February 14, 2005, Business Line Kolkata Our Bureau

WHILE the economic aspects of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) are frequently debated, the legal aspects do not get as much attention as they deserve, said Prof. B. S. Chimni, Vice-Chancellor of West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences (WBNUJS).Prof. Chimni was addressing a seminar on `Developing markets through competition for growth & equity,’ organised jointly by WBNUJS, CUTS International and the Indian Chamber of Commerce here on Monday.

He emphasised on the need for law universities all over the country to take up in right earnest the study, research and dissemination of information on the legal aspects of WTO issues.

“We hope to fill the gap in WBNUJS, which has already set up a Centre for Studies in WTO Laws,” he said.

With competition being a contentious issue at WTO, the professor called for a proper competition policy to outline relevant laws.

With the requirements of developed countries in this regard being very different from those of developing countries, he expressed doubts if the blind copying of western models without critical examination would serve any purpose.

Mr Justice Anirudh Bose of Calcutta High Court, in his keynote address, observed that the need for a competition policy is one of the paradoxes of the free economy, as State intervention would often be needed to keep markets free.

To what degree a corporation or an individual should be allowed to function in the market without any restriction and which of its actions would call for State intervention is essentially the task of an economist to decide.

Yet the locus standi of a member of the legal fraternity arose possibly because the controversy of monopoly necessarily involves the conflict of rights, which has to be resolved in the courts of law.

Mr Pradeep S. Mehta, Secretary General of CUTS International, said the country at the crossroads of implementing a new competition law.

Concerns, therefore, have been expressed over the lack of awareness about a competition policy. As anti-competitive practices pose a major challenge, he said that his organisation had undertaken a research project to develop a functional competition policy.

The project covers systematic as well as sectoral issues to assist the Union Government to come up with an “implementable” competition policy, he added.