The PIL filed by BJP's former leader Govindacharya, seeks recovery of taxes onof Google and Facebook from India and data safety of Indian users
New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday sought responses of
"Issue notice to the respondents. The Centre is its reply within four weeks," a bench of Vipin Sanghi and Rajiv Shakdher said.
Govindacharya, presently a of 'Rashtriya Swabhimaan Aandolan', in a public interest litigation (PIL) , has also sought directions to the Centre and the two websites to "ensure proper compliances as per RBI guidelines".
The petition also sought a direction to ensure safety of the data of 50 million Indian users, which were transferred "to the USA and being used for commercial gains in violation of the right to privacy."
"Issue a writ of mandamus ...to ensure verification of all existing users and future new members of social networking websites with instructions not to do agreements with children below 13 years," said the plea, filed through lawyer Virag Gupta.
The plea also sought creation of a national register of persons, indulging in sexual offences and heinous crimes and stopping such persons from joining social networking websites.
The petition, which listed the alleged violations of various terms by the websites, also sought a direction to the Centre to ensure that government officers "do not use social networking websites through government computers" as they may pose threat to sensitive data and national computer network.
"As per telecommunication ministers statement in Parliament, the government lost $4 billion every year due to cyber-crimes and approximately 90 million government websites were hacked in last 3 years," it said.
Govindacharya, in his PIL, said "Facebook gross revenue for previous year was approximately $37 billion but they are not paying due taxes on their Indian operations as per the provisions of Double Tax Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) and the government is not taking any action to safeguard the national interest and the sovereignty of the country."
Anonymous hackers have again threatened to attack the government websites from 9th June "to protest blocking of websites illegally sharing video contents," the petition said.
It also sought directions to the Centre to impose penalty on social networking sites and other internet companies "for non-verification of users and to recover damages for causing huge loss to the government and the Indian economy due to anonymous users' illegal operations through such sites."
Referring to a report of Mumbai ATS, the PIL said the accused of the 13th July blast in Mumbai last year were in touch with each other and the Indian Mujahideen operatives through Facebook since 2008.
"Facebook is one of prominent social networking website with more than50 million Indian users and as per their own records approximately 5% to 6% of their accounts are fake or being operated by anonymous users due to non-authentication of details by the company before opening of accounts as required by their terms of agreement," it said.
The Centre's KYC (know your customer) guidelines, applicable to the telecom companies are not being followed by the social sites which is "causing the biggest security risk to the nation", it said.
"As per reports, Facebook has further allowed account opening by children below 13 years of age who may be 1/3rd of their registered users just to exploit online gaming market and increase advertisement revenue," it said.
You may be nastily surprised that your ATM has run out of money when you really need it
On 12 June 2012, we went to Oriental Bank of Commerce at HAL III Stage, Bengaluru, at 8.15am to withdraw money from the ATM. The transaction was declined. We were surprised as this was a Tuesday and not a Monday when ATMs sometime run out cash. We hopped across to the Canara Bank ATM across the road and here also we faced the same situation. The transaction was declined. A Canara Bank staffer informed us that the banks had outsourced the entire process of uploading the cash in the ATM machines to a sub-contractor. This contractor hadn't done his duty of replenishing the ATM machine. What is the use of such ATMs? It is ironical that these are the banks that claim to be doing great business. You will be surprised to note that there are no standard operating instructions on how to use the ATM cards.
The ATM rooms were filled with scrap in both the banks. A senior citizen who followed us to withdraw cash at the Canara Bank was ATM was shocked when he got a SMS saying his account was debited though the transaction was declined by ATM. We pacified him and asked him to take a Photostat copy of the transaction slip in case it was needed for future correspondence with the bank. When will these nationalized banks improve?
When we called up the Canara Bank branch later, we were informed that both the branch manager and assistant manager were on leave and that the contractor who was supposed to have loaded the cash in the machine had not turned up. If someone needed cash urgently on a Monday morning, what would he do? Whenever banks talk about core banking solutions (CBS), we have to take it with a pinch of salt. Most nationalized banks have CBS as part of their strategy of-"We are also into CBS" but they have very little knowledge in case there is a problem with the technology.
I have seen bank officials in other banks (Indian Bank, for instance) personally uploading the cash in the ATM machine. Then what is prompting banks such as Canara Bank and OBC to outsource these activities? A few days back there were reports that ATM machines in Bengaluru were broken into and cash stolen by thieves. Point to be noted here is that both the ATMs are located exactly opposite each other do not have a security guard too.
What is the use of technology if it can't come to our aid at time of need? The branch executive in Canara Bank coolly asked us to write an email to the CMD. OBC's official opening hours are 10am but the staff breeze in only by 10.30am. We are sure what the response is going to be in from OBC too -a simple apology and asking us to a send an email to the customer service cell. Banks need to ponder over the fact that despite having the best technology at their disposal, they still have to deal with the human inefficiencies in their system while customers must think twice about blindly relying on ATMs. They may get badly stuck when they really need the money.
A perceived slowdown in government decision-making, failure to implement announced reform, and growing bottlenecks in key sectors has undermined business confidence in India, says the ratings agency
Ratings agency Standard & Poor’s (S&P) said Indian government’s reaction to potentially slower growth and greater vulnerability to economic shocks could largely determine whether the country can maintain an investment grade rating or become the first “fallen angel” among the BRIC nations that also comprise Brazil, Russia, and China.
“The combination of a weakening political context for further reform, along with economic deceleration, raises the risk that the government may take modest steps backward away from economic liberalization in the event of unexpected economic shocks. Such potential backward steps could reverse India’s liberalization of the external sector and the financial sector,” said Standard & Poor’s credit analyst Joydeep Mukerji.
In a report titled “Will India Be The First BRIC Fallen Angel?” the ratings agency said slowing gross domestic product (GDP) growth and political roadblocks to economic policymaking are just some of the factors pushing up the risk that India could lose its investment-grade rating.
“Setbacks or reversals in India’s path toward a more liberal economy could hurt its long-term growth prospects and, therefore, its credit quality,” Mr Mukerji said.
Earlier in April 2012, S&P revised India’s outlook to negative from stable due to the country’s lower GDP growth prospects and the risk of erosion of its external liquidity and fiscal flexibility. “The negative outlook also reflects the risk that Indian authorities may be unable to react to economic shocks quickly and decisively enough to maintain the country's current creditworthiness,” the ratings agency had said.
India’s GDP growth fell to an estimated 5.3% year-over-year in the first quarter of calendar 2012, from 6.1% in the previous quarter. The biggest contributors to growth in the last fiscal year were sectors such as real estate and financial and government services, with manufacturing, infrastructure, and agriculture showing lower growth. The Indian rupee has declined about 20% against the US dollar over the past year.
According to the ratings agency, local business confidence in India has deteriorated for various reasons including perceptions of “policy paralysis” within the central government. India was able to boost public and private investment in infrastructure in recent years, sustaining high GDP growth of around 8%-9% during the three years leading up to the recent global slowdown in 2008.
However, a perceived slowdown in government decision-making, failure to implement announced reforms, and growing bottlenecks in key sectors, including lack of reforms to archaic land acquisition laws that hinder investment, has undermined business confidence. And infrastructure problems, combined with growing shortfalls in the production of coal and other fuels, have dampened investment prospects, the report added.
For example, various regulatory and other obstacles have delayed a proposed $12 billion investment in the steel sector by Korean steelmaker POSCO—potentially the biggest foreign investment project in Indian history—by more than seven years. Other steel projects have also faced extensive delays because of land acquisition hurdles and other issues.
S&P said, recent setbacks in economic policy have also hurt investor sentiment. Strong opposition from within the Congress party-led ruling coalition, as well as from opposition parties, recently forced the government to reverse its decision to raise the cap on foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail to 49% of total ownership from 26%.
Similarly, pressure from a coalition ally of the governing Congress party caused the government to roll back a 10% hike in passenger train fares and forced the railway minister to quit. Passenger fares have been flat for many years despite substantial growth in personal income and high inflation.
In addition, recent announcements by the government on taxation matters, such as the retrospective implementation of taxation on the offshore transaction of assets in India, have raised concerns among foreign portfolio and direct investors. Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee later clarified his statements and announced that some of the measures against tax avoidance would not take effect until the next fiscal year, starting in April 2013. Such incidents have raised the perception of risk among both foreign and domestic investors and could reduce India's growth prospects in the coming years, the report from S&P added.
S&P said, "The crux of the current political problem for economic liberalization is, in our view, the nature of leadership within the central government, not obstreperous allies or an unhelpful opposition. The Congress party is divided on economic policies. There is substantial opposition within the party to any serious liberalization of the economy. Moreover, paramount political power rests with the leader of the Congress party, Sonia Gandhi, who holds no Cabinet position, while the government is led by an unelected prime minister, Manmohan Singh, who lacks a political base of his own."
"The division of roles between a politically powerful Congress party president,who can take credit for the party's two recent national election victories, and an appointed prime minister, has weakened the framework for making economic policy, in our view. Manmohan Singh did not run for office in 2009 and, according to many political analysts, appears to have less in fluence within the Cabinet than previous prime ministers. Infact, the Cabinet is appointed largely by Sonia Gandhi and leaders of the allied parties, who choose their own candidates for the Cabinet posts allocated to them within the coalition. Hence, the prime minister often appears to have limited ability to influence his cabinet colleagues and proceed with the liberalization policies he favors (and constantly advocates in his public speeches. For example,Singh has been unable to liberalize the heavily controlled coal sector despite publicly advocating it for many years," the ratings agency added.