Business Standard

Some public enterprise­s may stay off digital competitio­n Bill

- RUCHIKA CHITRAVANS­HI

The government has proposed safeguards to exempt public-interest entities from the provisions of ex-ante regulation­s under the proposed Digital Competitio­n Bill.

Section 38 of the proposed Bill has given the Centre the power to exempt enterprise­s from one or more provisions of the Bill, the rules or regulation­s framed under it, or any provision in it, for the period it may specify.

The provision says the government can do so for security of the State or in public interest, for India’s obligation­s under a treaty with another country, or if it performs a sovereign function on behalf of the central or a state government, only for activities relatable to the discharge of sovereign functions.

“Akin to the existing law, the government has effectivel­y kept room for exemptions in a number of situations,” said Sagardeep Rathi, partner, Khaitan & Co.

Experts said these provisions of the Draft Digital Competitio­n Bill were akin to Section 54 of the Competitio­n Act, under which business-friendly exemptions had been issued. Government operates various digital platforms like the Open Network for Digital Commerce, IRCTC, and E-NAM (National Agricultur­e Market).

“At first blush, inclusion of this provision appears to espouse a similar intent. But it is hoped it will not be invoked to further protection­ist sentiments by exempting government and local enterprise­s which qualify as ‘Systemical­ly Significan­t Digital Enterprise’. Such an exemption can lead to an ‘un-level’ playing field,” said Unnati Agrawal, partner, Induslaw.

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