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History of the Proceedings
Facebook India had also contended before the Division Bench that it was only impleaded upon an information being filed by Internet Freedom Foundation. These contentions were rejected on the basis that the DG made a decision that the presence of Facebook India is necessary for a thorough investigation.
The Delhi High Court further stated that an impleadment application of this nature ought not to be made at the appellate stage, and that Facebook India ought to file a petition before a Single Judge of the Delhi High Court.
It appears that it is on the basis of these observations by the Division Bench of the Delhi High Court, that Facebook India filed W.P.(C) 14059/2022, which was decided by Justice Yashwant Varma on September 28, 2022.
Separately, WhatsApp and Facebook Inc. also filed an SLP before the Supreme Court of India challenging the order of the Division Bench of the Delhi High Court.
Supreme Court Dismissed WhatsApp’s and Facebook’s SLP
On the first day of hearing, after hearing counsels for all parties, the Supreme Court came to the conclusion that its interference in the CCI investigation was not called for. The Supreme Court held that the CCI has come to a prima facie opinion and then initiated the proceedings.
The Supreme Court also held that any arguments and contentions that WhatsApp and Facebook Inc. may want to make in this behalf, may be made before the CCI instead.
Delhi High Court also dismissed Facebook India’s attempt to remove itself from the investigation
Counsel for Facebook India raised the same argument before the Single Judge as it had before the Division Bench of the Delhi High Court, i.e. that a) Facebook India has nothing to do with the proceedings, since its role is limited to providing advertising services in India as well as other support services to Meta Platforms, Inc.; b) To begin an investigation, the CCI must conclude that a prima facie case warrants an investigation, whereas a reading of the impugned order shows that no such satisfaction was either recorded or arrived at by the CCI.
After hearing arguments, the Court held that Facebook India is undisputedly a subsidiary/sister concern of Facebook Inc, and that the CCI’s investigation is not merely limited to the operations and conduct of business by WhatsApp and Facebook Inc., alone but also extends to the whole Facebook group of companies.
The Delhi High Court held that the CCI’s Director Generalis required to investigate the affairs of the Facebook Inc. and WhatsApp, and also other companies which may fall under their umbrella of control and influence. Live reporting from the Courtroom indicates that the Delhi High Court stated that the ‘luxury to litigate’ that is available to large tech companies has to end. On these terms, the Delhi High Court dismissed Facebook India’s petition, and ordered it to participate in the CCI’s investigation.