India’s antitrust probe into the alleged collusion over fees charged by debt trustees of the State Bank of India, Axis Bank and IDBI Bank took a back seat following an intervention by the Bombay High Court after the banks challenged the jurisdiction of the Competition Commission of India (CCI) in April this year.

The high court reprimanded the antitrust authority and directed the securities market watchdog, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), to undertake the initial investigation into the alleged bank cartel case. The court spoke of a distinct possibility of conflicting orders if parallel investigations were being conducted by the two authorities, relying on the Supreme Court judgment in the Bharti Airtel case.

Senior advocate Somashekhar Sundaresan, representing the antitrust authority, argued that “irregularities happening with regards to cartelisation come directly under competition law”. But the high court hit the gavel and barred the CCI from undertaking further investigations into the matter for 60 days until the SEBI concluded its findings.

It has never been smooth sailing for the competition watchdog ever since the law came into force in May 2009, especially as its jurisdiction continues to be challenged in courts of law.

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The Briefing is written by Freny Patel