Google plea against 'information leak' attempt to frustrate proceedings, CCI tells Delhi HC
Google said that on September 18, 2021, a confidential interim fact-finding report submitted by the DG's office to CCI relating to an investigation into Google's Android smartphone agreements was leaked to the media.
The Competition Commission of India told the Delhi High Court on Friday that Google's plea against the alleged leak of confidential probe information was wholly misplaced and an attempt to frustrate the proceedings related to its Android smartphone agreements. Additional Solicitor General N Venkataraman, representing CCI, stated that the commission stood by the legal obligation with respect to maintenance of confidentiality and clarified that there was no lapse on part of the body.
“There are accusations against a government body and there is not a word (in Google's affidavit) showing when and how it was done... They are trying to frustrate the proceedings. If they are aggrieved, they should file a suit against (the media),” he said.
“They want the process to the thwarted,” said ASG Venkataraman who also informed the court that one of the officials of Google even wrote to the CCI Chairperson, saying “we will sue you”.
Justice Rekha Palli stated that she did not appreciate the US-based tech giant's directly approaching the authority. “If he wants to function in the country, he has to know the law. I don't appreciate this... If he felt so strongly, he should have addressed the letter to the registrar (of CCI),” the judge stated.
Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing Google, highlighted that the allegedly leaked information was only in possession with the Director General who further passes it on to CCI and no other person, including the parties, are privy to it.
“Please see the habitual defaulter. Everyday leakage is happening... Give a dog a bad name and hang him by selective leakage,” the senior lawyer said, urging the court to pass an order protecting his client from further prejudice.
He argued that the CCI order, on Google's appeal against the DG order on its “confidentiality claim”, was passed without following the principles of natural justice.
“Let them say till Monday they will not allow further leak,” said the senior counsel.
“Don't put words in his mouth. You don't give me the DG order (in relation to the confidentiality claim and) today you want an order from me,” said the judge who listed the matter for further hearing on September 27.
Google, in a statement, had said that on September 18, 2021, a confidential interim fact-finding report submitted by the DG's office to CCI relating to an investigation into Google's Android smartphone agreements was leaked to the media. The company said it has filed the petition in the court seeking redressal of its grievance, specifically protesting against the breach of confidence which impairs Google's ability to defend itself and harms it and its partners.
According to reports, the CCI probe is stated to have found Google allegedly abusing its dominant position and indulging in unfair practices with respect to mobile operating system Android.
After prima-facie finding alleged violation of competition norms, the watchdog, in early 2019, had ordered a detailed probe against Google in this regard. As per procedure, CCI will closely analyse the probe report and seek the views and submissions of the parties concerned before passing an order.