The Supreme Court of Pakistan has unanimously upheld the statutory powers of the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP). The powers relate to gathering information and conducting inquiries. A three-member bench comprising former Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, and Justice Ayesha A. Malik passed the judgement.
The Supreme Court declared that there is no restriction on CCP’s general regulatory powers to call for information under Section 36 of the Competition Act, 2010. It has also stated a clear obligation on undertakings to fully comply with CCP’s directives for the provision of information.
The apex court has further declared that CCP is not obligated to provide detailed reasoning before commencing an inquiry. The court stated that initiation of an inquiry under Section 37 of the Act is not an adverse action. It is merely a fact-finding exercise distinct from show cause proceedings under Section 30 of the Act.
In 2020, CCP inquired cooking oil and ghee companies for information about ghee and cooking oil prices. Dalda Foods was the sole entity to challenge in the Islamabad High Court. Dalda asserted that CCP did not possess sufficient grounds to justify the inquiry or the call for information. The Islamabad High Court had set aside CCP’s call for information letters and the initiation of inquiry. The High Court had imposed extraordinary requirements on the exercise of CCP’s regulatory and inquiry powers. CCP had challenged the decision of the High Court before the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
While allowing the CCP’s appeal the Supreme Court has set aside these requirements, which included the requirement to provide detailed reasoning to an undertaking when initiating an inquiry and to pass a reasoned order in this regard. Hence the stance and actions of the CCP were upheld in the judgement of the Supreme Court.