Supreme Court denies relief to Google
Google on Thursday lost its fight in the Supreme Court to block an antitrust order, in a major setback that will force the US tech giant to change the business model of its popular Android operating system in a key growth market.
The Supreme Court on Thursday also refused to grant Google an interim stay on the Rs 1,337-crore fine imposed by the Competition Commission of India (CCI) for abusing its dominant position in the Android market.
A bench of Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, Justice P.S. Narasimha and Justice J.B. Pardiwala asked the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) to pass its verdict by March 31 on Google’s appeal challenging the penalty and various directives issued by the CCI.
The court delayed the January 19 implementation of the CCI’s directives by one week, but declined to block them.
After hearing the arguments of Google and the CCI, the bench said that “the findings by the CCI cannot be said to be without jurisdiction or with manifest error. We affirm the order of the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal declining interim order”.
The CJI during the course of the hearing also orally suggested that Google cannot be seen as adopting different yardsticks for the EU countries and India.
The CCI in its impugned judgment had held that Google had complied with the European court’s directive to unbundle the mandatory pre-installed applications and had paid a hefty fine for unfair practices, but was not willing to do the same in India.
“We cannot lose sight of the peculiarity of Indian markets, its width, depth and penetration in global market in comparison with the level playing field that is being offered in Europe…The European Union can be a benchmark for us, so that we don’t fall back, but rather we can certainly move ahead of them,” CJI Chandrachud told senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi during the arguments that preceded the order on Thursday.
The court was dealing with an appeal filed by Google after the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal on January 6 declined to take up its appeal against the CCI order unless the company deposits 10 per cent of the penalty amount of Rs 1,337-crore as a pre-condition of hearing the appeal.
The CCI had imposed the fine on October 20, last year while allowing a complaint lodged with it jointly by three citizens, alleging unfair trade practices by Google.
The complaint was filed under Section 19(1)(a) of the Competition Act, 2002 against Google LLC and Google India Private Limited, alleging inter alia abuse of dominant position by Google in the mobile operating system related markets in contravention of the provisions of Section 4 of the Act.
Google licenses its Android system to smartphone makers, but critics say it imposes restrictions such as mandatory pre-installation of its own apps that are anti-competitive. The company argues such agreements help keep Android free.
With inputs from Reuters
■ Google will have to modify its Android practices
■ Search giant must pay the fine of Rs 1,337 crore imposed by CCI
■ Gets time till January 26 to meet its obligations
■ NCLAT must pass its judgment by March 31