Supreme Court stays order on WLL records

Monday, 28 April 2003, 07:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Friday stayed a direction to the government to provide cellular operators with records relating to its decision to permit WLL (wireless in local loop) operations.

Judges Y.K. Sabharwal and H.K. Sema admitted a petition filed by the centre challenging the April 8 order of the Telecom Dispute Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) asking the government to furnish the records.

At the same time, the tribunal was permitted to continue its proceedings on the dispute between cellular operators, the government and the WLL operators.

The tribunal could also ask for those files that were necessary for the adjudication of the dispute, the court said.

The government, in its appeal, said it claimed privilege for files on the decision-making process that allowed WLL services to fixed line operators as the disclosure would harm public interest.

The government also wanted to know "whether disclosure of secret notings in government files for the perusal of the adjudicating body is adequate or is disclosure necessarily to be made to litigating business rivals" as well.

Of the three documents on which the government had sought privilege, two were internal notings while the third was the minutes of a meeting of secretaries.

"The TDSAT rejected the claim of the Union of India of privilege without considering the fact that the documents in question belong to a class of documents, disclosure of which would injure public interest," the government's petition said.

Stating that its appeal was filed on a "point of principle so as not to set a precedent that may harm the administration and policy making subsequently in all departments and ministries of government", the petition pointed out that the centre sought to preserve its privilege on contents of its documents and files from being disclosed in legal proceedings to private litigation parties who have commercial and other interests".

Attorney General Soli Sorabjee said the tribunal's order could not be complied with as the files sought were not relevant for the adjudication of the dispute.

Appearing for the cellular operators, counsel Ram Jethmalani, a former law minister, said no privilege could be claimed by the government on files that were relevant for the proper adjudication of the dispute.
Source: IANS
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