SC in its order dated April 11, 2013 has directed Bharati Airtel, India’s largest mobile service provider, not to extend its third generation (3G) high speed data services for new customers in seven circles where it failed to obtain requisite licenses from Department of Telecommunication (“DoT”). The seven circles are Kolkata, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh East and Kerala. However, the said decision does not affect the existing customers and the Bharati Airtel shall continue to provide 3G services through its mutually beneficial agreements entered with other mobile service providers, namely, Vodafone & Idea. The said agreements are the subject matter of the issue. According to DoT, Bharati Airtel is in violation of rules and has issued notices to Bharati Airtel to stop providing 3G services in the aforesaid seven circles and also imposed a penalty of INR 3500 million.
PSA view – The matter is sub-judice at present and the court will pass the final verdict after hearing the contentions of the interested stakeholders. SC has issued notices to the respondents to submit their reply within next four weeks and posted the matter for hearing on May 9, 2013 and further directed DoT not to initiate any coercive steps against Bharati Airtel for the imposed fine of INR 3500 million.
Indian government launches an online portal to help citizens file RTI applications
RTI Act was introduced in 2005, with the object to help citizens secure access to their information which is under the control of government authorities and aim to promote transparency. The RTI applications is required to be made in physical form and addressed to the designated RTI officer in every department of the government. Finding the concerned officer in charge for addressing the RTI application was a common problem faced by the citizens. The government has thus launched a website www.rtionline.gov.in wherein applications can be filed without the hassle of addressing it to the concerned officer. The application can also be tracked online as a unique registration number is generated at the time of filing the application. Presently, only applications for Department of Personnel and Training are being accepted on the website but, soon applications to the rest of the government departments will also as well.
PSA view – The citizens face a lot of trouble in finding out the concerned officer dealing with RTI applications in a department addressing the RTI, as most of the departments do not clearly mention the names of the designated officers. Another common problem was if the officer dealing with RTI was transferred, the application became invalid and a fresh application would have to be filed. Therefore, this move of the government is seen as a step forward in the direction of helping the citizens and keeping the purpose of RTI Act intact.
FTP thrust on changes in SEZ rules
The annual supplement to the FTP that aims at enhancing exports and easing export procedures has received warm welcome from IT industry and its body NASSCOM. NASSCOM had been working closely with the Ministry of Commerce to identify specific requirements in the SEZ policy to make it more effective for the IT-BPM sector. The new proposal seems to remove the minimum land requirement and reduce the built up area, which will now make it feasible for IT SEZs to come up in tier II/tier III cities. The new policy also proposes exit schemes. The policy also extended the facility to work from home to STPI/EOUs etc in order to facilitate IT exports.
PSA view – These changes have tried to make the SEZ policy more inclusive by attracting SMEs as well. This has cemented the fact that government recognizes IT exports as a key growth driver for India’s exports and will enable the SEZ scheme to realize its true potential. In the absence of a clear exit policy, several SEZ units had found it difficult to exit their current operations.