New Delhi: The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has been asked by the Delhi High Court to probe whether the All India Chess Federation is abusing its dominant position by banning players associating themselves with other chess federations.
Justice Vipin Sanghi directed the probe by the watchdog on a plea by a chess player alleging that All India Chess Federation (AICF), the body recognised by Ministry of Sports, is abusing its dominant position by prohibiting players registered with it from participating in chess tournament organised by other associations.
"Since in the present case the petitioner has brought to this Court`s notice the aforesaid state of affairs in relation to AICF, this court is of the opinion that said aspects need thorough investigation under provisions of the Competition Act by the Competition Commission," Justice Sanghi said.
The court said, "Prima facie, it appears that the endeavour of AICF appears to be to exercise its monopolistic and dominant position to stifle the growth of any other association of chess players, by threatening the chess players registered with it, with disciplinary action/expulsion and a virtual boycott in case they participate in tournaments organised by such other associations."
It said there could be a breach of players` fundamental rights to freedom, by the policies and practices of AICF.
"I, therefore, direct the Competition Commission to enquire into the alleged contravention of the provisions of Section 3 (Anti-competitive agreements) and Section 4 (Abuse of dominant position) by AICF...," the judge said. The court asked the petitioner to appear before CCI on November 28 to present a memorandum containing his grievances in this respect.
The petitioner, Hemant Sharma and other chess players claiming to be registered with AICF, said they "being amateurs, like to play chess whenever an opportunity presents itself, even in those tournaments not organised by AICF or which may not have the blessings of AICF,".
The court was told that AICF was also the body recognised by the international federation, Federation Internationale Des Echess (FIDE) and it is responsible for selection of sports persons for participation in international events.
The court noted that AICF uses its position to arm twist players by getting them removed from international ranking.
"AICF has been given the mandate to select the players who would eventually be entitled to participate in international tournaments. AICF also flexes its muscles by instructing FIDE to remove the ranking of the chess players who participate in unauthorised or illegal tournaments," it said.
The high court also brushed aside the contention of AICF that it is not covered under the Competition Act holding it is an `enterprise` which charges annual fee for a service. The judge held that one of the purposes of the Act is to prevent practices having adverse effect on competition and such practice need not necessarily be related to trade or commerce.