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HC grants Whatsapp, Facebook time to respond to CCI probe

The Delhi High Court on Monday granted more time to Whatsapp and Facebook to file their response over notices issued to them by the Competition Commission of India (CCI).

The Division Bench was hearing the petitions of Whatsapp and Facebook challenging the single bench, which had dismissed their pleas challenging a CCI order for an investigation into the messaging app’s new privacy policy.

The Bench of Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh on Monday noted that the Data Protection Bill yet to be finalised by the respondents adjourned the matter for March 30, 2022.

After taking notes of the submission of the appellant the court granted time to Whatsapp and Facebook to file their response over notice issued to them by CCI sought several details from them.

The court adjourned the matter for March 30, 2022.

It had granted time to Petitioners after Senior Advocate Harish Salve, appearing for Whatsapp LLC, informed the court that the CCI is insisting on a response to notices despite the matter being pending before the courts and under judicial consideration.

On the other hand, Additional Solicitor General Aman Lekhi appeared for CCI stated that the stay which was granted on July 30, 2021, and further extended to August 27, 2021, was later vacated on October 11 2021.

Whatsapp was sent a notice on June 4 while Facebook was sent a notice on June 8 by CCI seeking information and response to certain queries.

Earlier, the Delhi HC urged the DG, CCI to bear in mind that investigation against the appellant (WhatsApp and Facebook) is under judicial consideration before a Division Bench of this court.

The Bench had also stated that in its view, there was no doubt that the issuance of impugned notice by the DG is a step in furtherance of the investigation commenced in the Suo-Motu case, in which investigation is a subject matter of the challenge in the present LPA.

“…we do not consider it appropriate to stay the operation of impugned notice dated 04.06.2021, at this stage…” said Delhi High Court Bench had said.

Facebook and Whastapp had approached the Division bench through an appeal challenged single-judge bench order dismissing their pleas against the CCI decision.

The single bench of Delhi High Court on April 22, 2021 had dismissed Facebook and WhatsApp pleas challenging a CCI order for an investigation into the messaging app’s new privacy policy.

The petitioners had challenged the March 24 order passed by CCI directing a probe into the new privacy policy and the probe should be completed within 60 days.

Facebook and WhatsApp said that since the issue of WhatsApp’s privacy policy is being heard by the Supreme Court, High Court, therefore, there was no requirement of CCI to order the probe.

Senior Advocate Harish Salve and Former Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi appeared for the petitioners and had told the court that CCI proceedings must be kept in abeyance as the matter is pending before Supreme Court and High Court.

Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Aman Lekhi, who represented CCI in the matter, had earlier told the court that the matter is not of privacy but access to data and the competition is going to deal with metadata. ANI

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