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Evolution of Competition Law in India: From Command and Control to Fair Market Dynamics

There is universal recognition that competition law is an important means of ensuring abundant quality of goods and services at affordable prices for consumers, apart from effectively addressing market manipulative trade practices that manufacturers, sellers and suppliers are resorting to.

Competition has huge advantages in the form of encouraging innovation, cost reduction, Availability of a variety of goods and services at competitive prices, increased consumer choice and, ultimately, growth and inclusive economic development.

In fact, this realization has caused policymakers across many countries in the world to adopt competition law that is suitable for their own economic development in order to generate the competition process to promote fair markets and protecting the interests of consumers. Promoting competition and curbing baneful effects of Monopolies is one of the constitutional imperatives visualized by the framers of the Indian Constitution.

The prevention of concentration of economic power to the detriment of public, Control of monopolies and prohibition of monopolistic trade practices are the Constitutional imperatives of the State policy.

The Industry Policy Resolutions Adopted and enforced prior to 1990 phased the need to tune the State policy for Ensuring commanding heights to the public sector, increasing control of the Government over the means of production and control of monopolies.

Thus India after attaining independence in 1947, formulated and enforced the policies comprising What are popularly known as command arid control laws, rules, regulations, executive Orders etc., and which in fact formed the fulcrum of the State economic policy for Over a half century.

Consequently, instead of working on measures that would generate national wealth in the private and public sector, the Government of India was more interested in putting measures in the economy that would control and regulate trade and industry in the country. Profit, during those days was an unpalatable word and big business was seen with suspicion by the Government.

The Government efforts and endeavor were focused mainly on ensuring that monopolistic business organizations were not created. To achieve this goal, the Government appointed a committee3to provide necessary support and suggest suitable recommendations. Basing on the report of the committee, the Government enacted a law in 1969 called "Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 19694.

The principal purpose of the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1969 as envisaged in its preamble, was to ensure that there was no concentration of economic power and control of monopolies and prohibition of monopolistic and restrictive trade practices. In other words, business should not become so big or resort to such policies that the consumer becomes the victim.

Accordingly, a MRTP Commission was constituted to administer and enforce the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 19695.One of the main goals of the MRTPA was to encourage fair play in the market, apart from promoting healthy competition.

Economic Reforms And Its Impact On The MRTP Act, 1969

The Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1069 put in place a regulatory mechanism and operated in a framework of checks and balances, and in the philosophical milieu of "Laissez Faire". It sought to curb the concentration of economic power in private hands to the common detriment of the community, likewise, it encompassed monopolistic, restrictive and unfair trade practices6 that are baneful and prejudicial to the public interest.

The purpose was to condone the 'Good 'and condemn the bad2.' The MRTP Act was enacted in the era of license and permit raj that advocated stridently in imposing controls on trade and industry. During those days monopoly per se in trade and industry was perceived as abominable and bad in law.

Though public interest and consumer welfare were at the foundation of the said Act, yet the concept of Market economy was at its nascent and rudimentary stage during those days. Since 1970, the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1969 was amended several times to suit the changing times and conditions of the Indian economy.

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