A Judicial member of the appellate tribunal NCLAT has recused himself from hearing a petition filed by tech giant Google, appealing against Rs 936.44 crore penalty imposed by competition watchdog CCI for abusing its dominant position with respect to Play Store policies.
On Monday, NCLAT bench Justice Rakesh Kumar and Alok Srivastava ordered Google's appeal to be listed before another bench of which Justice Rakesh Kumar is not a party. It has asked the registry of the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) to place it before the Chairman of the appellate tribunal for this.
"List this appeal before a Bench of which one of the Members [Mr Justice Rakesh Kumar, Member (Judicial)] may not be a party. The Registry is directed to place this appeal before the Chairperson, for his approval," the NCLAT bench said. Earlier, the NCLAT bench comprising Justice Kumar and Srivastava had on January 11 declined to grant interim relief to Google, seeking a stay on the Rs 936.44-crore penalty for abuse of dominant position with respect to its Play Store policies.
It directed Google to deposit 10 per cent of the fine before its registry and posted the matter for hearing on April 17, 2023. Similarly, the same bench on January 4 refused an interim stay on another Rs 1,337-crore penalty on the US tech giant by the Competition Commission of India (CCI) for abusing the dominant position of its Android smartphone operating system and asked it to deposit 10 per cent of the total amount.
Both matters were challenged by Google before the Supreme Court. The apex court sent back the matter related to the Rs 1,337-crore penalty for the Android mobile device case and directed the NCLAT to decide Google's appeal by March 31. After this, a two-member NCLAT bench comprising Chairperson Justice Ashok Bhushan and Alok Srivastava started day-to-day hearing and passed an order on March 29, in which it handed out a mixed verdict - upholding a fine of Rs 1,338 crore but scrapping conditions like allowing hosting of third-party app stores on its Play Store.
However, on Monday, Google withdrew its petition related to the Rs 936.44 crore penalty with respect to Play Store policies and decided to pursue it before the NCLAT, which is an appellate authority over the orders passed by the CCI. On October 25, the Competition Commission slapped a penalty of Rs 936.44 crore on Google for abusing its dominant position for its Play Store policies. The regulator has also directed the company to cease and desist from unfair business practices and carry out various measures to address the anti-competitive issues within a defined timeline.