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India's top court rejects Google plea to block Android antitrust ruling in major blow

Google has been dealt a significant blow in one of its key overseas markets. India's Supreme Court on Thursday declined to block an antitrust order that requires the Android-maker to make a series of changes that could topple its financial viability.

India's apex court rejected to block the ruling against Google by the nation's antitrust watchdog Competition Commission of India. The court extended the deadline for enforcement of CCI's order by one week, however.

The matter will now go back to the country’s appellate tribunal, the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT), where Google previously failed to secure any relief. The Supreme Court has directed NCLAT to make its decision by March 31. The challenge for Google is that unless NCLAT reaches a decision in Google's favor by this month, the tech giant will have to make a series of changes to Android.

India is Google's largest market by users. The firm has amassed over half a billion monthly active users in the country. The vast majority of the smartphones shipped in India run Android.

The Competition Commission of India late last year slapped two fines against Google, alleging the Android-maker abused the Play Store’s dominant position in the country and required Android device makers to pre-install its entire Google Mobile Suite.

The CCI has ordered Google to not require licensing of its Play Store to be linked with mandating installation of several Google apps such as Chrome and YouTube. The watchdog has also ordered Google to allow removal of all its apps from phones and give smartphone users the ability to change their search engine provider. The CCI also fined Google $162 million in its first order.

Google warned earlier this month that if the Indian antitrust watchdog’s ruling is allowed to progress it would result in devices getting expensive in the South Asian market and lead to proliferation of unchecked apps that will pose threats for individual and national security, escalating its concerns over the future of Android in the key overseas region.

“Predatory apps that expose users to financial fraud, data theft and a number of other dangers abound on the internet, both from India and other countries. While Google holds itself accountable for the apps on Play Store and scans for malware as well as compliance with local laws, the same checks may not be in place for apps sideloaded from other sources,” the company said.

Google is facing mounting scrutiny from governments across the globe as policymakers begin to worry about the reach of technology giants and assess whether that is in detriment to local companies. Google lost its appeal against a record $4.3 billion fine in EU for using the dominance of Android to thwart competition. It’s also subject to Germany’s new regulation that targets large companies.