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Delhi High Court defers hearing in application against DoT officials, Delhi Police officers

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The Delhi High Court has on Monday deferred its hearing till November 29 in an application filed by NGO Telecom Watchdog seeking suo motu contempt proceedings against Department of Telecom (DoT) Secretary Anshu Prakash, DoT USO Fund Deputy Administrator (T-II) Ashi Kapoor, Parliament Street Police Station SHO Ajay Karan Sharma and Parliament Street Police Station Sub-Inspector Manish Kumar for causing interference with the administration of justice.

The instant application has been moved before the Division Bench comprising Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh alleging award of telecom contracts under Universal Service Obligation Fund to private companies without any tender.

Senior Advocate Prashant Bhushan, representing the petitioner organization, informed the Division Bench that the rejoinder filed on behalf of the organization has been returned under objection as certain pages of a report annexed therein are not legible. 

In light of these submissions, the Bench granted time to the petitioner organization to bring on record the rejoinder affidavit, while refusing to grant protection to the signing authority (Secretary) of the Telecom Watchdog from any coercive action by Delhi Police Officials in respect of the complaint filed against him.

At this juncture, Bhushan submitted that CSC e-Governance Services India Ltd.(CSC SPV), the corporation alleged to be awarding contracts to private parties without any tender, has not filed its response in the matter as yet. 

The Bench, thereby, pulled-up the corporation for not filing the counter-affidavit, despite notice been served upon it since long. “Despite notice been served upon Respondent No.4 (CSC SPV) since long, they have chosen not to file reply. We deprecate the practice of maintaining silence,” stated the Bench. 

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ASG Vikramjit Banerjee, representing the corporation, while contending that the instant petition is malafide, submitted that the counter-affidavit will be filed by tomorrow.

The Bench added further, “We do not understand why Respondent No.4 is maintaining silence and what is the purpose of maintaining silence. It is submitted by Counsel for Respondent No.4 that they can file the affidavit by tomorrow, meaning thereby that though the affidavit is ready, Counsel for Respondent No.4 is not filing the counter-affidavit.”

At the outset, the PIL was filed by Telecom Watchdog in June last year alleging grant of contracts worth hundreds of thousands of crores by the Government, under the USO Fund, to private companies without following any tender process. The plea claims that the cash rich Universal Service Obligation (USO) Fund, which was created by the government for the purpose of funding unviable telecom projects, will devise new projects, take approval from the Digital Communication Commission (DCC) for awarding it to a private company named CSC SPV, which in turn would pass on the same to its wholly owned subsidiary, which in turn would further assign the contract to various other private entities, without any tender. Notice was issued in the matter in December last year. 

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The instant application has been filed seeking initiation of contempt proceedings against the Secretary of the Department of Telecommunications, among others, for causing interference with the administration of justice.

It is contended that the Secretary of the Telecom Watchdog is being harassed and pressurized by Delhi Police Officials in respect of a complaint filed against him at the behest of the Department of Telecommunications for investigation into leak of certain documents belonging to the Department, which have been filed by him in the matter. It is claimed that the said documents are not secret or confidential documents and could also be made available by DoT under the RTI Act.

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