The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed petitions filed by messaging platform WhatsApp and its parent company Meta seeking to stay the investigation by the Competition Commission of India into their privacy policy, reported Live Law.

A bench comprising Justices MR Shah and Sudhanshu Dhulia rejected the petitions challenging the order of the Delhi High Court that refused to stay the investigation by the market competition regulator.

In March last year, the Competition Commission of India had ordered an investigation into WhatsApp’s new privacy policy after making a prima facie observation that the policy violated the Competition Act, 2000.

However, both WhatsApp and Meta, formerly known as Facebook, had argued that the Competition Commission of India should not have ordered the investigation as the matter was already being heard by the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court.

WhatsApp had claimed that the regulator had “jumped the gun” by starting suo motu proceedings and that the investigation was a “headline-grabbing endeavour”.

On Friday, the Supreme Court dismissed the petitions saying the Competition Commission of India was an independent body and it cannot be said that it does not have the jurisdiction to pursue an investigation into WhatsApp.

“The precedent of the Supreme Court has held that the proceedings before the CCI are required to completed be at the earliest,” the court said, adding that any observation made by the High Court be considered prima facie.

Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Meta, told the Supreme Court that a Constitution bench is currently hearing a petition concerning the validity of the privacy policy of WhatsApp and that the matter is posted for hearing in January 2023. He added that a new personal data protection Bill is likely to be introduced in the Parliament in the Winter Session.

In view of this, the competition regulator should defer passing final orders in the matter, Sibal urged.

However, the judges asked how the Constitution bench hearings could impact the independent statutory powers of the regulator.

“CCI is an independent statutory body,” Justice Shah said. “Their proceedings cannot be stopped.”

Additional Solicitor General N Venkatraman, appearing for the Competition Commission of India, said that the regulator was only examining the matter of abuse of dominance and not deciding any Constitutional question and so there is no overlap with the Supreme Court proceedings.

“Data is being shared by WhatsApp, they then advertise on basis of that,” he added. “Article 21 has nothing to do with this. The concentration of data with them results in abuse.”