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After six months of delays—including three deadline extensions—the Competition Commission of India (CCI) finally filled the top position at India’s antitrust watchdog on 15 May. The CCI appointed Ravneet Kaur, a former financial commissioner, as its chairperson. With that, the authority heaved a sigh of relief, as the absence of a full-time leader since October 2022 had rendered it mostly non-operational.

Kaur, an officer from the prestigious Indian Administrative Services, emerged as the chosen candidate from a pool of 40 contenders. With her at the helm, the CCI can finally resume its duties as an enforcer of fair competition in India.

In the tenure of former CCI chairperson Ashok Kumar Gupta, the regulator opened multiple cases multiple cases The Ken Google searches for a way out of two antitrust cases a public policy fiasco in India Read more  to investigate alleged abuse of dominance by tech behemoths such as Google, Meta, and Apple. Gupta exited CCI upon turning 65, the mandatory retirement age for members of the authority. However, even with only two weeks remaining until his retirement, no announcement had been made regarding his successor.

“It’s unprecedented in the 13-year-old history of the CCI,” said a senior executive at the commission.

While Sangeeta Verma, a current competition commission member, was acting as the chairperson in the interim, the absence of a full-time chairperson kept raising a key concern: the commission could come to an absolute standstill.

The CCI’s primary role is to promote and sustain competition, eliminate practices with potentially adverse effects, and protect the interests of consumers. It also green-lights mergers and acquisitions (M&As) deals and conducts investigations whenever required. And given the dynamic nature of valuations and market conditions, timelines are sacrosanct.

As Verma ended up doubling as a member and the chairperson, the CCI has had only two committee members in the past six months. This means that the regulator lacked the quorum needed to approve mergers or pass orders on combinations such as M&As and hostile takeovers, according to the senior CCI executive quoted above.

The Competition Act, 2002, requires all deals to pass through a quorum of at least three members. This also meant that new cases could not be referred to the CCI’s investigations arm. At best, the antitrust regulator could undertake advocacy initiatives. 

This void underscored a chronic resource crunch within the top rung of India’s competition agency, undermining its capacity to regulate competition in the world’s fifth-largest economy.

Kaur is likely to have her hands full as she now takes over as the chairperson. 

When the lack of a quorum hindered the approval process for M&A deals, the government in February waived the requirement temporarily by invoking the “doctrine of necessity”—a legal principle that allows carrying out certain activities not permitted in the normal course.  


Vanita Bhatnagar

Vanita is a lawyer by training and write stories at the intersection of business & public policy, law, regulations and building inclusive workplaces. She has over five years of experience writing, researching and even training others on various aspects of law.

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