India’s global influence is rising, but its commitment to fostering regulatory institutions for its growing economy is questionable. The Competition Commission of India (CCI), which aims to ensure fair competition, has been hampered by delays in appointments, which could undermine its key role.
In stark contrast to the swift appointments made by other regulators, vacancies in the CCI have been a long-standing issue. Delays in filling key posts at the CCI have raised suspicions that the Center is ignoring the competition watchdog and treating it poorly compared to other regulators, akin to how a stepchild in a mixed-race family feels. Certainly, the enthusiasm shown by regulators like the Reserve Bank of India and the Indian Stock Exchanges in filling senior vacancies seems to be missing here.
The lack of a full committee was particularly evident after Ashok Kumar Gupta stepped down as chairman in October last year. The situation improved briefly with the appointment of Ravneet Kaur as chairman in May, but another member retired in August and the CCI once again fell short of a quorum. Now, with the retirement of Sangeeta Verma, the CCI has become a single-member body, a far cry from the statutory structure of one president and six members.
The roots of the quorum issue date back to 2018, when the federal cabinet decided to “right-size” the CCI, reducing its members from seven to four as part of the “Minimum Government – Maximum Governance” initiative. In such a streamlined body, the CCI relies on the “principle of necessity” to approve mergers and acquisitions and struggles to maintain a quorum. If the order falls short of a quorum, the validity of the CCI approval may be challenged in court.
The government must prioritize regulatory appointments, especially those of CCI members. With quorum issues hampering CCI operations, India’s growth story risks becoming an “operations succeed, patients die”.If India aspires to become a developed economy by 2047, this is not the way to go