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Competition panel logjam resolved

BS Political Bureau in New Delhi | July 14, 2004 09:38 IST

A long-standing logjam on the appointment of the Chairman of the Competition Commission has been resolved.

The Chief Justice of India will be offered the chairmanship of the selection committee which will appoint the Competition Commission chief, putting an end to the judiciary's complaint that a post which should belong to the judiciary had been appropriated by the bureaucracy.

The work of the Competition Commission, stalled for more than a year, is likely to start after this decision and its approval by the Supreme Court.

The Department of Company Affairs and the Law Ministry have been in touch on the issue and will offer this compromise at the next hearing of the case that is going on about the appointment of the Competition Commission chief. The centre is likely to file a fresh affidavit in the matter.

Earlier, it had given an assurance that it would amend the competition law to give the high courts their primacy in the constitutional scheme, above that of quasi-judicial bodies like the Competition Commission.

The problem was a ticklish one, involving jurisdiction. The Supreme Court  had expressed its reservations over the decision to appoint a bureaucrat (at the time when the case went to court, Commerce Secretary Deepak Chatterjee was named Chairman after his superannuation) as the chief of the Competition Commission and had described it as an attempt to encroach upon the judiciary.

High courts had pointed out that they were unable to envisage a situation where they would have to take orders from a retired bureaucrat.

With the Chief Justice of India as the Chairman of the selection committee, the post is likely to remain the preserve of appointees from the judiciary.

This will end a stalemate that has lasted nearly a year, preventing the Competition Commission from taking off, especially after the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices commission was phased out.

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