1. On 17th March, 1975, Mr. G. L. Sanghi on behalf of the Director of Investigation applied that the Commission should amend the notice of inquiry in this matter in the manner following, namely, after the names of the 10 paper mills and the word " are " and before the word " indulging ", the following words be inserted " in concert or otherwise ".
2. The respondents are 10 paper mills who are the principal manufacturers of paper in India. The principal charge against them is that the Commission has reason to believe that they are indulging in restrictive trade practices of the nature set out in the notice. The main restrictive trade practice is that of changing the pattern of production of paper to adversely affect the flow of supplies in the market relating to ordinary white printing and writing paper. It is alleged that the above practice results in preventing, distorting or restricting competition in the piper industry and imposes on the consumers unjustified costs.
3. Regulation 72(1) provides that the Commission may at any time amend any defect or error in any proceedings including notice of inquiry and the necessary amendments shall be made for the purpose of determining the real question or issue raised by or depending on such proceedings.
The contention of Mr. Sanghi for the Director is two-fold. Firstly, that the amendment of notice suggested by him is in fact an amendment of defect or error in the notice, and, secondly, that in any case if under Section 10(a)(iv) the Commission has the right to institute a suo motu inquiry and for that purpose to issue notice, it would have the right to amend the notice instead of revoking the notice and issuing a fresh notice. He suggested that the latter course will only result in multiplicity of proceedings and delay. There is considerable substance in the second contention of Mr. Sanghi. But there appears to be no doubt in our minds that what Mr. Sanghi is asking us to do is merely to amend the defect or error in the notice.
4. Mr. Sanghi contended that the suggestion of the respondents acting in concert is implicit in the notice, firstly, because the notice does not state that the 10 paper mills named therein " or each of them " is indulging in restrictive trade practices. The allegation is that they are all indulging in restrictive trade practice of changing the pattern of production of paper, and, secondly, the effect of the restrictive trade practice stated in the notice is preventing, distorting or restricting competition " in the paper industry ". The allegation is against the entire paper industry. The 10 paper mills who are the respondents fairly constitute the paper industry in India, It is, therefore, obvious that implicit in the notice was a suggestion that the respondents were acting in concert and that this has not been so stated due to a defect or error in the notice.
5. In fact, it appears, that even the respondents have understood the notice in that sense. If the allegation against them was that each of them was separately changing the pattern of production of paper to adversely affect the flow of supplies in the market and not in concert, there should have been 10 notices and 10 inquiries, because there would be no connection between the 10 respondents for so acting as to change their pattern of production of paper. Unless the respondents have so understood the notice they would have straightaway taken the plea that there was misjoinder or this was a case of multifariousness. The very fact that no such plea has been taken by any of the respondents in their statements of the case in spite of the fact that they are all represented by members of the Bar shows that even the respondents understood the notice in the sense that they were changing the pattern of production of paper in concert.
6. One of the objections taken to the amendment is that the pleadings have closed and it is a late stage of the proceedings. It, however, appears that if the respondents are allowed to file a supplemental pleading all that they have got to do is to deny if they so wish that they are acting in concert. Another contention taken on behalf of the respondents is that the Commission had no evidence about their acting in concert. We have held that it is implicit in the notice that they were acting in concert. If we are correct in that conclusion, there must obviously be evidence and if there is no evidence the issue on that point will have to be answered in favour of the respondents. That question does not arise at this stage of the proceedings.
7. In the result we allow the application and amend the notice as prayed by Mr. Sanghi. Each of the respondents will be at liberty to file supplemental pleadings dealing with the amendment within 3 weeks from today. The matter will thereafter be placed on Board for further directions and framing of issues on 25th April, 1975.