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Indian Case Summary

Competition Commission Of India vs Co-Ordination Committee Of … on 7 March, 2017 – Case Summary

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In the case of the Competition Commission of India vs Co-Ordination Committee of Artists and Technicians of W.B. Film and Television on 7 March 2017, the Supreme Court of India was called upon to adjudicate on a significant question of law concerning the jurisdiction and scope of the Competition Commission of India (CCI) under Section 3 of the Competition Act, 2002. The case was presided over by a bench comprising A.K. Sikri and Abhay Manohar Sapre.

Facts of the Case

The case arose from a dispute between the Competition Commission of India (CCI) and the Co-Ordination Committee of Artists and Technicians of W.B. Film and Television. The respondent, Mr. Sajjan Kumar Khaitan, proprietor of M/s. Hart Video, was in the business of distributing video cinematographic TV serials and telecasting regional serials in Eastern India, including West Bengal. M/s. BRTV, Mumbai, had produced a TV Serial named ‘Mahabharat’ in Hindi, which was dubbed into Bangla by Hart Video. The dubbed version was set to be telecast on two channels, Channel 10 and CTVN+.

However, the Eastern India Motion Picture Association (EIMPA) and the Co-Ordination Committee of Artists and Technicians of West Bengal Film and Television Investors (Coordination Committee) objected to the telecast of the dubbed serial. They argued that serials produced in other languages and shown on TV channels after dubbing them in Bangla would negatively impact the local producers, artists, and technicians. They threatened non-cooperation if the telecast was not stopped.

Upon learning of these developments, Mr. Sajjan Khaitan informed the CCI and requested action, arguing that the actions of EIMPA and the Coordination Committee contravened the provisions of the Competition Act. He also sought interim relief to prevent the channels from succumbing to the threats.

Issues Raised

The CCI, after receiving the information, formed a prima facie opinion that the acts of EIMPA and the Coordination Committee were anti-competitive. The matter was assigned to the Director General (DG) for detailed investigation as per the procedure prescribed in the Act. The DG was tasked with determining whether the ‘agreement’ fell within the purview of Section 3(3)(b) of the Act, which pertains to limiting or controlling production, supply, markets, technical development, investment, or provision of services.

Court’s Observations

The court observed that the DG had concluded that the actions of EIMPA and the Coordination Committee were in violation of Section 3(3)(b) of the Act, as they restricted and controlled the market and supply of dubbed versions of serials on the Television Channels through collective intent. The DG found that the actions had resulted in foreclosure of competition by hindering entry into the market and had foreclosed business opportunities for the businessmen engaged in the production, distribution, and exhibition/telecast of such programs.

The court also noted that the Coordination Committee and EIMPA had raised objections to the DG’s report, arguing that the Coordination Committee was not an ‘enterprise’ and was not a ‘person’ or ‘association of persons’ who were in the business of production, supply, and distribution or providing services. Therefore, their act would not fall under Section 3(1) of the Act. They also argued that their actions were in the form of an agitation against the telecast of Hindi serial after dubbing the same into Bangla in order to safeguard the interest of its members, which was their constitutional right under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India.

The court, however, did not agree with these arguments. The court held that the Coordination Committee and EIMPA were ‘persons’ as per the definition in the Act, and their actions fell within the purview of Section 3(1) of the Act. The court also rejected the argument that their actions were a form of agitation protected under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India. The court held that the right to protest does not extend to actions that contravene the provisions of the Competition Act.

The court noted that the DG had found that the television industry in Bangla was growing rapidly, and there was a significant potential for local film artists. Therefore, the argument that the industry would suffer due to the telecast of dubbed serials was not based on facts. The court agreed with the DG’s conclusion that the actions of the Coordination Committee and EIMPA had resulted in foreclosure of competition by hindering entry into the market and had foreclosed business opportunities for those engaged in the production, distribution, and telecast of such programs.

The court upheld the DG’s report, rejecting the objections raised by the Coordination Committee and EIMPA. The court concluded that the actions of the Coordination Committee and EIMPA were in violation of Section 3(3)(b) of the Act, as they restricted and controlled the market and supply of dubbed versions of serials on television channels through collective intent.

In conclusion, the Supreme Court of India, in the case of the Competition Commission of India vs Co-Ordination Committee of Artists and Technicians of W.B. Film and Television, held that the actions of the Coordination Committee and EIMPA in preventing the telecast of dubbed serials were anti-competitive and in violation of the Competition Act, 2002. The court’s decision underscored the importance of fair competition in the market and the role of the CCI in ensuring that anti-competitive practices are curbed.