Coal India Limited and Ors. Vs. Competition Commission of India and Ors.
Case Number: Civil Appeal No. 2845 of 2017, Contempt Petition (C) No. 896/2018 in C.A. No. 2845/2017, T.C. (C) Nos. 19/2023, 20/2023, 16-18/2023 and 21/2023
Judges name: Hon’ble Judges K.M. Joseph, B.V. Nagarathna and Ahsanuddin Amanullah, JJ.
Order Date: 15.06.2023
Facts of the Case:
- The Civil Appeal is directed against an Order made by the Competition Appellate Tribunal, New Delhi (hereinafter referred to as “Tribunal”). In that Order, the Tribunal upheld the findings and conclusions made on various aspects of abuse of dominant position by the Competition Commission of India (hereinafter referred to as “CCI”). The Appellants were held responsible for the abuse of power. The appeal was turned down.
- The CCI received information from the 2nd Respondent, which it then reviewed and determined the Appellants had abused their dominating position. The Appellants have submitted an interlocutory application, I.A. No. 66587 of 2017, asking for permission to provide more grounds. The parties to the interlocutory application exchanged pleadings. The application for authorization to present the new grounds has been approved by the court.
- The Court decided that a bench of three learned judges should consider these cases since a modification of the decision from the 03.08.2017 date had been requested when the subject was brought before a bench of two learned judges on September 16, 2022. As a result, the case was put before a bench of three experienced judges.
THE HON’BLE SUPREME COURT OBSERVED AS FOLLOWS:
- The Bench first noted the significance of coal by pointing out that it serves as a significant raw resource in the creation of essential final products. Additionally, it produces a type of fuel that powers power plants. The Nationalization Act unquestionably resulted in the creation of a monopoly. The Central Government had ownership of the mines that were the focus of the Act. The first Appellant was created by Section 5 of the Nationalization Act and is a Government Company. The mines are run by the Appellant-Company. It has the authority and responsibility to distribute coal. This invokes Article 39(b)-referenced Directive Principle. According to the aforementioned Directive Principle, “the State” should focus its policy on making sure that ownership and control of “material resources” are “distributed” in a way that “serves the common good.”
- Further it was by the Court, “In this case, we are not dealing with a request to invalidate the Nationalization Act because it violates any Fundamental Rights. The Nationalization Act was passed to transfer ownership of the coal mines from the lessees to the central government, allowing for the operation of the mines in a way that ensures the rational, coordinated, and scientific development and utilization of the coal resources by the expanding needs of the nation. The Appellants could not request immunity from the application of the law, which would otherwise bind them, the decision added.
- The Court observed that the Learned counsel would argue that they are not doing any sovereign functions, as we have already indicated in response to a specific question about whether the Appellants are performing any sovereign functions. This spares the Court from having a conversation that, even otherwise, might not be essential given the nature of the role. The initial Appellant is not a government agency. It belongs to the government. In actuality, a government department performing government duties is not included in the meaning of the word “enterprise.” By no means can the operation of the mining industry be referred to as a sovereign role. Nothing in the definition disallows a state monopoly that is even established to carry out the objectives of Article 39(b) of the Constitution, the judgment said.
- The Appeal was therefore submitted by the bench for consideration on its own merits.