The Supreme Court, in Competition Commission Of India vs Co-ordination Committee Of Artists And Technicians Of WB Film and television, has held that, preventing channels from telecasting Mahabharat dubbed in Bengali is an ‘anti-competitive’ activity and the protection in the name of the language goes against the interest of the competition, depriving consumers of exercising their choice.

The Competition Commission of India, upon a complaint that the Eastern India Motion Picture Association (EIMPA) and the Committee of Artists and Technicians of West Bengal Film and Television Investors (Coordination Committee) demanded to stop the  telecast of the dubbed serial on certain TV channels, had held that such an activity was ‘anti-competitive’.

But the Competition Appellate Tribunal set aside the findings of the CCI, observing that the EIMPA and the coordination committee were not ‘’enterprise”. The CCI preferred an appeal before the apex court.

A bench comprising Justice AK Sikri and Justice AM Sapre held that the acts of EIMPA and coordination committee amounted to creating barriers to the entry of new content in the said dubbed TV serial and it also limited the supply of serial dubbed in Bangla, which amounts to violation of the provision of Section 3(3) (b) of the Act.

‘Cloak of Trade Unionism’ The court also brushed aside the argument that the coordination committee is a ‘trade union’ and it does not fall under the purview of ‘enterprise’. The court observed that the coordination committee and EIMPA are, in fact, association of enterprises (constituent members) and these members are engaged in production, distribution and exhibition of films. When some of the members are found to be in the production, distribution or exhibition line, the matter could not have been brushed aside by merely giving it a cloak of trade unionism, the bench said.

Even action in concert is termed as ‘agreement’ 

The court also said that definition of ‘agreement’ under Section 2(b) is also very widely worded and any arrangement or understanding or even action in concert is termed as ‘agreement’. “It is irrespective of the fact that such arrangement or understanding is formal or informal and the same may be oral as well and it is not necessary that the same is reduced in writing or whether it is intended to be enforceable by legal proceedings or not.” the court said.

The court further added that an ‘agreement’, referred to in Section 3 of the Act has to relate to an economic activity which, refers to any activity consisting of offering products in a market regardless of whether the activities are intended to earn a profit.

Allowing the appeal by CCI, the court observed that prohibition on the exhibition of dubbed serial on the television prevented the competing parties in pursuing their commercial activities. – Live Law