Kerala High Court had stayed coercive action by the state government against a Common Service Center (CSC) operator for providing services related to the state government, that are being provided by Akshaya Centres licensed by the state government.

Justice N Nagaresh passed the interim order on Monday in a Writ Petition filed by a CSC operator challenging an order passed by the state government that digital services provided by various departments under the state can only be availed through Akshaya Centers and that action will be taken if such services are found to be provided through CSCs licensed by the Central government.

CSCs are part of the Digital India Programme and act as access points for the delivery of various e-governance and business services to citizens in rural and remote areas of the country. CSC e-Governance Services India Limited is a Special Purpose Vehicle set up by the Ministry of Electronics & IT under the Companies Act, 1956 to oversee the implementation of the CSC scheme.

The Petitioner had approached the High Court earlier and the state was directed by the Court to consider and pass orders on the representation of the Petitioner seeking permission to provide state government related services through his CSC. The state government passed the order impugned in the Writ Petition refusing any such permission, and instead, threatening action against the CSCs that provide such services.

As per the Petitioner, the reasons cited by the state government for taking the stand against CSCs are that Akshaya Centre operators are selected from a rank list prepared on the basis of an open notification, application scrutiny, online test and interview. For Akshaya Center, the entrepreneur should have +2 qualification and should be below 50 years of age. Whereas, in the case of CSC, the registration is sanctioned on the basis of an online application and a subsequent online test. It is also stated that there are no distance criteria between CSCs and that there are no approved service charges or monitoring mechanisms from the side of state government.

As per the Petitioner, the reasons cited by the state are unsustainable." ... CSCs are dealing with highly sensitive documents like Passport, PAN Card and Vehicle registration service, whereas the Akhshaya Centres are dealing with such services only through CSC's ID, through CSC portal", states the Petitioner in the Writ Petition filed through Advocate S. Jayant

As per the Petitioner, states's order is arbitrary and discriminatory and is against the IT Mission Project under the Digital India Programme of the Union government.

"Learned Government Pleader takes notice for the respondents 1 to 3. Learned Assistant Solicitor General of India takes notice for the respondents 4 & 5. Pending disposal of the writ petition there shall be no coercive proceedings against the petitioner pursuant to Ext.P4 Government Order", ordered the Court.

Title: Arun M. v. State of Kerala & Ors.