Par panel against giving CCI chief search and seizure powers

Par panel against giving CCI chief search and seizure powers

A Parliamentary panel has opposed government's proposal to provide Competition Commission chief with powers to order search and seizure activities and has cited that the watchdog is still at an "infancy" stage.

Corporate Affairs Ministry has proposed to provide chairman of Competition Commission of India (CCI) with powers to approve search and seizure activities related to probes in cases involving unfair business practices.

The proposal is part of the The Competition (Amendment) Bill, 2012.

However, Yashwant Sinha-headed Standing Committee on Finance in its report on the Bill has said that status quo should be maintained on the issue.

At present, for carrying out such activities CCI's Director General (DG) has to approach Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Delhi.

The Bill also provides that search and seizure shall be subject to the provisions of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

In its report, the panel emphasised that existing provisions lay down adequate checks and balances with regard to search and seizure operations.

It also cited that the Ministry has not cited any instance where search and seizure powers, whenever exercised, resulted in delay or leakage of confidential information.

"As a matter of fact, the committee have been informed that the CCI since its inception has not used these powers to obtain information.

"Considering these aspects and also the fact that the CCI is still in a stage of infancy, the committee desire the government maintain status quo in the matter for the present," the report said.

The committee's report has been tabled in the Parliament.

CCI keeps a tab on unfair trade practices and refers cases for detailed probe to its investigation arm -- DG.

On the proposed powers, the Ministry had told the panel that possibly some of the enforcement powers are required.

Citing similar provisions in the Income Tax Act and Customs Act, the Ministry had submitted that officials who would be hierarchy wise much less than the CCI chairman are vested with power of issuing search and seizure warrant.

In his submission, CCI chairperson informed the panel that Competition Act already provides for search and seizures.

"The reason why the process of getting warrant is being shifted from the judicial side to the institution of the Commission is that in such cases there has to be an element of speed and confidentiality. But what safeguards should be built in, whether the chairman is competent to do this, it rests in your hand," CCI chairperson had told the panel.

The Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on December 10, 2012 and then referred to the committee that same month.

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