February 01, 2005, Economic Times

It is time for India to adopt a National Competition Policy, particularly in the present liberalised regime, said Planning Commission member Kirit Parikh, delivering the keynote address at a conference, “Moving the Competition Policy Agenda in India”, organised by CUTS International here in the Capital today.

Among the 100-odd foreign delegates was Dr. Frederic Jenny, Judge in the French Supreme Court. His presence is of particular interest to Indians, owing to the turf battle between the judiciary and the bureaucracy that has held up constitution of the Competition Commission in India.

Dr. Jenny is a PhD in economics from Harvard and served as vice-chairman of the French Competition Authority. “I was chairman of one of the three sub-committees of the competition authority,” Dr. Jenny told ET, “and that panel included some judges, apart from others. And since I was interested in ensuring that the competition authority produced rulings that would be upheld by the courts when challenged. I held a series of seminars for lawyers and judges, for my clarity on legal procedures and the legal fraternity’s clarity on competition matters. Now, the French legal system is such that it is not easy to introduce economic experts as witnesses to testify on a matter. So some of the judges thought, why not draw the needed economic expertise on to the bench itself? Under a law passed some 10 years ago, the French judiciary could induct a non-legal person on to the bench and they decided to use that provision to have be on as a judge. “

The French judicial system is different from India’s in things other than caste-exclusivity for the judiciary over all adjudicatiion functions. The French supreme court has separate chambers for criminal cases, civil cases and for cases relating to commerce, economics and finance, allowing for specialisation and expertise among the higher judiciary.

The conference is being organised to release the project report on “Towards a Functional Competition Policy for India” undertaken by CUTS. Dr.Parikh also emphasized the need for introducing competition wherever possible, even in services provided by the government, free of cost or at highly subsidized rates. Taking the example of education, he suggested that subsidies need not be given to the schools directly, rather students can be given vouchers, which the schools should be able to encash. This would provide incentives to the schools to improve quality and attract more students in order to get more vouchers.

Mr.V.K. Dhall, member, Competition Commission of India, noted that India is possibly the only7 major country, which does not have a functional competition authority. This situation, however, has been created by the Supreme Court case, which would now require amendments in the competition law. This might further delay the process. Nevertheless, the CCI is engaged in advocacy and capacity building activities, including commissioning various research studies to understand the competition problems in the country. This would help in effective implementation of the law, whenever it becomes operational.