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Grant of Interim relief can be provided only in exceptional cases, only when the situation satisfies the bench: Commission of India

One of the most important aspects for invoking Section 33 of the Competition Commission of India Act 2002 is that it is proved to the satisfaction of the Commission, by affidavit or otherwise. The word ‘satisfaction’ in this section clearly signifies that the commission can grant interim relief only it deems necessary. This observation was also made by the Hon’ble Competition Commission of India before the Coram consisting of Mr. Ashok Kumar Gupta (Chairperson) Ms. Sangeeta Verma (Member) Mr. Bhagwant Singh Bishnoi (Member) in the case of TT Friendly Super League Association (Informant) vs. The Suburban Table Tennis Association, Maharashtra State Table Tennis Association and Table Tennis Federation of India (opposition parties).

The present information has been filed by TT Friendly Super League Association (TTFSL/ ‘the Informant’) under Section 19(1)(a) of the Competition Act, 2002 (‘the Act’) against the OPs alleging contravention of the provisions of Sections 3 and 4 of the Competition Act,2002.

The facts of the case are that the Informant is a non-governmental organisation (NGO) with the objective of promoting table tennis in India and holds competition in various districts of Maharashtra without any cash rewards or certificates. According to the information, the OP1 passed a notice stating not join any unaffiliated organisations and not to play any unaffiliated organisation’s matches, and it further stated that if any member club or academy enters into any arrangement with any other unaffiliated TT body, their club/academy would not be allowed to participate in any of the tournaments that the district body or State body organizes and will result in suspension/nonacceptance of their entries in TT tournaments. As a consequence of the OP l’s notice, many suburban players refused to register as members of the Informant and the players who had earlier registered with the Informant, did not join the Informant by paying the one-time lifetime membership fee of Rs. 500/-. Further, when the informant sought clarification to the OPs for the same, no reply was given to him.

The Commission on perusal of the information, asked the OPs to file their reply statement. The OP1 filed its reply statement however, the OP 2 and OP3 did not filed their reply statement. OP-1 claims that it does not fit under the definition of “enterprise” set forth in Section 2(h) of the Act since it does not engage in any activity involving the manufacture, storage, supply, distribution, acquisition, or control of commodities or things. Members of OP-1 and the Informant, it was also argued, are not “consumers” as defined by Section 2(f) of the Act. It was further stressed that the Informant lacked standing to contest any of the terms of the OP-3 Association’s Memorandum of Association. Further, it was pointed out that the Informant is not a club or a sports organization, which can be recognized or affiliated with the OPs. 3. Lastly, it was submitted that, in order to organize and bring discipline in sports and to avoid destructive competition amongst players, there is a prohibition for players from participating in any tournament which is not sanctioned/approved.

The Commission was of the prima facie opinion that that OPs hold a dominant position in the relevant market as delineated. The Commission considered the Information and other material available on record and based on the averments and allegations made in the Information, it was observed that the Informant was primarily aggrieved by the fact that it has been denied access to utilise the services of TT players because of the WhatsApp notice posted by the General Secretary of OP-1 as well as certain clauses of OP-3’s Memorandum of Association, as detailed therein, as violative of the provisions of the Act and seemed to control the market.

In the result, the Commission is of the considered opinion that the present case is fit for grant of interim injunction and accordingly OP-1 is hereby restrained from issuing any communication to players/parents/coaches/clubs, restricting or dissuading them, in any manner whatsoever, from joining or participating in tournaments organised by Associations/ Federations/ Confederations which are not purportedly ‘recognised’ by OP-1. OP-1 is further directed not to threaten players who want to participate in such events

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Judgment reviewed by Meenakshi Jena

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