H.C. notice to Naidu, Centre on Sankhya Vahini project

NEW DELHI, JULY 20. The Delhi High Court today issued notices to the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, Mr. N. Chandrababu Naidu, in his capacity as Chairperson of the Task Force Special Committee on whose recommendations the Sankhya Vahini India Limited (SVIL), a high- speed data network project, has been launched, the Union Government and others on a public interest litigation seeking quashing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with an American- based company for the project.

The MoU for the joint venture project was signed on October 16, 1998 between the Union Government and the IUNET Incorporated of America. The decision to launch the project was taken on the recommendations of the Task Force Special Committee. Prof. Raj Reddy and Prof. V.S. Arunachalam, chairman and president respectively of the IUNET Incorporated, were the other members of the Task Force. They were also members of the Working Group. The two officials are the two other respondents who have been issued notices by the court.

A Division Bench comprising the Chief Justice, Mr. Justice Arijit Pasayat, and Mr. Justice D.K. Jain asked the respondents to file their replies by August 31 The petitioner, Telecom Watchdog, alleged that the two officials had vested interest in promoting their own organisation as they set their company after the Task Force had recommended for establishing a high speed data network.

It further said that the Task Force Special Committee failed to point out that the entire proposal was mooted by Prof. Raj Reddy and Prof. Arunachalam without making any comprehensive and comparative study of the technologies and the information technology expertise available in various universities across the world.

The Task Force failed to prevent blatant misuse of recommendatory powers by the two officials in their own favour. By way of the proposed joint venture, the two officials are trying to ``sell equipment'' (which is not required) to the Sankhya Vahini India Limited, the petition said.

It further alleged that the proposal for setting up the project was accepted by the Union Government with a total non-application of mind in an arbitrary and non-transparent manner.

The Secretary of the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) signed the MoU on October 16, 1998 with Prof. Raj Reddy as the chairman of the IUNET Incorporated which was not in existence at that time. It was an admitted fact that the Union Government had neither done any prior study of the proposed joint-venture nor had it evaluated the pros and cons before singing the MoU, the petition said.