Competition Commission drops contempt charges against Chess Federation

In the order dated July 24, the CCI took into consideration AICF’s affidavit and decided to drop the proceedings initiated against the federation under Section 42 of the Competition Act.

The contempt petition was filed by three chess players -- Karun Duggal, Gurpreet Pal Singh and Devendra Bajpai. (REPRESENTATIVE IMAGE)   -  C.V. Subrahmanyam

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has dropped contempt proceedings against the All India Chess Federation (AICF), while directing it to comply with its orders in letter and spirit within stipulated timelines.

In the order dated July 24, the CCI took into consideration AICF’s affidavit and decided to drop the proceedings initiated against the federation under Section 42 of the Competition Act.

The contempt petition was filed by three chess players -- Karun Duggal, Gurpreet Pal Singh and Devendra Bajpai.

The AICF, in its affidavit had said that it had complied with the July 12, 2018 order and also requested the CCI to record satisfactory compliance of the orders passed by it and also close the proceedings against it under Section 42 of the Act.

As per Section 42 of the Competition Act, a person failing to comply with the orders of the Commission can be punished with a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh per day during which such non-compliance occurs, subject to a maximum fine of Rs 10 crore.

Further, if a person fails to comply with the order or fails to pay the fine, he shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years or with a fine which may extend to Rs 25 crore, or both.

The CCI on July 24 said that its order “shall be without prejudice to any other proceedings that are pending against AICF, either before the NCLAT (National Company Law Appellate Tribunal) or any other court in respect of the conduct(s) which has been found to be in contravention of the provisions of the Act.”

On July 12, 2018, the CCI held that the undertaking prescribed by the AICF for players regarding non-participation in events not authorised by it amounted to restraints that are in the nature of exclusive distribution and refusal to deal as defined in Section 3(f) and 3(4)(d) of the Competition Act, 2002.

The CCI said non-compliance of such undertaking will result in banning of players and removal of their Elo ratings, create entry barriers, foreclose competition and restrict opportunities available to chess players.

The CCI had also imposed a penalty of Rs 6.92 lakh on the AICF for infringing the provisions of Section 4 of the Act and directed the chess body to deposit the penalty within 60 days and file a compliance report.

According to the CCI order dated July 12, 2018, the AICF shall establish the prejudice caused by a chess player before taking any disciplinary action against him. Needless to say, the disciplinary actions taken shall be proportional, fair and transparent.

Recently, FIDE, the world chess body, had restored the Elo ratings of over 50 Indian chess players, including those who had filed a case with the CCI.

On the contempt petition filed by the three chess players, the CCI pointed out that there was no stay on the directions it had issued to the AICF vide its July 2018 order.

Reacting to the development, Delhi-based Duggal, one of the petitioners, said it was an oversight on the part of the commission and alleged the AICF had submitted a false affidavit.

“It is a clear oversight on the part of the commission. They did not accord us any hearing or even inspection of documents. AICF submitted a false affidavit and tried to manipulate the course of justice. The registration form still has a clause which says.. “I apologise for playing in unauthorised tournaments,” he added.

Duggal said he hoped that the Commission would be able to understand ‘such cheap tactics’ of AICF and would punish them for misinformation.

AICF officials could not be reached for comment.