Senior advocates Mukul Rohatgi and Parag Tripathi, appearing for Ruias and Khaitans respectively, moved separate applications for taking exemption from personal appearance for their clients on grounds including that they were residents of UAE and they have not been properly served with the summons
New Delhi: Promoters of Essar Group Anshuman and Ravi Ruia and Loop Telecom promoters IP Khaitan and Kiran Khaitan were today granted exemption from personal appearance by a Delhi court, which had summoned them as accused in the second generation (2G) spectrum allocation case, reports PTI.
“Exemption applications of four accused (Ruias and Khaitans) are allowed for today only,” special CBI judge OP Saini said after taking note of submission of special public prosecutor UU Lalit that the agency was not opposing their plea.
Senior advocates Mukul Rohatgi and Parag Tripathi, appearing for Ruias and Khaitans respectively, moved separate applications for taking exemption from personal appearance for their clients on grounds including that they were residents of UAE and they have not been properly served with the summons.
Khaitans have also cited their “poor health” as additional ground in support of their exemption pleas.
“The case against us is not a case under the Prevention of Corruption Act and, moreover, we have challenged the administrative order of the Delhi High Court by which this court was constituted to hear the 2G case,” Mr Rohatgi said.
The apex court would hear the matter on 1st March and the outcome would decide the forum and the course of trial against us, he added.
“If we win, then this case against us would be tried by a magistrate and if we lose then this matter will proceed before this court,” he said and sought a date of hearing during last week of March.
Vikas Saraf, Essar Group director (strategy and planning), however, appeared and moved his bail application before the court today which asked the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to file a reply and posted it for hearing on 17th March.
The court asked the CBI to provide the copy of the charge-sheet along with all the relevant documents to the accused who have appeared before it.
The authorised representatives of three firms, Loop Telecom Pvt Ltd, Loop Mobile India and Essar Tele Holdings which have also been charge sheeted along with their promoters also appeared today following the issuance of summons against them.
The CBI had filed its third charge-sheet arising out of probe in the 2G scam case on 12th December last year, on which the special court had taken cognisance and issued summons to the five accused and three companies.
However, the court issued fresh summons on 27th January against the accused persons as they did not appear before it in pursuance to its earlier order.
They had not appeared in the court on 27th January claiming the summons were not ‘duly’ served on them.
The apex court had on 15th February refused to grant interim stay on the summons issued to them but agreed to decide their plea challenging the jurisdiction of the special CBI court in hearing their case in the absence of corruption charge against them.
Essar, which has denied any involvement in the 2G case, contended the special court cannot proceed against them as they were not charged under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
The telecom firms had said they have been charge-sheeted under Section 420 (cheating) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC and the charges were triable by a magistrate and not by the special court constituted under the Prevention of Corruption Act for hearing the 2G case.
“Telenor Group has issued to Unitech a notice of voidance of the current shareholders’ agreement with Unitech on account of fraud and misrepresentation on their part as established by the Supreme Court judgement,” Telenor Group director communications (Asia) Glenn Mandelid said in a statement
New Delhi: Virtually dumping its partner Unitech, Norwegian telecom major Telenor Group today announced plans to set up a new company for carrying out its Indian operations post Supreme Court quashing its 22 licenses, reports PTI.
Telenor also sought damages from Unitech accusing it of “fraud and misrepresentation” of facts based on which it had invested over Rs6,000 crore in the joint venture with the real estate firm.
“Telenor Group has issued to Unitech a notice of voidance of the current shareholders’ agreement with Unitech on account of fraud and misrepresentation on their part as established by the Supreme Court judgement,” Telenor Group director communications (Asia) Glenn Mandelid said in a statement.
The Norwegian firm wants to transfer the business that was being done under the Uninor brand to the new company, where it will hold 74% stake and may rope in a minority Indian partner.
Expressing shock at Telenor’s announcement, Unitech in a statement said, it “cannot be held responsible” for cancellation of licenses and shareholders agreement “cannot be terminated by any party unilaterally”.
Telenor said the new entity will serve as the platform to approach the upcoming auctions for fresh licenses as mandated by the Supreme Court.
“As a part of this process, the new entity will also seek requisite approvals from the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) to allow Telenor Group to take up 74% ownership," Mr Mandelid said.
Telenor will seek to transfer Uninor’s business, and seamlessly migrate its customers and employees, to the new company, Mr Mandelid added.
“Till such a time, Uninor operations continue as before,” he added.
Telenor said it does not need “the 75% shareholders vote” for transfer of the business to the new company as “Uninor is a private company”.
On the ability to unilaterally void shareholder agreement, the Norway-based company said “in case of a fraud and misrepresentation, Telenor can unilaterally declare the shareholder agreement void”.
Mr Mandelid said Telenor Group has, for more than a year, tried to secure Uninor’s long-term funding needs through a rights offer but the process has been blocked by Unitech.
“Telenor Group has taken full responsibility for the financial security of Uninor by solely and fully guaranteeing for all short-term funding needs,” he said.
Telenor Group said it has invested Rs6,135 crore through equity and over Rs8,000 crore in debt through corporate guarantees for ramping up Uninor’s operations.
Uninor, over period of two years, has secured over 40 million customers, a workforce of over 17,500 and a distribution network with more than 4 lakh points of sale, the statement said.
“In order to ensure a smooth transition for Uninor’s employees, customers and stakeholders, we expect that the Uninor board would, with prior consent from the Indian authorities, transfer Uninor’s business into this new company at a fair market value,” Mr Mandelid said.
Mr Mandelid added that this voidance will take place with a prospective affect and all rights that have accrued in the past shall consequently stand preserved.
“Till such time that Uninor’s business is transferred to the new Indian company, Uninor operations will continue as before. We now trust that the Indian authorities will conduct a swift and fair process such that new competition remains in the market,” Mr Mandelid said.
The Unitech stock trailed 0.14% at Rs35.45 apiece on the Bombay Stock Exchange in late morning trade today.
Is there a solution to the lack of will by government department heads in voluntarily providing information under Section 4 of the RTI Act, because of which information is primarily delayed? PricewaterhouseCoopers along with IMRB which conducted a study at the behest of the central government makes some valid observations and suggestions
The Supreme Court in a RTI judgment on 9 August 2011 made an observation that, “the nation does not want a scenario where 75% of the staff of public authorities spends 75% of their time in collecting and furnishing information to applicants instead of discharging their regular duties.”
It further states that, “the threat of penalties under the RTI Act and the pressure of the authorities under the Act should not lead to employees of a public authorities prioritising information furnishing, at the cost of their normal and regular duties”.
Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi states that, “if 75% of the government employees spend 75% of their time to provide information, it would imply that 56% (0.75x0.75) of the total time would be spent on giving information. If this possibility ever comes about it would be scary and undesirable.”
So Shailesh Gandhi decided to do a reality check and following are his observations:
In addition to these observations, the resistance by most government departments in not abiding by the norms of Section 4 of the RTI Act which mandates suo moto disclosure which includes majority of information which citizens desire and have the right to know, has compelled citizens to file RTI applications. Subsequently, lack of systematic documentation in government offices also leads to unnecessary time being spent on gathering information for the applicant and leads to procrastination and hesitation in providing information by the Public Information Officers (PIOs).
In 2009, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), along with IMRB (market research partner), had been assigned by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) to assess and evaluate the level of implementation of the Act with specific reference to the key issues and constraints faced by the “Information Providers and Information Seekers”. The final report “Final Understanding the Key Issues and Constraints in implementing the RTI Act” has been published but most of the recommendations are gathering dust. PwC has provided some noteworthy observations and recommendations.
I restrict myself to the section which highlights how well-equipped are government departments in dealing with RTI applications filed by citizens, in terms of training, usage of IT, basic infrastructure like Photostat machines and budgets.
The study states:
Low motivation of PIOs
The study observes: “The gaps highlighted above, are partly due to lack of clear accountability established through appropriate government rules and lack of controls to measure the level/effectiveness of implementation. This has been addressed in the report through detailing the roles and responsibilities of various entities and establishing a control mechanism through the use of IT.”
In order to ensure good performance of PIOs in implementing the RTI Act:
The PwC study also observed:
(Vinita Deshmukh is a consulting editor of Moneylife. She is also an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte. She can be reached at [email protected])