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Friday, December 1, 2023

‘Will you put in same regime as in Europe’: SC on Google plea against CCI penalty

The Supreme Court on Monday said it could consider sending the application filed by Google back to the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) – on a condition.

As the tech giant moved the apex court seeking stay on a Competition Commission of India (CCI) order imposing a Rs 1,337 crore penalty on it, a bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud asked Google India counsel if it will follow the same regime in India as it does in Europe in connection with pre-installed apps in Android-based mobile smartphones.

The bench, also comprising Justices P.S. Narasimha and J.B. Pardiwala, asked senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Google, that “will Google practice the same regime in place in India as you have in Europe?”

Singhvi contended before the bench that compliance in Europe pertained to Google’s standard ‘Mobile Application Distribution Agreement’ (MADA) unbundling. The Chief Justice added: “Please reflect on this and come back.”

The bench made this observation following the submission from Additional Solicitor General N. Venkataraman, representing the CCI, that Google had complied with a similar order passed by the European Commission.

Singhvi said when the matter came before the judge, he recorded that since there is a hearing in the matter in April, there is no need for an interim order. He added that Android is the world’s best ecosystem and these directions are extraordinary. Singhvi said that directions were that his proprietary software which makes everything is to be shared and the second is side loading.

Venkataraman alleged the company was discriminating against the Indian consumers.

Singhvi added that the matter was filed in December and on January 3, it was mentioned before the NCLAT and the date of compliance is January 19.

As the Chief Justice queried: “Are the directions consistent with steps taken by you?”, Singhvi said no.

The bench also added that it would send it back to NCLAT and ask them to deal with the application for stay.

The top court has scheduled the matter for further hearing on Wednesday.

On January 11, the Supreme Court agreed to examine an appeal by Google against a decision by the NCLAT, declining to stay a Rs 1,337.76 crore penalty imposed on it by the CCI in October for alleged anti-competitive practices.

Google moved the apex court after the setback at NCLAT, which did not stay the CCI order on abuse of dominant position in multiple markets in the Android mobile device ecosystem case. Earlier this month, the NCLAT did not find any urgency to pass an interim order, after noting that Google filed the appeal in December last year, though the CCI passed the order in October. It directed Google to deposit 10 per cent of the fine amount.

The tribunal had said that there was no urgency shown in the filing of the appeal, therefore Google could not be allowed to press for interim relief.

The CCI also imposed a penalty of Rs 936.44 crore on the company for abusing its dominant position with respect to its Play Store policies.

(The story has been published via a syndicated feed.)

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