How Google-CCI fight becomes India's digital opportunity

by IANS |

New Delhi, Jan 21 (IANS) The latest verdict of Supreme Court in the Google-CCI case can benefit the Indian tech and digital industry in the long run but there is a long road ahead to achieve that goal, industry experts said on Saturday.

In the ruling earlier this week, a Supreme Court bench said the findings by the CCI cannot be said to be "without jurisdiction or with manifest error" and affirmed the NCLAT order, declining to grant interim relief to Google.

The bench directed the NCLAT to dispose of Google's appeal by March 31, and granted Google seven days to deposit 10 per cent of the Rs 1,337.76 crore penalty imposed by the CCI.

However, the Supreme Court is yet to decide on the merits of the case.

"The SC order is good wherein Google may have to deposit initial money. But to recover the fine and penalty, the government will have to win before NCLAT and the Supreme Court by demonstrating clear violation of Indian laws by Google operations in the country," Supreme Court lawyer and cyber law expert, Virag Gupta, told IANS.

The apex court observed that Google ought to follow regulations established by the European Union.

"However, India lacks a strong legal framework. European penalties against tech giants are based on a robust GDPR regime. The Digital Markets Act of the EU defines three elements of size, control and durable positions of tech giants. Such comparable laws don't exist in India," Gupta lamented.

Google had alleged that the CCI copy-pasted parts of a European court order without examining associated evidence in India.

The tech giant is reviewing the Supreme Court's decision.

A company spokesperson said in a statement that the decision "is limited to interim relief and did not decide the merits of our appeal".

"Android has greatly benefited Indian users, developers, and OEMs and played a key role in India's digital transformation. We remain committed to our users and partners and will cooperate with the CCI on the way forward, in parallel with our appeal," said a Google spokesperson.

The CCI has also imposed a penalty of Rs 936.44 crore on Google in a separate case for abusing its dominant position with respect to its Play Store policies.

Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Minister of State of Electronics and IT, had hailed the CCI's decision, stressing that a free and fair internet is a firm policy goal for the government.

According to the Alliance of Digital India Foundation (ADIF), a policy think tank for Indian startups, the SC order established that Google is not above the law of the land.

"The recent CCI decision and the SC upholding NCLAT decision of refusing stay has set a global benchmark, and would cement India's position in preventing startup's interests and severely restricting abuse of dominance by Google," said an ADIF spokesperson.

The verdict is a "monumental step towards fair competition and practices in India", and the decision "could potentially embolden the startup ecosystem in the country, boost innovation, and encourage smaller players to enter the market", according to the ADIF.

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