The Supreme Court has sought the government reply on a petition filed by cement manufacturers, which challenged anti-monopoly watchdog MRTPC’s order that held them guilty of cartelisation and manipulation of cement prices.
A bench headed by Justice C K Thakker recently issued a notice to the Ministry of Company Affairs seeking its reply on the petition filed by 41 cement firms that were found guilty of cartelisation and manipulation of the cement prices between February 1990 and August 1990.
The Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission had in December last year held the cement firms, including L&T Cement, Birla Cement, Grasim and ACC, guilty of hiking prices in concert under the aegis of Cement Manufacturer’s Association during the period.
It also warned the companies not to repeat the unfair trade practice and had issued "a cease and desist order" directing them against indulging in any such arrangement directly or working through Cement Manufacturers’ Association.
ACC Ltd counsel Ujjal Anil Rana sought quashing of the MRTPC order fearing that the Commission might order either imprisonment or impose hefty fines on the companies if held guilty again for cartelisation.
While stating that the impugned order was based on presumptions and surmises, ACC said: "The Commission grossly erred in coming to the conclusion that cement prices had to be fixed on a cost-plus basis and not based on free market economies. There is no warrant in law to hold that any revision in market prices had to be justified only on the basis of any rise in the input costs.