In a major setback to the New Delhi Municipal Council's (NDMC) ambitious free Wi-Fi project, the Delhi High Court...
In a major setback to the New Delhi Municipal Council’s (NDMC) ambitious free Wi-Fi project, the Delhi High Court on Wednesday restrained the civic body and Indus Towers from entering into an agreement to provide free Wi-Fi and setting up of CCTVs on 18,500 street poles in areas under the civic body’s jurisdiction till final disposal of the case.
A bench of justices Badar Durrez Ahmed and Sanjeev Sachdeva said: “Till we hear the matter finally, further action pursuant to notice inviting tender shall not take place. Respondent 1 (NDMC) and 2 (Indus) not to enter into contract till next date of hearing.” It said that since there were no specifications, there was no standard methodology for comparing the bids of Indus and Reliance Jio Infocomm.
The directions came on a petition filed by the Mukesh Ambani firm Reliance Jio Infocomm seeking quashing of Letter of Intent (LoI) issued to Indus Towers by the NDMC on the ground that Indus was chosen as the successful party as it had submitted a bid for 20 years, while the contract period was for 10 years. The project is expected to be fully commissioned in three years, but the tender is for a 10-year period, according to the Reliance plea.
Reliance also said that the decision to award the contract to Indus was taken as it offered to pay Rs 4,000 per pole per annum to the civic body as revenue while Reliance had offered only Rs 500 per pole per annum.
Indus Towers is a three-way venture of Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular, in which India’s top two cellular services providers hold 42% share each and Idea holds 16%.
During the hearing, the judges also observed that the tender for the Rs 220-crore project did not prescribe specifications of the LED lights and CCTV cameras that were to be installed. Besdies, CCTVs at present installed in the Capital cannot differentiate between a man and a woman due to their low pixel density, it said, adding that poor quality cameras, or lack of them, coupled with poor lighting, were the cause of many a crime in the city.
While rejecting the arguments of NDMC and Indus that the dispute was of a commercial nature and there was no public interest in the matter, the court said it has the “duty to secure public interest in commercial disputes”.
NDMC had earlier argued that the LoI in favour of Indus Towers was signed on March 18 as it emerged as the successful bidder in the tender process. NDMC’s ambitious free Wi-Fi project was launched last year in Khan Market and later in Connaught Place.