September 25, 2021

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HC notice to Centre on telecom NGO’s plea over whistleblower’s ‘harassment’

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HC notice to Centre on telecom NGO’s plea over whistleblower’s ‘harassment’
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HC notice to Centre on telecom NGO’s plea over whistleblower’s ‘harassment’
HC notice to Centre on telecom NGO’s plea over whistleblower’s ‘harassment’

NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court has issued a notice to Centre on an application filed by NGO Telecom Watchdog alleging that a whistleblower has been harassed and pressurised on the pretext of an FIR lodged against him.
A division bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh asked the Union of India through the Department of Telecommunications and others to file a reply on the application and listed the matter for further hearing on September 17.
Petitioner Telecom Watchdog was represented by advocate Prashant Bhushan.
The petitioner has sought to pass appropriate orders initiating suo moto contempt proceedings against Anshu Prakash, secretary of DoT; Ashi Kapoor, deputy administrator (T-II), USO Fund, DoT; Ajay Karan Sharma, SHO, Parliament Street police station; and Manish Kumar, sub-inspector, Parliament Street police station; for causing interference with the administration of justice.
In the petition, the petitioner accused the respondent of harassing and pressuring one of the members of the organisation. The petitioner said that on August 18, a police officer came to house of one of the members of the organisation and served a notice under Section 41A of Cr PC, directing him to appear at 11 am on August 23 at the Parliament Street police station.
He said that the notice was served without the attachment of FIR, but it mentioned the offences were registered under Section 380 / 411 / 120-B of IPC. The FIR was also not uploaded in the portal of Delhi Police.
On personal enquiry, the petitioner came to know that immediately after the filing of the additional affidavit on January 27 before the court, a complaint was filed at the behest of the respondent with the Delhi Police to investigate the leakage of documents filed in the said affidavit.
An official of Telecom Watchdog appeared before Delhi Police on August 23 at the time given in the notice.
The petitioner also contacted its legal counsels for advice regarding the Delhi Police’s notice. On August 20, Prashant Bhushan wrote a letter explaining the complete background of the instant matter to the Delhi Police and urging them to stop harassment of the petitioner in this manner.
The counsel also asked the police to provide a copy of the FIR and drop the proceedings against the petitioner.
According to the petition, the FIR revealed that Kapoor, working under Anshuli Arya, administrator, USO Fund of the Department of Telecommunication, filed a complaint on February 15 with the Parliament Street police station, New Delhi for identifying the source of a leakage.
The complaint was filed under Sections 378 (theft), 405 (criminal breach of trust), 408 (criminal breach of trust by clerk or servant), 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant) and 411 (dishonestly receiving stolen property) read with Section 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
On personal enquiry, the petitioner came to know that complaint filed before the Delhi Police was triggered at the behest of the Department of Telecommunications after obtaining approval of Anshu Prakash, Secretary, DoT. It is submitted that instead of bringing any grievance before the court when it is already seized of the matter, the respondent herein chose to get the FIR registered, specifically targeting the petitioner herein.
“That as the petitioner takes up causes in the public interest, therefore, it receives lots of documents and information by post, parcel drop etc. from various confidential and often anonymous sources who deliver it to the office of the petitioner or to the office of any of the members of the petitioner organisation. Thereafter, the documents are scrutinised and verified by the members of the petitioner organisation. In case of any doubt, it files applications under the RTI Act,” the petitioner said.
The application was filed in an ongoing petition seeking to quash contracts granted allegedly on a nomination basis by the administrator of the Universal Service Obligation (USO) Fund, working under the DoT, to a private firm.
The petition has said that the private firm named CSC e-governance Services India Ltd was initially created as a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) for providing e-governance services under the public-private partnership model.
The petitioner has sought to quash the agreement dated July 15, 2019, signed amongst USOF, BBNL and CSC SPV and restoration of status quo-ante by reversing the consequent action taken in the operation of said agreement and direction to CVC for investigation of the award of contracts.
The plea had said the award of contracts on a nomination basis is against CVC’s order dated July 5, 2007, which mentions that government contracts cannot be awarded on a nomination basis.

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