In a blow to the US genetically modified seeds giant, the Competition Commission of India rejected the application of Monsanto and its subsidiaries/associates questioning the probe which involves their top officials. The matter concerns unfair trade practice in the Indian seed market.
The challenges were made on the grounds of Director General investigating the person-in-charge of the company or people working with it and the application further stipulated that the inquiry is Ultra Vires as the provisions are not under the ambit of the competition regime.
The Competition commission ended up rejecting 6 applications filed by Monsanto and also directed them to co-operate without any “due delays.”
Further, the move by the regulator was unprecedented as the investigation is directed under Section 26 (1) of the competition act, 2002, which empowers Competition Commission to direct the Director General for performing investigation into the matter on the basis of prima facie evidence.
In the matter a statement was released by the regulator stating, “There is no suffix, no prefix, no proviso, no explanation, and no caveats of any form attached to the word ‘matter’. The said Section does not envisage either for the Commission or for the DG to investigate into the matter in phases, unless it is necessitated by circumstances.” That means there are no restrictions what so ever in regards to the power of the commission as well as the Director general in order to investigate a person or a company.
The statement further added that, “These provisions are time tested and the superior courts have always gone ahead with proceeding simultaneously in respect of the conduct of the company and its person in- charge.”
The initial complaints against Monsanto were filed by the Agriculture Ministry and the National Seeds Association of India (NSAI), which got Monsanto into troubled waters.
In the month of June, 2016 the regulator already had merged 3 more complaints against Monsanto in compliance to a probe ordered in the month of February on the basis of prima facie evidence breaching the Indian competition policy.
The applicants for the rejection of the probe were filed by Mahyco Monsanto Biotech (India) Ltd (MMBL) including Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company Ltd and Monsanto Holdings Private Limited (MHPL).