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Coal India to come under Competition Act: Supreme Court

Introduction

In a recent judgment, the Supreme Court of India ruled that Coal India Limited (CIL) and its subsidiary companies are subject to the Competition Act, 2002. The court held that the Competition Commission of India (CCI) can take action against CIL for abuse of its dominant position in the coal sector. However, the court emphasized that CIL has the right to defend its actions under the law. This decision comes after CIL challenged a ruling by the CCI in 2014, which held the company guilty of abuse of dominant position and imposed a penalty.

Background

CIL, a public sector undertaking and its subsidiary Western Coalfields Limited, argued that they should be exempt from the Competition Act because they are governed by the Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Act, 1973. They contended that as entities geared towards achieving the objectives declared in Article 39(b) of the Indian Constitution, which focuses on the distribution of community resources for the common good, they should not be bound by the Competition Act.

Court’s Decision

The Supreme Court bench comprising Justice K.M. Joseph, Justice B.V. Nagarathna, and Justice Ahsanuddin Amanullah rejected CIL’s argument. The court held that there is no merit in the contention that the Competition Act cannot be reconciled with the Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Act. It stated that CIL and its subsidiaries are covered under the Competition Act, and the CCI has the authority to take action against them for abuse of dominant position.

Implications

The judgment has significant implications for CIL and its subsidiaries. It establishes that they cannot claim immunity from competition law enforcement and must adhere to the provisions of the Competition Act. The ruling empowers the CCI to investigate and penalize CIL for any anti-competitive practices in the coal sector. This decision also reaffirms the importance of competition law in promoting fair market practices and preventing abuse of dominance.

About Competition Commission of India

  • The Competition Commission of India (CCI) is the chief national competition regulator in India.
  • It is a statutory body within the Ministry of Corporate Affairs and is responsible for enforcing the Competition Act, 2002.
  • It promotes competition and prevent activities that have an appreciable adverse effect on competition in India.
  • It was founded in 14 October 2003 and is headquartered in New Delhi.
  • Its chairperson is Ravneet Kaur.

About Coal India Limited

  • Coal India Limited (CIL) is an Indian central public sector undertaking under the ownership of the Ministry of Coal, Government of India.
  • It was founded in 1975 & is headquartered at Kolkata.
  • Pramod Agarwal is the Chairman & MD of Coal India Limited.

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