In yet another blow for Google, India’s Supreme Court declined to stay a prior order set by the Competition Commission of India (CCI), that alleged Google exploited the dominance of its Android ecosystem in the country. And if this was not enough for the tech titan, the Supreme Court added that it will consider sending the matter back to the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) and ask the tribunal to once again consider the stay application filed by Google in the matter.
A bench led by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud (which also included Justices PS Narasimha and J B Pardiwala) observed that the California-headquartered Google had “contrived emergency” in seeking a stay on the penalty order issued by the CCI by approaching the NCLAT rather late. The apex court of the country will once again hear Google’s appeal against the order on Wednesday, January 18.
During the hearing, the bench asked senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who was Google’s counsel on the matter, “Will Google practice the same regime in place in India as you have in Europe?” “Please reflect on this and come back,” the Chief Justice added. Google believed that the order by the Competition Commission of India was more sweeping than the one issued by the European Commission in 2018 for the imposition of unlawful restrictions on Android mobile device makers.
In case you need a refresher, Google has been skittish ever since it was slapped with a hefty fine of ₹1,337.76 crore (over $161 million) by India’s competition watchdog, and more so by the redressal measure suggested by the CCI in its antitrust order.
The fine was imposed after the antitrust regulator conducted its investigations to discover that the search giant had indulged in unfair, anti-competitive business practices and abused its dominant market position in multiple markets. The CCI also directed Google to cease and desist from indulging in such business practices and “modify its conduct within a defined timeline.” Google, for its part, felt that the fine was a “major setback for Indian consumers and businesses” and filed its application before the NCLAT at the end of December, seeking the CCI order be quashed and a stay on the penalty imposed.
Its hopes were squashed earlier this month when the NCLAT refused to grant any interim relief to Google regarding the matter. The appellate tribunal found that there was no urgency shown in the filing of the appeal – and directed Google to deposit 10% of the fine amount as an interim measure. The company later argued that the ruling by the CCI would “stall” the growth of the Android ecosystem in the world’s second-largest internet market and one of Google’s key markets.