Order on the Registrar's Application dated 31st August, 1974, for directions: 1. This is an application for directions as to discovery and inspection, delivery of interrogatories, framing of issues, etc.
2. Mr. Desai on behalf of the respondents has vehemently opposed the application with regard to the interrogatories on the ground that it is invalid, vexatious and seems to reopen the issues already answered and finally decided by the Commission. He has also raised the question of principles of res judicata but that aspect of the matter has not been argued.
3. The main application was filed on December 21, 1971. Thereafter, in the middle of 1972 the respondents filed their statements of case under Regulation 16 of the Restrictive Trade Practices (Enquiry) Regulations, 1970. On July 21, 1972, before filing his answer to the statements of the case the Registrar filed applications dated the 21st July, 1972, and 24th July, 1972, for further and better particulars of averments in the respondents' statements of the case, for discovery of documents listed in the application and for leave to deliver interrogatories. It appears on August 30, 1972, this application came to be granted ex parte. The respondents thereafter applied for setting aside the ex parte orders. This application was heard on October 11, 1973, when by consent of parties the original ex parte order was modified and as so modified it was confirmed. Pursuant to this the respondents answered some of the interrogatories and objected to answering the remaining interrogatories. These objections have however, not been considered.
4. Thereafter, the Registrar filed his answer to the statements of the case. Under the 1970 Regulations, the respondents would have been entitled to file a reply to the Registrar's answer. In the meanwhile, the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices (Commission) Regulations, 1974, were promulgated which do not provide for such reply. However, on the application of the respondents, they were permitted on July 17, 1974, to file supplemental pleadings under Regulation 74 of the 1974 Regulations so that they would not be put in a worse position than that under the 1970 Regulations. Supplemental pleadings were filed on August 6, 1974.
5. On August 31, 1974, the present application was filed. It has been contended by Dr. Singhvi on behalf of the Registrar that the proper stage for summons for directions is when the pleadings are completed, whether under Regulations 24 to 27 of the 1970 Regulations or under Regulation 74 of the 1974 Regulations. This contention appears to be correct. We are of the view that the ex parte order made on August 30, 1972, for leave to deliver interrogatories was not made at the proper stage and ought not to have been made ex parte. However, the order dated October 11, 1973, was thereafter made by consent. In our opinion that was not the stage for delivery of interrogatories. The respondents undoubtedly have a grievance on the ground that they should not be made to answer the same interrogatories over and over again. But we are inclined to make an order granting leave to the Registrar to deliver the present interrogatories for several reasons. Firstly, because the present application of the Registrar for leave to deliver interrogatories is at a proper stage of the proceedings, and that the previous interrogatories were unfortunately not delivered at the proper stage. Secondly, supplemental pleadings have been filed by the respondents after the last order for delivery of interrogatories was made. Thirdly, there is also no bar either in the Code of Civil Procedure or under the 1970 Regulations to the Commission granting leave to deliver interrogatories from time to time if it is necessary to do so in the interests of justice. In the circumstances, we propose to make an order which in our opinion will meet the justice of the case and will also not prejudice the respondents.
6. With regard to the interrogatories we grant leave to the Registrar to deliver to the respondents interrogatories in terms of annexure to the present application. The respondents will answer such interrogatories as they wish to answer. In respect of interrogatories which they have already answered pursuant to the previous order they will be entitled to state that the interrogatories have already been answered. With regard to interrogatories which they object to answer they will set out their objections and these objections will be considered later. This will leave no occasion for considering the objections of the respondents to answering the interrogatories delivered to them under the previous application.
7. The respondents will file affidavits of documents in terms of Order 11, Rule 13 of the Code of Civil Procedure.
8. The interrogatories will be answered on affidavits. The affidavits answering the interrogatories and affidavits of documents will be filed in the office of the Commission and copies delivered to the Registrar within three weeks from to-day. Inspection of documents so disclosed will follow immediately thereafter.
(1) Whether this Commission has no jurisdiction to entertain the main application as contended in para. 1 of the statement of the case.
(2) Whether the main application is not maintainable as contended in para. 2 of the statement of the case.
(3) Whether the terms and conditions referred to in paras. 2, 3 and 5 of the Registrar's application amount to restrictive trade practices as contended in the application.
(4) If the answer to issue No. 3 is in the affirmative, whether the respondents are entitled to the benefit of Clauses (a), (b), (e), (f) and (h) of Section 38(1) of the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1969.
(6) Whether the practices, if any, established do not operate to the detriment of public interest.
10. The Registrar does not press the application with regard to cost data at this stage. He will be at liberty to make a separate application for the purpose as and when so advised.
11. Application stood over for further directions to 1st November, 1974.