Grant of telecom license - there were differences between Idea and Tata - JPC investigation was ongoing - CIC: whether the two companies have violated the license conditions and Telecom policy has no relation to investigation and hence disclosable
1. The background of the matter, as given by the appellant in the RTI application dated 30.6.2011, is as follows:- “In order to assist the PIO, the background of the present application is that there was a tug of war between M/s Idea Cellular Limited and M/s Tata Tele Services Limited(TTSL) regarding various issues, particularly with regard to acquiring licences for service areas of UP(W), Kerala, Haryana, HP, Rajasthan and UP(E). Tata and Birla Group had also signed MoU in this regard. Subsequently there was an allegation that Tata Group had increased its share in idea from about 30% to about 49%. The acquisition by Tata Group above 10% was allegedly in violation of license conditions and Telecom policy. This information should be in Public Knowledge for transparent and open functioning of the Government. The people have a right to know as to what transpired between the two rival telecom operators and what was the intervention/policy formulation by the DoT/Ministry of Communications & IT in this regard and what communications/notings were made by the Department.”
2. After giving the above background, the appellant has raised the following queries:-
“b.1 Copy of internal notings related to the issue of licenses to CMTS and UASL to TTSL for the period from 2005 till date.
b.2 Copy of internal notings and sequence of events for grant of licences to Idea from 2005 till date.
b.3 Copy of internal noting and sequence of events for grant of licences to TTML & TTSL from 2005 till date.
b.4 Copy of Advisory if any, of the legal section of the DoT or any other Government agency with regard to the effective shares of Tata Sons and TTSL consequent to the acquisition of AT&T Cellular by M/s TIL from 2005 till date.
b.5 Copy of the letter/notings giving actual position as to whether M/s Idea and M/s Tata Tele Services Ltd. have actually violated license conditions and any legal advice received from concerned authorities from 2005 till date.”
3. During the hearing, Shri Soni submits that this matter is being dealt with by another section of DoT. He also submits that the matter is presently under investigation with JPC and, therefore, requested information is barred from disclosure under section 8(1)(c) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen, information, the disclosure of which would cause a breach of privilege of Parliament or the State Legislature; of the RTI Act.
4. As regards the provisioning of internal file notings relating to the matter in hand, I accept the contention of Shri Soni that in view of the ongoing investigation by the JPC, it would not be lawful to provide copies of the file notings to the appellant. However, the query raised by the appellant regarding acquisition of 10% equity by Tata Group in M/s Idea Cellular Ltd. in violation of the license conditions and Telecom policy has no impact on the ongoing investigation by JPC and this query needs to be responded to in ‘yes’ or ‘no’. In view of this, Shri Soni is hereby directed to answer this limited query. The file notings need not be supplied.
Citation: Shri Deepak Saluja v. Department of Telecommunications in File No. CIC/BS/A/2012/000328/LS