New Delhi:In a setback to Monsanto, CCI has rejected pleas by the US biotechnology major and its group entities challenging a probe into the role of their top officials in a case relating to alleged unfair business practices in the Indian seeds market.
While rejecting as many as six such applications filed by various Monsanto entities, the (CCI) also asked them to co-operate in the investigation so that the probe is completed "without undue delay".
Earlier this year, CCI ordered a detailed probe against US-based genetically-modified seed major Monsanto after finding prima-facie evidence of violating competition norms.
After ordering probe in February, the regulator clubbed three more complaints against the company in June.
In a rare order, CCI said a proceeding under the Competition Act has genesis in the investigation ordered under Section 26 (1), which envisages that it shall direct the DG to cause an investigation to be made into the matter.
"There is no suffix, no prefix, no proviso, no explanation, and no caveats of any form attached to the word 'matter'. Hence, it obviously means that the DG needs to investigate into the matter at one go in all its dimensions comprehensively," the regulator said.
"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."
Rejecting the applications, the watchdog also asserted 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 applicants challenged the directions of CCI to probe the role of the officers/persons in-charge of the company. The pleas were on the ground that it was not permissible for the regulator to issue any directions to look into the role of the persons responsible for the conduct of business unless violation of competition norms is made out.
In the 26-page order, dated July 26, CCI said it would prefer to decide "the applications on merits as the contention raised herein is being raised in several cases by some or the other parties".
The applicants include Mahyco Monsanto Biotech (India) Ltd (MMBL), Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company Ltd and Monsanto Holdings Private Limited (MHPL).
Among others, complaints against Monsanto were filed by the Agriculture Ministry and the National Seeds Association of India (NSAI).