House is half built, has to be completed, says outgoing CCI chief Ashok Chawla

The outgoing CCI chief Ashok Chawla said the implementation of the competition regime during his legacy is like a "house half built."
He feels “it has to be completed in terms of both the administrative work and the (regulatory) work.” Serving at the leadership role for 4 years, he will officially make an exit tomorrow.

After taking over the reins as Chairman in October 2011, Chawla, a seasoned bureaucrat, has been making efforts at the Competition Commission of India (CCI) to sensitise enterprises about fair trade regulations while also cracking down on the violators.

Under the stewardship of Chawla, the Commission grew from being a young regulator to cracking the whip on many entities across sectors, including realty, infrastructure, aviation and financial markets.

The CCI chief emphasised that the conscious endeavour is to ensure that the regulator moves with times.

When asked about the cases he felt were tough during his tenure, he said each one is unique and different.

"In economic issues it is not easy to find a smoking gun. Then, you really need to have a lot of collaborative evidence, you have to look at things which are collaterals to the actual incidents, you have to piece together so much to arrive at a high probability of bad behaviour. Each case is interesting and each case is challenging," Chawla said.

Emphasising that overall there have been no great lows during his stint, Chawla said there were lots of support from people and "a well knit professional kind of family that helped".

All said and done, the outgoing chairman observed that a few areas need improvement such as addressing staffing issues at its investigation arm Director General (DG) office.

Besides, Chawla rued that some entities are making concerted attempts to stonewall the regulator's work by moving writ petitions in high courts.
Meanwhile, the watchdog has been amending its M&A norms to ensure that they are more friendly amid perception in certain quarters that CCI is a kind of hurdle to ease of doing business.

"We should be seen as a regulator moving with the times and not one which is implementing a 21st century legislation with 20th or 19th century tools. That is the conscious endeavour," Chawla said.

The fair trade regulator has been wielding a 'carrot and stick' approach by cracking the whip on errant entities and making efforts to ensure that its framework is business friendly.

The Commission has been implementing the Competition Act since 2009 while the regulations pertaining to mergers and acquisitions came into force more than four years ago.
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