The Delhi High Court directed Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) to initiate departmental action against the officials who were responsible for the financial loss in awarding a tender to China’s tech company named ZTE Telecom Limited.

A PIL was filed by the NGO named Telecom Watchdog claiming that there was a criminal conspiracy between the officials of BSNL and ZTE of which the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had found no evidence.

A Division Bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad held, “This Court, however, directs the BSNL to initiate departmental action, as suggested by the CBI, against its officers. It is made clear that this Court has not expressed any opinion on the merits of the imputations of allegations on the officers of BSNL. Any action initiated by the BSNL be taken to its logical conclusion on its own merits.”

Advocate Prashant Bhushan appeared for the NGO while SPP Anupam S. Sharma appeared for the CBI.

In this case, BSNL in 2011 invited tenders for 14.37 million GSM mobile telephone lines on a turnkey basis for three zones, i.e. North, East & South Zones. The scope of the tender included planning, engineering, supply, installation, testing, commissioning, and annual maintenance of these lines.

The BSNL in its tender prescribed eight milestones for releasing payment according to which only 50% of the payment was payable up to the delivery stage, i.e. Milestones 1 to 3, and the balance payment was to be released in a phase-wise manner in different stages on commissioning as per Milestones 4 to 8.

The High Court in the above regard noted, “The Preliminary Enquiry has been registered by the CBI at the instance of this Court and the CBI, after concluding the investigation has filed Status Reports before this Court.”

The Court further granted liberty to the petitioner to take recourse to the legal remedies in accordance with the law.

“As directed by the Apex Court in Latika Kumari (supra), CBI is directed to supply a copy of the entry of the closure to the Petitioner disclosing the reasons, in brief, for closing the complaint and not proceeding further”, the Court said.

Accordingly, the Court disposed of the petition.

Cause Title- Telecom Watchdog v. Central Bureau of Investigation (Neutral Citation: 2023/DHC/000939)

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