DoT, in its contempt plea, had said that instead of complying with the orders passed by the high court, Idea Cellular had filed an additional affidavit stating that it has “additionally decided” to provide 3G services to those existing customers who meet the criteria
The Delhi High Court today issued contempt notices against telecom major Idea Cellular (ICL) and its Chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla for allegedly disobeying its earlier order by providing 3G services to new customers in circles where it lacks the requisite licences.
Justice Rajiv Shakdhar asked the telecom company and five others including Birla to file their responses within four weeks and posted the matter for further hearing on 5th August.
Besides the telecom company and its chairman, the court also issued notices to Himanshu Kapania, managing director of ICL, Akshya Moondra, chief financial officer of the firm, P Lakshminarayana and Pankaj Kapdeo, company secretaries of ICL.
The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had earlier moved the court seeking initiation of contempt proceedings against the telecom firm and its office bearers for “wilful and deliberate” disobedience of a judicial order passed on 12th April by which ICL was restrained from providing 3G services to its new customers.
DoT, in its contempt plea, had said that instead of complying with the orders passed by this court, the petitioner (Idea Cellular) had filed an additional affidavit stating that it has “additionally decided” to provide 3G services to those existing customers who meet the criteria. There are no criteria provided by this court, it had said.
“The order of 12th April is clear and has to be obeyed in its entirely. The petitioner, under the garb of so-called criteria, has modified the condition imposed by this court on 12th April... Therefore, it amounts to contempt of the said order,” it had said.
Earlier, in pursuance of a Supreme Court order on a plea moved by Bharti Airtel, the high court had restrained DoT from taking any “coercive steps” against Vodafone and Idea Cellular which were asked to pay penalty of Rs550 crore and Rs 300 crore respectively for providing 3G facilities outside their circles without the requisite licences.
The court had, however, put a condition on the telecom majors, including Idea Cellular, that they will not provide 3G services to new customers in the circles for which they lacked licences.
Besides initiation of contempt proceedings, DoT has also sought dismissal of Idea Cellular’s plea against its notice demanding Rs300 crore as penalty for providing 3G services in circles including Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, the north east, Assam, Bihar, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Delhi.
In addition to Idea Cellular, Vodafone had also moved the high court against a penalty of Rs550 crore imposed on it by DoT for providing 3G services outside their licensed circles.
Both the telecom firms got the relief from the court which followed the apex court order on a similar plea of Bharti Airtel.
Earlier, the Supreme Court had directed the Centre not to take any coercive step against Bharti Cellular and asked the telecom company not to extend its roaming services to new customers in seven circles where it does not have licences for 3G spectrum.
Bharti Cellular (BCL) had moved the apex court after the division bench of the high court vacated its stay on the operation of a DoT notice against BCL for providing 3G services outside its licensed circles.
DoT had, in separate notices, asked all the three telecom firms to pay the penalties and stop offering 3G mobile phone services in circles where they did not win spectrum in the 2010 auction of the radio waves.
MPs from Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha decide their own salary and perks. Has the time come when pay, perks and privileges of Parliamentarians may be fixed on recommendations of some outside agency like Pay Commissions?
Many members of Parliament (MPs) appointing their family members, like sons, daughters, wives, brothers, sisters and other close relatives, as personal staffers and getting them paid salaries from the government is not new. Although this is neither illegal nor there any bar on such hiring, the question is why the exchequer should be burdened with this extra payload when the MPs are being paid handsomely, asks an activist.
According to RTI (Right to Information) activist Subhash Chandra Agarwal, time has come when pay, perks and privileges of Parliamentarians may be fixed on recommendations of some outside agency like Pay Commissions set up for recommending pay-scale of government employees.
“It is unfair that Parliamentarians may themselves become decisive authorities for deciding their pay, perks and privileges costing heavily to the exchequer apart from being conflict of interest. It is significant that any bill to increase pay, perks and privileges is passed at supersonic speed without much discussion many-a-times in late evening sessions,” he said.
Following an amendment in the Salary, Allowances and Pension of Member of Parliament Act, 1954, salaries of MPs were increased to Rs50,000 per month from Rs16,000 in December 2010. During Parliament session MPs receive Rs2,000 extra per day. MPs are also entitled for Rs25,000 per month as pension.
Under the salary and allowances rules, the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha secretariats pay Rs30,000 per month to those employed by MPs for secretarial or personal assistance. This amount can be paid entirely to one personal assistant or an MP can split the amount between more than one assistant.
According to a news report in the Indian Express, these family PAs for MPs include 60 sons, 36 wives, 27 daughters, seven brothers, seven daughters-in-law, four husbands and 10 cousins, among others.
Salary paid to kin of MPs is an indirect addition to already handsomely paid pay and perks available to Parliamentarians in addition to costly privileges to them in name of salary paid to their staffers. Since Parliamentarians cutting across party lines are beneficiary of such liberal rules, even the Ethics Committee of the Parliament does not find it necessary to curb such indirect addition to salary of Parliamentarians received in name of their kin.
According to the newspaper report, ironically though, at least three MPs on the 14-member Lok Sabha Ethics Committee—Dara Singh Chauhan, Sumitra Mahajan and Prem Das Rai—and one MP on the 10-member Rajya Sabha ethics panel, EMS Natchiappan, are themselves on the list of MPs employing close relatives as PAs.
“Although there is no bar on appointing close relatives as personal staff, propriety demands that MPs should think and carefully consider before appointing relatives as PAs. I have been appointed chairman of this committee very recently and will consider this issue when it comes before the committee,” the report says quoting Sis Ram Ola, chairman of the Lok Sabha Ethics Committee.
Of the 146 MPs employing close relatives as PAs, 38 are from the BJP, 36 from Congress, 15 from BSP, 12 from Samajwadi Party, eight from DMK, seven from Biju Janata Dal, six from JD(U) and the rest from other parties, the newspaper report says.
Mr Agarwal said, “Chairpersons of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha should take all necessary steps to stop such indirect addition to Parliamentarians’ salary in name of salary paid to their kin as their respective staffer. Even President of India as head of the Parliament should intervene to curb such unhealthy practice of kin of Parliamentarians being paid salary in name of their personal staffers.”
“Parliamentarians should get a net fixed salary inclusive of all with salary paid on basis of cards punched while entering and leaving the House. It is unfair that Parliamentarians get salary and daily allowance even for entering the House for a short while,” he added.
Various departments in Delhi went around stating that they feel it was an illegal encroachment but did not make any comment, leaving the appellant and the CIC wondering whether there was any governance structure at all. This is the 100th in a series of important judgements given by former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi that can be used or quoted in an RTI application
The Central Information Commission (CIC), while expressing displeasure over the passing on the responsibility and lack of coordination in sharing information between government departments, directed the commissioner for planning at the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) to share the layout plan of with Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) at Punjabi Bagh, Nangloi in Delhi.
While giving this judgement on 15 September 2009, Shailesh Gandhi, the then Central Information Commissioner said, “The Commission is aghast at the complete absence of any coordination amongst various government officers even when a citizen points out an encroachment. This method of complete non-cooperation and refusal to give each other adequate information shows the reason why encroachers and illegal activities can thrive and the government is unable to deliver the most basic requirements.”
New Delhi resident Vijay Kumar, on 24 August 2007 sought information regarding encroachment of public land from the Public Information Officer (PIO) of Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD). Here is the information he sought under the Right to Information (RTI) Act...
1. Whether any action has been taken to remove the illegal encroachment of and by Jyotish Karyalay at the T-point of Rohtak Road and Shiv Mandir Road, Madipur, New Delh-63 located at the north-east corner of the boundary wall of DDA SFS Flats (Punjabi Bagh Apartments), opposite Arihant Nagar, New Delhi-63, and to reclaim the public land on which the encroachment is constructed.
2. If any action has been taken to remove the said illegal encroachment, the same may please be intimated.
3. If no action has been taken so far, the reason thereof may be informed.
4. It may also be intimated as to when the action to remove the illegal encroachment and reclaiming the public land will be taken.
In his reply, the PIO of MCD stated, “It is to inform you that the matter pertains to Public Works Department (PWD). The copy of the same has been sent to the secretary of the PWD for sending information directly to the applicant under intimation to this office.”
Vijay Kumar then filed his first appeal. In his order, the First Appellate Authority (FAA) said, “The matter pertains to the PWD and the application has already been sent to secretary (PWD), the appellant has been asked to approach the concerned department for seeking information.”
The RTI application was shunted around. The only information was provided by the executive engineer (EE) at the Flyover Project Division at PWD (NCTD), Nangloi in Delhi on 1 July 2008. He stated, "It is intimated that though the above mentioned property appears to be constructed illegally on public land, the said property holder has produced some documents in support of his claim for the land. The documents produced by him are being sent to the revenue department to check the authenticity of the documents, in case the encroachment is proved the same will be removed.”
The EE sent this reply to SDM at Punjabi Bagh, Nangloi.
Not satisfied with the reply, Vijay Kumar then approached the Commission with his second appeal.
During the hearing, Mr Gandhi, the then CIC, observed that this was a classic case of how there was an absolute vacuum with respect to knowledge or willingness to identify responsibility for illegal encroachments. “Various departments have gone around stating that they feel it is an illegal encroachment but cannot make any comment. The respondents from land revenue state that DDA should has the records, whereas the DDA representative states that this information is with the revenue department. The appellant is left wondering whether there is any governance structure at all,” he noted.
He then directed the EE of Flyover Projects to send copies of documents produced by the land holder (as mentioned in his letter on 1 July 2008) to Vijay Kumar and the Commission before 30 April 2009.
The CIC, while allowing the appeal, also directed MS Agarwal of the DDA to give a copy of the layout plan superimposed on the Sirza to VP Mishra, Tehsildar at Punjabi Bagh. “...Agarwal and Mishra will give a joining report explaining whether the charge of encroachment is true and identify who has the information. This report will be sent to the appellant and the Commission before 5 May 2009,” it said.
During the hearing, Agarwal from the DDA showed some notings from a file which seem to indicate that the land belongs to DDA and there is an illegal encroachment. A photocopy of the file was given to Vijay Kumar, the appellant, Mishra, the tehsildar from Punjabi Bagh and the Commission.
However, the Commission did not receive any report from the PIOs. Vijay Kumar also on 22 June 2009 informed the CIC that he had not received any report as directed by the Commission and the DDA and the tehsildar were placing the responsibility on each other.
The tehsildar, in a letter on 4 May 2009 to the CIC stated that plan has not been provided to him as directed by the Commission and therefore he was unable to take any further action on this matter.
During the hearing Agarwal from the DDA showed some file notings which seemed to indicate that the land belongs to the DDA. However, the deputy director for land management at west zone had informed the Commission vide letter dated 4 May 2009 the concerned property does not fall under the jurisdiction of the DDA.
Since it was not clear to which public authority the concerned land belongs to, the Commission decided to initiate an enquiry in the matter under Section 18(2) of the RTI Act.
During the hearing on 15 September 2009, nine officers from PWD, DDA and MCD were present. All the officers universally proclaimed that none of them knew anything about this plot of land.
After hearing this, AK Gupta, EE of PWD stated that he was aware that it (the land) was encroached but was unable to get any help from other departments in terms of information to prove the encroachment.
Ashish, SDM, at Punjabi Bagh stated that for the want of layout plan the identification is held up. He stated that if the layout plan is provided, he would be able to give the information whether it is an encroachment or not within a day.
Ajay Gautam, EE of MCD stated that it is in the right of way of the PWD and MCD has nothing to do with while Chandrama Shah, deputy director of DDA stated that the layout plan would be available with DDA, Planning.
Expressing anguish over the lack of coordination amongst various government departments, Mr Gandhi said this method complete non-cooperation and refusal to give each other adequate information shows the reason why encroachers and illegal activities can thrive.
He then directed Alok Kumar, the commissioner for planning at DDA to send the layout plan of this area to Ashish, the SDM of Punjabi Bagh before 23 September 2009. “Ashish will then ensure that the information is sent to the appellant (Vijay Kumar) within seven days of receiving the layout plan. Ashish will also send a compliance report to the Commission before 10 October 2009 and inform the EE, PWD,” the CIC said in its order.
CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION
Decision No. CIC /SG/A/2008/00159/2835Adjunct
Appeal No. CIC/ SG/A/2008/00159
Appellant : Vijay Kumar,
Respondents : 1. BP Mishra
Office of the Sub-Divisional Magistrate
Punjabi Bagh, Main Rohtak Road
Nangloi, Delhi 110041
2. Dy. Director (LM) WZ
Delhi Development Authority
Lands Management (WZ)
Subhash Nagar, Delhi 110018
3. Asst. Commissioner (WZ) & PIO
Municipal Corporation of Delhi
West Zone, School Building
Vishal Enclave, Rajouri Garden
New Delhi 110027
4. ADM(West) & PIO
Govt. of NCT of Delhi
Old School Complex
Lawrance Road, Ram Pura
New Delhi 110035
5. Secretary & PIO
Public Works Dept, GNCTD
Delhi Secretariat, I.P. Estate,
New Delhi 110002