1. This is an enquiry under Sections 10(a)(iv) and 37 of the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1969 (hereinafter referred to as " the Act "). The respondent is a firm publishing/printing and selling the newspaper called "Nava-Bharat" from five places--Nagpur, Jabalpur, Bhopal, Raipur and Indore. It is alleged in the notice of enquiry dated the 29th September, 1975, that the respondent publishes, prints and sells the newspaper "Nava-Bharat" from five places, namely, Nagpur, Jabalpur, Bhopal, Raipur and Indore. It was alleged that the respondent had prescribed and was charging joint or combined advertisement rates for publication of advertisements in the above five editions of Nava-Bharat even when the advertisers want advertisements to be published in any one or more of the editions of the same paper but not in all the editions. It was further alleged that the said trade practice might have the effect of preventing, distorting or restricting competition and also tended to bring about manipulation of advertisement rates and imposed on the advertisers unjustified costs or restrictions.
2. After the pleadings were complete the Director of Investigation (hereinafter referred to as the " director ") made an application for directions under regulation 74 on 22nd March, 1976. The Commission made an order dated 30th April, 1976, granting leave to the director to deliver to the respondent certain interrogatories and directing the respondent to file an affidavit of documents. The respondent did not comply with the said order either within time or at all. On 7th June, 1976, the director made an application for striking off the defence of the respondent under Order 11, Rule 21 of the Civil Procedure Code.
Nobody was present on behalf of the respondent at the hearing of the application on 2nd July, 1976, and accordingly on that day an order was passed striking off the defence of the respondent and the matter was posted for hearing on 9th July, 1976. On that day also nobody was present on behalf of the respondent and the Commission, therefore, passed an ex parte order on 9th July, 1976, to the following effect : 1. The respondents are restrained and prohibited from prescribing joint or combind advertisement rates for Bhopal, Indore, Nagpur, Jabalpur and Raipur editions of Nava-Bharat except as hereinafter provided.
2. The respondents are directed to prescribe separate advertisement charges for each of the above five editions of Nava-Bharat.
3. The combined advertisement rates for any two, three and four editions of Nava-Bharat shall not be less than 90% of the aggregate of the separate rates for those places. The combined rates for all the five editions shall not be less than 85% of the aggregate of the separate rates for all the aforesaid editions.
4. The respondents shall be at liberty to round off the actual advertisement charges to nearest half rupee.
5. This order shall come into force with effect from 1st August, 1976.
6. The respondents shall on or before 31st December, 1976, make and file an affidavit before the Commission and simultaneously furnish a copy of the same to the Director of Investigation setting out the manner in which this order has been carried out.
7. The respondents shall pay to the Director of Investigation cost of these proceedings fixed at Rs. 300.
3. Thereafter, the respondent filed an application for the revocation of the order of the Commission dated 9th July, 1976. The Commission after hearing the parties held that the respondent was prevented by sufficient cause from complying with the notices of hearing fixed by the Commission on 2nd and 9th July, 1976. It, therefore, revoked the order dated 9th July, 1976 and restored the proceedings to the stage at which the respondent was to comply with the directions of the Commission contained in its order dated the 30th April, 1976.
Thereafter, the respondent replied to the interrogatories and also filed an affidavit of documents. Before, however, the inspection could be taken, the respondent expressed its willingness to submit to an order by the Commission under Section 37(1) on the assumption that conditions for passing such an order exist but without prejudice to its contention that it was not resorting to any restrictive trade practice.
The learned director while reiterating his stand that the respondent was resorting to the restrictive trade practices had no objection to an order being passed on the assumption that conditions for passing such an order exist. Accordingly, the following order is passed : (1) The respondent is directed to prescribe separate advertisement rates for each of the five editions of Nava-Bharat, namely, Nagpur, Raipur, Jabalpur, Bhopal and Indore.
(2) The individual rates to be prescribed by the respondent for Bhopal and Indore editions shall not be less than the rate of Raipur edition as reduced by the proportion which the circulation at Indore and Bhopal respectively bears to the circulation at Raipur.
(3) The combined advertisement rates for any two editions of Nava-Bharat shall not be less than 87.5% of the aggregate of the separate rates for these places.
(4) The combined advertisement rate, in any three editions of Nava-Bharat shall not be less than 85% of the aggregate of the separate rate for these places.
(5) The respondent shall be at liberty to round off the actual advertisement charges to the nearest half rupee.
(6) The respondent has subsisting contracts lasting for an year. All contracts subsisting on or before 30th June, 1977, shall be honoured accordingly at the rates prescribed before the order of the Commission becomes effective. The order of the Commission will be applicable to all kinds of advertisements. This order becomes effective from 1st May, 1977.
(7) The respondent shall on or before 30th June, 1977, make and file an affidavit before the Commission and simultaneously furnish a copy of the same to the director setting out the manner in which this order has been made out.
(8) The respondent shall publish the rates once just before filing the affidavit in the newspapers published by it.