May 18, 2006, New Delhi, Press Release

At the meeting of Members of Parliament under the aegis of Parliamentarians’ Forum on Economic Policy Issues (PAR-FORE) organised by CUTS International, there was unanimity across various political parties on the need to avoid a proliferation of Appellate Tribunals. The Competition Appellate Tribunal proposed in Competition Amendment Bill should also be the appellate tribunal for all sectoral regulators.

“There should be only one Appellate Body covering all sector regulators instead of a multiplicity of Sectoral Appellate Bodies to hear appeals against the orders of their respective sectoral regulators.” Dr P. C. Alexander, MP Rajya Sabha and Chairman, PAR-FORE said.

There is often an overlap between the functions performed by various regulatory agencies. Setting up of an appellate body for each regulatory agency can lead to forum shopping in similar cases and possibility of divergent decisions, the forum opined.

The forum also felt that the Competition Commission of India could consist of a Chairperson and not more than six members as proposed in the Amendment Bill. However, there should be a provision for appointment of part time members, who could be appointed for their expertise on a case to case basis. This practice was being followed in many countries and also by TRAI. It would also enable expeditious disposal of cases.

Stressing on the responsibilities of the members of CCI, Mr Sharad Joshi, MP, SBP, said that every Bill creates an authority but the final Act does not lay down proper guidelines for carrying out the work. This should not be repeated in the case of the Competition Amendment Bill especially since part time professionals are not currently envisaged. The work outline should be clearly defined and allocated for speedier results.

There was also a consensus on the issue of reducing the age limit of Chairperson and other members to less than 65. “It has been observed that most of the Authorities so created become parking slots for retired bureaucrats. This should not happen in CCI. Hence every effort should be made to restrict the age limit to less than 65”, Mrs Jayaben, Thakkar, MP, BJP said.

It was also felt that there was a need to overhaul the entire system of regulation. The purpose of any Act is protection of the interest of the public from monopoly economic power and this must always be kept in mind while formulating any law.

On the need to improve the supervisory role of Parliament, the Forum was of the view that a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Regulation and Competition be constituted. The Committee could call all the regulatory authorities and CCI for a hearing and submit its Report to Parliament.

Circulating its suggestions on the Competition Amendment Bill, CUTS International had stated that the need for a Competition Law arises to address anti competitive practices designed to restrict the free play of competition in the market, to address unfair means adopted by firms against the consumers and to extract maximum possible consumers’ surplus and to maintain and promote the competition spirit in the market.

The purpose of Competition Advocacy is to create awareness on competition culture. However, CCI can merely advocate to the government when called upon to do so and its recommendations are only advisory, not mandatory. This clause needs to be amended and CCI should be empowered to suo moto participate in the formulation of a policy without being invited by the governments, CUTS International agenda stated.

Shri Suresh Prabhu (SS), Dinesh Trivedi (AITC), N N Krishandas CPI(M) and representatives from consumer and civil society organisations were present in the meeting.