The Hon’ble Supreme Court while dismissing the ruling of the High Court of Gauhati, Aizwal bench (“High Court”) ordered the CCI to continue its probe in the alleged anti-competitive practices of bid-rigging, collusive bidding, and cartelisation in the tendering process for appointment of selling agents / distributors for lotteries organised in the state of Mizoram by the 4 (four) successful private party bidders.
Under the appeal filed before the Supreme Court, the issues raised was whether the CCI had jurisdiction to entertain such complaint of anti-competitive behaviour under the ambit of the Competition Act, 2002 (“Act”). The High Court in this regard, ruled in favour of the respondent and held that the nature of the business sought to be carried out i.e., of lotteries would come under the purview of the doctrine of res extra commercium (things beyond commerce) and hence, outside the regulation and jurisdiction of the CCI.
However, the Supreme Court dismissed the aforesaid ruling and pointed out that the concern of the CCI was limited to the role assigned under the Act and in the limited context of the expression of interest to examine any perceived bid rigging in the tendering process for appointment of selling agents.
Further, the Supreme Court observed that though the lotteries are state regulated and even things beyond commerce, that would not take away the aspect of something which is anti-competitive in the context of business related to lotteries. The definition of ‘service’ under the Act must be read in broader sense to include service of any description which is made available to the potential clients.
Therefore, the Supreme Court overruled the decisions passed by the High Court and held that, lotteries may be a regulated commodity, the same would not take away the jurisdiction of the CCI to look into allegations of anti-competitive activities in business or services related to lotteries.
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