Millennium Post

Plea in HC against CIC refusal to give info on Tata-Docomo share transfer

A plea has been moved in the Delhi High Court against the Central Information Commission’s (CIC) refusal to provide information regarding Tata Sons application to RBI in connection with purchase of Japanese telecom major NTT Docomo’s stake in Tata Teleservices Ltd (TTSL).

The application in CIC under the Right to Information (RTI) Act had also sought information about communications between the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Ministry of Finance (MoF) regarding the application by Tata.

The high court is likely to hear the matter next week.

The commission had denied the plea for providing the information sought, saying it may “prejudicially affect” the economic interest of the country and relations with a foreign nation.  The CIC’s June 14, 2016 order had come after the Centre had said that the matter involved was a policy issue which was under consideration and thus, was exempted under the RTI Act from providing information sought by the applicant, Ashish Rana.

The transparency panel had agreed with the government’s contention and had also said that “disclosure of information sought may harm the competitive position of third parties, including Indian companies, foreign investors...” 

Recently, during hearing of Docomo’s plea for enforcement of an arbitral award of USD 1.17 billion in its favour to be paid by Tata, the Indian company had told the high court that it had written to RBI seeking permission for purchase of the Japanese company’s stake in TTSL, a joint venture of the two, at a mutually agreed upon price.  Tata had said that as per the shareholding agreement between them, on Docomo’s exit from TTSL, Tata had to either find a buyer for Docomo’s stake at 50 per cent of the acquisition price or buy it itself at fair market value.

However, when RBI’s permission was sought to buy the shares, the central bank of India had forwarded their request to MoF seeking approval. But the ministry had denied the request, Tata had told the court.

When the matter between Tata and NTT Docomo went to arbitration, the arbitrator had awarded damages of USD 1.17 billion to the Japanese company for alleged breach of contract by Tata for not finding a buyer for Docomo’s stake.

Tata had again sought permission of RBI for paying the damages and the bank had refused to grant it after which Docomo had moved high court for enforcement of the award.On Thursday, 

RBI had moved high court saying the shareholding agreement between the two companies permitting transfer of funds to the foreign entity was illegal as it violated Foreign Exchange Management Act Regulations. 
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