NCLAT Dismisses Appeal against CCI’s Order Dismissing Complaints against NIIT Limited

On May 29, 2020, the NCLAT dismissed an appeal filed against CCI’s closure of complaints relating to anticompetitive agreement and abuse of dominant position against NIIT Limited (‘NIIT’)[1]. CCI noted that NIIT was not dominant in the relevant market of computer/IT training centres in Hyderabad. Further, CCI did not find the pricing adopted by NIIT to be arbitrary, since these prices considered the lack of affordability and awareness in non-metros among other factors. Therefore, allegations of abuse of dominance stood unsubstantiated. Additionally, CCI found no substance in the allegation relating to anticompetitive agreements. Accordingly, CCI closed the case since no prima facie case of contravention was made out against NIIT.

The appellant approached the NCLAT in appeal 730 days after CCI issued its order. The NCLAT noted that the Competition Act requires appeals to be filed before it within 60 days of CCI’s order. This period can be extended by the NCLAT upon being satisfied that there is ‘sufficient cause’ for not filing an appeal within the prescribed period. Thus, the NCLAT assessed whether appellant’s reasons for delay were sufficient to allow admission of the appeal at such a delayed stage.

The appellant said that the delay occurred on account of the appellant filing a writ petition before the Telengana High Court (‘THC’), since CCI’s order was obtained by fraud. This resulted in the passing of 693 days. The NCLAT noted that the appellant sought writ jurisdiction on the grounds that CCI’s order was biased and influenced by the counsel of NIIT, who had previously served as a Chairman of CCI. THC, through a decision of the single bench, and followed by the decision of the division bench dismissed the writ petition since Competition Act provided for remedy against CCI decisions through appeal before the NCLAT.

The NCLAT noted that the Competition Act provides for an appeal mechanism owing to which, an unscrupulous litigant aggrieved of CCI’s order cannot be allowed to choose the remedies under law and invoke writ jurisdiction under various pretexts. Such course, per the NCLAT, would provide leverage to litigants to go forum shopping.

The NCLAT noted that the appellant, despite being told by THC’s single bench to approach the NCLAT as the relevant forum, approached the division bench and further approached the Indian Supreme Court (‘SC’) to intervene. The NCLAT opined that this delay which was evidently a result of the appellant’s stubborn attitude could not constitute a ‘sufficient cause’ for not exercising the statutory right of appeal. Accordingly, the NCLAT dismissed the appeal as being barred by limitation.

[1] Maj.Pankaj Rai v. Secretary, Competition Commission of India & Ors., Competition Appeal (AT) No. 01 of 2020, order delivered on 29 May 2020.

Published In:Inter Alia Special Edition - Competition Law - July 2020 [ English
Date: July 18, 2020