Compat says Bhargava has no say in Jet-Etihad deal, dismisses plaint

The Competition Appellate Tribunal has dismissed a petition filed by former Air India MD Jitendra Bhargava challenging fair trade watchdog CCI's approval of the Rs2,060 crore Jet -Etihad deal, saying the appellant is not an aggrieved party and does not have "locus standi" to file the petition.

Compat chairman V S Sirpurkar said there is "no locus standi" for the appellant and dismissed the appeal.

Bhargava had filed the petition questioning the November 2013 decision of the Competition Commission of India to approve the Jet-Etihad deal without carrying out a detailed assessment. The regulator had said the deal did not raise concerns of adverse competition and approved the deal.

One of the four CCI members, however, had, in a dissenting note, observed that the deal could adversely affect competition in the international air travel market.

The deal, first announced in April 2013, has also passed SEBI scrutiny as to whether Etihad was getting full or joint control of Naresh Goyal-led Jet Airways despite the 24 per cent stake it acquired.

The deal had raised concerns as it coincided a government-to-government deal between India and Qatar raising the number of seats available for airlines of the two countries.

Dismissing the appeal, Compat said it was not convinced that Bhargava is in any manner an aggrieved person by the approval of the deal. The tribunal, however, noted that it was not expressing any opinion on the merit of the CCI order either.

Bhargava had contended that CCI failed to carry out an assessment of the appreciable adverse effect on competition and "placed all passengers and indeed the entire airline industry into a grave risk of suffering irreparable damage and permanently eliminating competition."

Regarding Bhargava's counsel's argument that the deal could result in higher air fares in some routes, Compat said that such a contention would be premature.

The tribunal's ruling would come as a relief for Jet and Etihad the first foreign direct investment in an Indian carrier by an overseas airline.