The Supreme Court on Monday declined to entertain a plea by e-commerce giants Amazon and Flipkart, saying they must face an inquiry by the Competition Commission of India (CCI) for anti-competitive practices.
A bench headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana and comprising justices Vineet Saran and Surya Kant said: “Big organizations like you ( Flipkart and Amazon) should volunteer for inquiry… An inquiry has to be conducted.”
The bench declined to interfere with the orders of the Karnataka High Court, which refused to interfere with the preliminary inquiry ordered by the CCI into their alleged anti-competitive practices.
The top court emphasized that the CCI inquiry must go on. However, the court accepted the request made by senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi for extending the time for the companies to reply to CCI. The e-commerce companies had moved the apex court challenging the Karnataka High Court order.
The bench said it sees no reason to interfere in the high court order, and seeing that time granted is expiring on 9 August, “we extend it by 4 weeks”.
On July 23, the Karnataka High Court dismissed the plea by Amazon and Flipkart against a probe initiated by CCI for the alleged violation of competition law.
A division bench comprising justices Satish Chandra Sharma and Natraj Rangaswamy passed the order on a batch of appeals moved by the e-commerce companies challenging a June 11 order passed by a single judge of the high court.
The bench noted that by no stretch of the imagination the inquiry can be quashed at this stage and the appellants shouldn’t be afraid of an investigation by CCI. The bench said: “In the considered opinion of the court, appeals filed by appellants are devoid of merit and deserved to be dismissed…”
Amazon had moved Karnataka High Court against a CCI order which had called for a director-general (DG) level investigation into allegations of anti-competitive conduct in the online sale of smartphones on its platform.
The Delhi Vyapar Mahasangh (DVM), the informant before the CCI, had alleged predatory pricing, deep discounting, preferential seller listing, and exclusive partnerships, among others, against Amazon and Flipkart.