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HC seeks Centre reply on plea against contracts awarded under BharatNet

The Delhi High Court on Friday sought response of the Centre and Central Vigilance Commissionon a plea challenging award of contracts to Common Service Centres e-Governance Services Ltd (CSC) for installing wifi access points in villages across the country under the BharatNet project without following the tender process.

A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan issued notice to the ministries of Communications and Electronics and Technology, CVC, CSC and Bharat Broadband Network Limited (BBNL) and seeking their stand on the plea by NGO Telecom Watchdog.

The NGO, represented by advocate Prashant Bhushan, told the court that CSC was a special purpose vehicle (SPV) created by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology for providing e-governance services under the PPP model.

The petition, filed through advocates Pranav Sachdeva and Jatin Bhardwaj, has contended that CSC SPV was a private company, but was allegedly projecting itself as a government entity to get the contracts on nomination basis. The NGO has further alleged that after receiving contracts from the government, CSC SPV passes on the same to its wholly owned subsidiary — CSC WiFiChoupal Services India Pvt Ltd (CSC Choupal) — which in turn passes on the contracts to various other private companies, without any tender.

The petition has alleged that “the scam started in March 2017 with the first contract (Contract-1) worth Rs 100 crore awarded for 5,000 WiFi Access points (APs). It was followed by second contract for 28,248 WiFi APs worth over Rs 500 crore issued in February 2018.’ “In July 2019 a third contract worth Rs 1,903.50 crore was awarded which included infrastructure created under BharatNet Phase-1 for one year, First Line Maintenance (FLM) of Optical Fiber Cable (OFC) installed under BharatNet Phase-1 for one year, and Capex for creating two APs per GP in 90,000 remaining GPs under BharatNet Phase-1, for five years,” the NGO said. Millennium Post

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