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Draft ports bill proposes a Competition Commission like body to settle disputes

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The ports sector will have an exclusive Competition Commission like set-up to adjudicate on disputes and complaints, according to the Indian Ports Bill drafted by the ministry of ports, shipping and waterways.

Disputes will be decided by a Bench comprising the Member (Legal) of the Maritime Port Regulatory Authority – a central regulatory agency – and one or more members nominated by its Chairperson or the Chairperson himself.

If the members of the Bench differ on any point or points, those will be referred to a full-time member of the Authority other than a member of the Bench, for a decision.

The Bench will exercise jurisdiction, powers and authority similar to a civil court. It will adjudicate complaints raised by an aggrieved person or reference made by the Central Government or State Government or State Maritime Board, concerning alleged anti-competitive practices or abuse of a dominant position at scheduled ports.

It will also adjudicate complaints related to port charges levied by scheduled ports, and whether those charges are in violation of the Act or amount to or evidence an anti-competitive practice or an abuse of a dominant position.

Complaints involving a shipping line and a terminal operator, between two port service providers or between two terminal operators in the same port or in a nearby port, which is causing or likely to cause an appreciable adverse effect on competition within the relevant market in India will be adjudicated by the Bench.

It will also address disputes of anti-competitive practices or an abuse of a dominant position at scheduled ports and pass an order prior to or upon merger.

“The Bench shall determine matters in accordance with the provisions contained in the Competition Act and in adjudication of these matters shall have the same powers vested in the Competition Commission of India under the Competition Act,” according to the draft Bill.

The Bench may pass an order to provide relief including refund, restitution or compensation for any loss or damage or injury caused to the aggrieved person or complainant and pass an order or impose any such penalty which the Competition Commission of India has the power to pass or impose under the Competition Act, 2002, it says.

Every order passed by the Bench shall be final and shall not be called in question in any suit, application, execution or other proceedings and no injunction shall be granted by any court or other authority in respect of any action taken or intended to be taken in pursuance of any power conferred by or under the Act

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