Argus assists in no-penalty cartel case

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Argus Partners acted on behalf of Industrial Laminates (India), its director Saleh Najmuddin Mithiborwala and employee Virender Singh Negi before the Competition Commission of India (CCI) when the company was recently found to be part of a 10-member cartel that rigged bids made against various tenders for procurement of brake blocks floated by the Indian railways.

Legal advisers to other members of the cartel included Khaitan & Co and Chandhiok & Mahajan.

A CCI order on 10 July directed the cartel to cease and desist from indulging in the collusion, but did not impose a financial penalty on the 10 companies. The CCI said most had small annual turnovers in brake blocks, and that there was a need to “support the liquidity and credit needs of viable MSMEs [micro, small and medium enterprises] to help them withstand the impact of the current shock”, in a reference to the prevailing economic situation on account of covid-19.

In a comment to India Business Law Journal regarding the CCI order, R Sudhinder, a senior partner at Argus Partners who led the firm’s team, said: “Imposing a penalty in every cartel is not the only way. It also shows that the CCI adopted a pragmatic approach keeping in mind the present economic situation.”

Argus Partners’ team included managing associate Prerana Amitabh and associate Akshay Singh Sengar.

Khaitan & Co represented Hindustan Composites and individuals connected with the company. The firm’s team was led by partner Manas Kumar Chaudhuri.

Chandhiok & Mahajan represented BIC Auto, which is now Masu Brake Pads, and three individuals connected with the company. Its team was led by partner Karan Chandhiok.