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CIC Pulls up Telecom Dept for Lack of Transparency on Rs 12,000 Crore Govt Revenue Loss

The Department of Telecommunications had admitted to a Rs 29,000 crore revenue loss caused by six telecos before the Supreme Court.

The Department of Telecommunications had refused to act on a query in the matter. Credit: Reuters

The Department of Telecommunications had refused to act on a query in the matter. Credit: Reuters

New Delhi: Why should the Narendra Modi government withhold information on a loss of Rs 12,000 crore to the exchequer during the UPA government due to an alleged understating of accounts by six telecom companies between FY 2006-07 and FY 2009-10? With the Department of Telecommunications refusing to act on a query in the matter, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has now issued a show cause notice to its central public information officer (CPIO) demanding to know why action should not be taken against him for denying this information by not attending the hearing.

DoT refuses to part with information on recovery notice, reply of companies

The query had been filed by Harinder Dhingra on June 12, 2017 in which he had sought “a copy of the recovery notice and the reply sent by each telecom companies regarding the demand notice that was issued to six telecom companies (namely Bharti Airtel Ltd., Vodafone India Ltd., Airtel Ltd., Reliance Communication Ltd., Tata Teleservices Ltd. and Idea Cellular Ltd.) for understating their accounts from FY 2006-07 to FY 2009-10, which caused revenue loss of approx. Rs. 12,000 crores,” chief information commissioner R.K. Mathur recorded in his order.

As the department had claimed exemption from disclosure, Dhingra had filed his second appeal before the commission on September 23 on the grounds that information should be provided to him. In the subsequent hearing, while Dhingra was present, the DoT CPIO was not. The appellant submitted that the department had “wrongly denied him the sought for information” by relying on an office memorandum of the Department of Personnel and Training. The RTI applicant submitted that the DoT should have quoted specific provisions of the RTI Act under which they had claimed exemption from disclosure.

‘DoT had admitted to Rs 29,000 crore loss in Supreme Court’

He also told the commission that the respondent in their written submission (affidavit) before the Supreme Court had admitted to a loss of revenue to the tune of Rs 29,000 crore. “In addition, he stated that the disclosure is in larger public interest, therefore, the respondent should supply him copy of the recovery notice and the reply sent by these telecom companies,” Mathur recorded in his order.

After going through the submissions and arguments, the CIC said that the respondent should be personally present before the commission on the next date of hearing along with his written submissions for explaining the case. Adjourning the matter, Mathur directed the deputy registrar to fix a hearing in the matter after 15 days.

Mathur also issued a show cause notice to the CPIO concerned to explain why action should not be taken against him for trying to deny information by not attending the hearing.

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