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  • Writer's pictureThe Hindu

Madras High Court dismisses cement companies’ appeals against impleadment of Builders Association of India before competition commission

Cement depicting legal case represented by AnantLaw before competition commission

This news report was authored by The Hindu Bureau and featured in The Hindu on 2 October 2023. It talks about a case represented by AnantLaw.

Two cement manufacturers had approached the court against BAI’s inclusion as a party in CCI’s 2019 suo motu proceedings regarding alleged cartelisation.

The Madras High Court has dismissed writ appeals filed by Dalmia Cement (Bharat) Limited and India Cements Limited against the Competition Commission of India’s (CCI) decision to allow the Builders Association of India (BAI) to get impleaded in suo motu proceedings initiated regarding alleged cartelisation by cement manufacturers in the country.

The First Division Bench of Chief Justice S.V. Gangapurwala and Justice P.D. Audikesavalu rejected the appeals on the ground that CCI had already permitted BAI to inspect all documents that were marked as ‘non-confidential’ by the cement manufacturers and hence nothing survived to be adjudicated now by the High Court.

The judges pointed out that the appeals were filed only in August 2023, though the inspection of documents had been permitted in July 2023 itself. The appellants’ prime apprehension was that BAI might get access to sensitive business information by getting impleaded in the proceedings, but such fear has become pointless now, they added.

Authoring the verdict, the Chief Justice said CCI ought to have issued notice to the cement manufacturers before allowing BAI’s impleading petition. “That is the minimum requirement of principles of natural justice,” he said. However, since the matter had proceeded further, nothing survived to be agitated at present, he wrote.

CCI had initiated the suo motu proceedings in 2019 on the basis of complaints received by it against various cement manufacturers. The Commission had directed its Director General to investigate the issue and determine whether the provisions of the Competition Commission Act, 2002, had been violated by the companies.

In December 2021, BAI filed an application to get impleaded as a party in the suo motu proceedings, but the CCI dismissed it. The dismissal order was challenged before the Delhi High Court, and thereafter BAI’s second application for impleadment was allowed by the commission in July this year.

Dalmia and India Cements filed writ petitions in the Madras High Court challenging the impleadment order, but a single judge dismissed them on August 14, 2023, on the ground that the petitioners would have to approach only the Delhi High Court, hence the present writ appeals.

During the hearing of the appeals, the matter was argued on merit, with the two cement manufacturers objecting to the impleadment on the basis of their apprehension regarding the leak of sensitive business information to the builders who were purchasers of cement from the appellants.

Though CCI told the Division Bench that only information that had been self-classified as ‘non-confidential’ by the cement manufacturers was allowed to be inspected by BAI, the appellants said they had made such a classification much before BAI got impleaded in the suo motu proceedings in 2021.

The appellants said the self-classification would have been different if BAI had been a party to the proceedings at the time of submission of the documents.

Client: Builders Association of India
Ultratech Cement Ltd. v. Competition Commission of India & Anr.
Dalmia Cement (Bharat) Ltd. v. Competition Commission of India & Ors.
India Cements Ltd. v Competition Commission of India & Ors.

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