origin in RIL losing a tender for supply of aviation fuel to Air India which was won by a cartel of Oil Marketing Companies (OMC).

Afterwards, a complaint was registered with the CCI against these companies to probe allegations of cartelisation and abuse of dominant position. While the proceeding were taking place, IOC went on to question the CCI’s authority as sector regulator stating that the adjudicatory power vested instead with the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Body.

Subsequently, the matter was brought before the Delhi High Court by the OMCs and has already been heard thrice ever since with 15 March as the next date fixed for filing rejoinders.

Finsec Law Advisers founder Sandeep Parekh commented on the case on his blog: “I think the CCI should be allowed to have a free rein in matters regarding anti-competitive behaviour and the flavour should be cooperation between regulators rather than turf fights. Even where there is a specific mandate given to act against anti-competitive behaviour to other regulators, I would prefer the CCI to have powers as it would be a lot more objective in its assessment rather than a sectoral regulator. Besides the remit of CCI is wider, deeper and its understanding of anti-trust concepts far more clear than a sectoral regulator. Arguments will of course be made on the lines of 'our industry is different' or that 'the sectoral regulator understands the industry better' and therefore CCI's jurisdiction should be barred. However, Indian courts should allow CCI to be the primary regulator whose jurisdiction should not be excluded.”

In September 2010 the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the CCI in the SAIL v Jindal case, curtailing the CCI’s appellate tribunal’s powers. ELP had advised the CCI and Jindal was led by Amarchand’s Delhi office.

Photo by Mark Strozier

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