CCI imposes fine of Rs. 6.92 lakh on AICF

CCI finds AICF guilty and has imposed a penalty of Rs. 6.92 lakh. AICF is set to appeal against the order.

All India Chess Federation. (representational image)   -  Rakesh Rao

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has found the All India Chess Federation (AICF) guilty of violating provisions of Section 4 of the Competition Act, 2002 and imposed a fine of Rs. 6,92,350.

The case was filed, in 2011, by four players – Hemant Sharma, Devendra Bajpai, Gurpreet Pal Singh and Karun Duggal – banned by the AICF for taking part in tournaments organised by rival Chess Association of India (CAI). At that time, AICF banned several players and removed
their international rating (that reflects a player’s playing strength).

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Making scathing observations on AICF in its 45-page order, a copy of which is available with The Hindu, the Commission remarked after studying the Code of Conduct for the players in AICF’s Constitution and Bye-Laws, “These rules undoubtedly confer the AICF with control over professional chess players in India who have no bargaining power.”

The Commission also stated, “Denial of market access is one of the severe forms of abuse of dominant position. Though up to 10 percent of the relevant turnover of AICF can be imposed, the Commission finds it appropriate to impose penalty at the rate of two percent of the average relevant turnover for the financial years 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17.”

The Commission directed AICF to deposit the penalty amount within 60 days of the receipt of the order and file a report to the Commission on the compliance of the aforesaid directions.

Reacting to the order, the AICF secretary Bharat Singh Chauhan said, “This is the first order since the case began seven years ago. It is a routine order. We will appeal against the order in the Appellate Tribunal. We also have a writ petition pending in the Madras High Court. Following the CCI order, the petition will come up for hearing.”

Besides the penalty, the Commission ordered the following “remedies” to the AICF “to address the harm to the competition flowing from the impugned abuses. Excerpts:

(a) “AICF shall cease and desist from indulging into the aforesaid conduct which is found to be in contravention of the provisions of section 4;

(b) “AICF shall lay down the process and parameters governing the authorisation/sanctioning of chess tournaments. In doing so, AICF will ensure that they are necessary to serve the interest of the sport and shall be applied in fair,  transparent and equitable manner;

(c) "AICF shall establish prejudice caused by a chess player before taking any disciplinary action against him. The disciplinary actions against the Informants (the four petitioners) and other similar players shall be reviewed by AICF on these lines.”

Two of the players, Gurpreet and Karun, were jubilant with the tone of the order and said they would continue to fight for justice.

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