A Division Bench of the Delhi High Court on Tuesday upheld the Single Bench order of the court allowing the Competition Commission of India (CCI) to probe Mahyco Monsanto Biotech (India) Limited and Monsanto's country directors for alleged abuse of the company's dominant position in India in the Bt cotton business. Mahyco Monsanto Biotech is an equal joint venture between Mahyco and Monsanto Holdings.
The two-judge Bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V Kameshwar Rao said that the directors at the firm would be held liable for the affairs of the company in case CCI came to the conclusion that they were the key persons responsible for the affairs of the company during which time the abuse of its dominant position took place.
Allowing the CCI to proceed against the directors of the company, the two-judge Bench also said that the regulator could impose a penalty on such enterprise and persons if they were found guilty.
In its submissions before the high court, CCI had pushed for a heavy penalty on Monsanto for holding up proceedings before it by filing merit-less petitions one after another.
"The CCI proceedings began from February 2016 and despite the Directorate General having submitted the investigation report to the CCI, no final order of the CCI has been given yet on account of frivolous litigations pending in this court initiated by Monsanto," CCI had submitted in the court.
Earlier, in October, a single-judge Bench of Justice Vibhu Bakhru had rejected Mahyco Monsanto and Monsanto's appeal against CCI probing its directors and other officials.
In 2015 and 2016, the CCI had, via a majority order, ordered an investigation against Monsanto, Monsanto Holdings Private Limited, Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company, and Mahyco Monsanto Biotech for forcing anti-competitive agreements and abusing its dominant position in the country's Bt cotton seeds market. The fair trade regulator had found prima-facie evidence of the group companies misusing their dominant position and ordered a detailed probe.
The application was made to the CCI by the Ministry of Agriculture and three Indian companies -- Nuziveedu Seeds, Prabhat Agri Biotech, and Pravardhan Seeds.
Pursuant to the court's order, the company said they would evaluate their next steps only after they had studied the order in detail.
"Till date, we have completely cooperated with the CCI and the Director General's office in the ongoing investigation and will continue to do so," a Bayer spokesperson said. Monsanto has been acquired by Bayer for $66 billion. Organisational rejig
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