Related to the corruption issue where, the Apex court ruled that, those Private companies that share revenue from natural resources like spectrum with the government would be subjected to CAG audit. It said so while dismissing the appeal of the Association of Unified Telecom Services Providers.
Association of Unified Tele Services Providers & Others v. Union of India
Apex Court ruled that, Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) can scrutinise the books of private telecom operators that share revenue with the government on spectrum use. It was an appeal concerned with the scope and ambit of the powers and duties of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) in relation to the proper computation and quantification of Revenue in determining the licence fee and spectrum charges payable to Union of India under Unified Access Services (UAS) Licences entered into between DoT and the private service providers.
The ruling by the apex court provides legal underpinning to the notion that non-state companies are subject to checks by the national auditor as long as they are involved in public-private partnership (PPP) projects and similar ventures.
Court observed that, CAG’s examination of accounts of service providers in a revenue sharing contract is extremely important to ascertain whether there is an unlawful gain to the service provider and an unlawful loss to the Union, because the revenue generated out of that has to be credited to the Consolidated Fund. However, Court refused to name it as Statutory Audit and further said that, CAG can carry out examination into the economy, efficacy and effectiveness with which the Union of India has used its resources, and whether it has realised the entire licence fee, spectrum charges and also whether the Union has correctly carried out the audit under… the UAS (unified access service) licence agreement.
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Gujarat High Court asked the State Government not to collect stamp duty from various telecom service providers including Tata Tele Services, Bharti Airtel and Reliance Communications on customers’ application forms and cancel notices issued by the State Government to service providers in 2003.
The Court observed that, “Initially the state government asked the companies to submit information of their subscribers’ base by supplying a copy of the form containing a customer’s details”.
“The application form was treated as an agreement and stamp duty was sought. It cannot do so because it does not impound the original document,” the order passed by the Court said. Telecom companies had approached the High Court and said that the Gujarat government levied stamp duty on all subscriber applications or customers’ enrolment forms by considering it an ‘instrument’, which is chargeable under the Bombay Stamp Act.
Telecom companies had approached the High Court and said that the Gujarat government levied stamp duty on all subscriber applications or customers’ enrolment forms by considering it an ‘instrument’, which is chargeable under the Bombay Stamp Act, and under which telecom service providers were asked to shell out Rs 60 per customer form as an ‘instrument’, but later they were asked to pay Rs 50 per form by treating it as an ‘agreement’.
Petitioners also argued that, “the government does not impound these forms and it cannot impose stamp duty merely on basis of data provided by Telecom Regulation Authority of India (TRAI)”.
However, Justice C L Soni of the Gujarat High Court directed the Gujarat government not to collect stamp duty on customers’ application forms and cancel notices issued by the state government to service providers in 2003.
Quoting the petitioner’s submission, Court ordered that, “the form is not an instrument within the definition of Section 2(l) of the Act and thus not chargeable, and even if it is considered as instrument, no duty is leviable thereon unless dutiable events occur under the provisions of the Act”.
Loopholes still surface with many of the fundamental concepts of the RTI even after 60 years of its implementation. Amongst many problems that persist, one of the major problems is about to what extents can person accesses another person’s information.
According to section 2 (n) of the RTI Act, 2005, ‘third party’ means a person other than the citizen making a request for information and includes a ‘public authority’. In Shri Rajender Kumar Arya vs. Dy. Commissioner of Police (DCP). The commission ruled that they now have the decision of the Madras High Court in the context of right to privacy in light of the RTI Act. High Court observed that with the advent of the Right to Information Act, section 3 of the Act entitles a citizen to the right of information. Section 4(2) of the said Act obliges a public authority to disclose information to common people. Even personal information or information, which may otherwise amount to an invasion of privacy, may also be disclosed if the larger public interest so warrants. The court in fact came to the conclusion that the right to privacy virtually fades out in front of the ‘Right to Information’ and ‘larger public interest’. The contrary was decided in the present case.
A CIC directive to the TRAI was set aside by Justice V Jain to furnish the records to the applicant. The applicant argued that he was in need of those details to defend himself since his daughter-in-law had accused him. Justice Jain said that under section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act, with whom the subscriber communicates or sends or receives messages are his/her personal affairs and disclosure of which is bound to impinge on his privacy.The regulatory body argued that the CIC order will compromise the individual’s privacy because if these details are available, any individual will be able to access call and SMS details of any citizen by simply filing an RTI with TRAI. The power to call for information can be exercised by TRAI only if such information is required for discharge of functions assigned to it. TRAI disagreed with the CIC order and stated that under section 11 of the Act information’s like names, call details, SMSs copies etc are not amongst the functions assigned to TRAI .HC agreed and stated that if such information can be requisitioned by TRAI, it would result in a situation where by knowing with whom one communication is taking place where it is able to violate with impunity the fundamental right of a citizen to his privacy.