The CCI told a bench headed by Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma that there was “virtually a stay” on the proceedings and the anti-trust regulator must be allowed to carry out its investigation and Facebook and WhatsApp must be asked to file their replies.
“The investigation is 16 months old. We are not able to move an inch. We must be allowed to investigate,” the senior lawyer said.
On January 3, a bench headed by then Chief Justice DN Patel extended the time for filing replies by Facebook and WhatsApp to two CCI notices of June 2021 asking them to furnish certain information for the purpose of inquiry conducted by it.
The court, on Thursday, orally observed that “there was no stay order” concerning the probe and opined that the two companies should file their reply before CCI and listed the case for further consideration on July 22.
A lawyer appearing for the appellants said that their appeals would become infructuous if the interim protection is taken away and informed that a preliminary reply has already been filed before the CCI.
A senior lawyer appearing for Facebook India urged the court to defer the hearing on the appeal, saying that the case involves “issues of significance”.
WhatsApp and Facebook had subsequently challenged before the single judge CCI's March 2021 order directing a probe against them, saying that the issue concerning its new policy was already pending consideration before the high court and the Supreme Court.
The single judge on April 22 last year, however, refused to interdict the investigation directed by the CCI.
The CCI had contended before the single judge that it was not examining the alleged violation of individuals' privacy which was being looked into by the Supreme Court.