With these appointments, the CCI will now have four members, including Chairperson Ravneet Kaur. This allows the CCI to form the quorum required for decision-making.
The government on Tuesday appointed three new members to the Competition Commission of India (CCI) to expedite the antitrust regulator's decision-making processes.
The newly appointed members are:
- Anil Agrawal, a former Director General of Police and former Additional Secretary at the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade;
- Deepak Anurag, a former Additional Deputy Comptroller and Auditor General of India;
- Sweta Kakkad, an independent lawyer who previously served as Interim Chief Compliance Officer at WhatsApp. She has more than 20 years of litigation experience in commercial corporate litigation.
Agrawal and Kakkad are expected to take the oath of appointment later today, while Anurag is set to join next week. With two members joining immediately, the CCI will maintain a three-member quorum, a critical requirement for making decisions related to mergers, combinations, and investigation reports.
These appointments are particularly significant as the CCI is actively investigating several prominent international corporations for suspected antitrust breaches. Among the companies under scrutiny are Amazon, Flipkart (owned by Walmart), Google, and the liquor giant Pernod Ricard.
The appointment of these members comes at a crucial time, as two former CCI members, Bhagwant Singh Bishnoi and Sangeeta Verma, retired in late August and on September 17, respectively. Their retirements had raised concerns about the regulator potentially being left with only the Chairperson, which could have disrupted its functioning.
Last year, CCI operated for 7 months without a full-time chief after the resignation of former Сhairman Ashok Kumar Gupta.
The lack of a quorum at the CCI was a cause of concern for the Indian media, which criticized the government for not paying enough attention to the antitrust body's problems.
The root of the quorum problem dates back to 2018 when the Union Cabinet decided to “right-size” the CCI, reducing it from seven members to four as part of a ‘Minimum Government - Maximum Governance’ initiative. In this truncated setup, the CCI has struggled to maintain quorum, relying on the “doctrine of necessity” to approve mergers and acquisitions. The validity of the CCI approvals can be challenged in courts if orders lack quorum.
“With quorum issues hindering the CCI’s functioning, India’s growth story is at risk of becoming a case of ‘Operation Successful, Patient Dead’. This is no way to go, if India aspires to be a developed economy by 2047,”
a columnist for The Hindu Business Line noted.