PTLB Projects Is Rejuvenating Grievance System And RTI Mechanism In India

During the first term of Modi Government, bureaucrats and government departments/ministries were given complete freedom even at the cost of efficiency and good governance. As a result the grievance system and RTI mechanisms were severely compromised. The same thing was happening in the second term as well and after bringing this fact to the knowledge of Indian Government through social media, we at PTLB Projects decided to act.

We at PTLB Projects started the biggest exercise to bring accountability among Government Departments and Ministries. We are also developing an e-delivery system that would use technology and Digital India to bring digital empowerment and access to justice to national and international stakeholders. This exercise started as the Ministry of MSME is engaging in contempt of court by illegally forcing Aadhaar and not following the laws of India and norms of Digital India for acceptance of electronic documents for official purposes.

It would not be proper to disclose more details about this exercise at this stage as the matter is still sub judice but we would share more details soon. Also Indian Government has taken a hint from our exercise and has already started strengthening of the dying grievance system of India. While we appreciate the efforts of Indian Government in this regard yet there is still too much to be done, especially accountability and punishment of officials responsible for failing grievance system and RTI mechanism.

If you come across cases and incidences of failure of grievance system and RTI mechanism, you can report the same at our pro bono ODR Portal and we would help you in best possible manner. Administrators at the ODR Portal also have the power to make a reference to the TeleLaw Project of PTLB. Once that reference is made, the TeleLaw Project of PTLB would help the concerned person as per its policies and rules.

(1) Update I (28-06-2019): Today we received an online response from Shri. Satish Kumar, US (Estt.A.III) of Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) for the RTI Application made by us and allotted to multiple CPIOs of DoPT.

The response has been provided within a period of 7 days as the RTI Application was made by us on 21-06-2019. This is a positive development and we at PTLB Projects welcome and appreciate this swift action of Shri. Satish Kumar.

We asked for the relevant provisions of the service rules or other laws/rules where a secretary or/and head of a department can be “punished for non performance” or where “disciplinary actions or administrative actions” can be initiated against them for neglecting their “official duties”. Our RTI Application also covered their liability for other civil and criminal wrongs as well.

Shri. Satish Kumar informed us that violation of any of the provisions of CCS (Conduct) Rules, 1964 may attract disciplinary action under Rule 14 or 16 of CCS (CCA) Rules, 1965 and penalties may be imposed under Rule 11 of CCS (CCA) Rules. He clarified that Rule 12 of the CCS (CCA) Rules, 1965 prescribes the “concerned authority” who can take “disciplinary action or administrative action” against guilty officials and bureaucrats.

He also informed that our application has also been marked to other concerned CPIOs of this Department for providing information directly to us. We have to wait for the response of other CPIOs as well before we take the biggest step in the history of India to bring transparency and accountability of government officials and bureaucrats.

(2) Update II (01-07-2019): Today we filed a RTI Application before the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) regarding establishing transparency and accountability among Government Departments and Ministries. We also sought information about the Government’s pet project Digital India so that its actual implementation and truth can be revealed.

(3) Update III (02-07-2019): Yesterday we filed a RTI Application at PMO as the grievance officer was sitting upon our grievance. Today the grievance officer has forwarded our grievance to the head of the department at Ministry of MSME. We are committed to bring digital governance, Digital India, e-delivery and Good Governance in all Govt Departments and Ministries in India.

Policy Document By PTLB Projects For Enhancing Ease Of Doing Business And Startup Culture In India

We are glad to share our suggestions for the topic “Enhancing Ease of Doing Business and Startup Culture in India”. These suggestions were shared with Indian Government on 30-05-2019 and they must have already been considered by Indian Government till now.

Our suggestions in this regard are as follows:

(1) Power Of Central Government: The first and foremost requirement is to enhance the role and power of Central Government in this field. This can be achieved as follows:

(A) More powers should be exercised by Central Govt to enhance Ease of Doing Business and to promote Startups. These must include power to entertain appeal, review petition, power to remove difficulties and power to give directions. Once corresponding Rules are framed/modified and approved by the Central Govt in this context, a notification in Official Gazette must be published by Central Govt in this regard.

(B) Not only Central Govt but even the CBDT and IMB must have review powers. Review can be granted in exceptional circumstances only where:

(i) The Central Govt, on an application in this regard by the applicant Startup, directs the CBDT or IMB to review a case in hand. Such a direction can be given by the Central Govt on case to case basis, or

(ii) Any member of CBDT or IMB involved in the exemption granting process is satisfied that such a review is required after examining an application made by a Startup in this regard whose exemption application has been rejected by the CBDT/ IMB at the first instance.

Explanation I: Reasons shall be recorded by Central Govt/CBDT/IMB for approval or rejection of such review application.

Explanation II: While deciding upon approval or rejection of such review application, Central Govt/CBDT/IMB shall consider any award, recognition, intellectual property granted or applied for, mention by research scholars and research community about the Startup or its parent/promoting company/organisation, pro bono services provided by the Startup, social services of Startup, any favourable report given by NRDC in favour of Startup, etc.

Explanation III: The Central Govt, CBDT and IMB can ask for such documents, explanation and information from the review applicant as they may deem necessary to decide upon such review application.

(2) Empowering Startups: The Central Govt can strengthen Ease of Doing Business and further empower Startups with the following relaxations in favour of Startups:

(A) Exemption criteria for Startups under Section 80-IAC can further be relaxed. Currently the exemption criteria of Section 80-IAC is heavily relying upon the parameters and essentials of granting of a Patent. A Startup is much more than a business having novelty, originality and innovation.

For instance, if a Startup is providing services crucial to the society should we deny exemption to it simply because it is not innovative? We must ask the question what is more important innovation or utility? A thing may be innovative but it may have limited utility whereas a thing may be of tremendous utility still it may have no elements of originality or innovativeness. For instance, traditional knowledge, plant varieties, etc are well known and there is no innovation in them. Still they are of tremendous utility to people.

There is another reason that supports the utility aspect. A Startup recognised By DPIIT has already cleared the test of innovation, utility and problem solving model. So the same tests should not be rigidly used while granting exemption under Section 80-IAC, especially if the Startup is providing utility services or services that are important for masses.

So exemption criteria should be based upon utility plus innovation instead of innovation plus utility. In case of conflict between utility and innovation, the former (utility) must prevail for exemption purposes.

(B) If CBDT or IMB has rejected an application of a Startup for seeking tax exemption under Section 56(2) (VIIB) and Section 80-IAC respectively, a second chance should be given to the Startup to make the application again. Such second application cannot be made unless:

(i) A period of 1 year or a reduced period, as approved by the Central Government on an application made by the Startup/ Group of Startups, has elapsed, and

(ii) Any ONE of the following conditions is fulfilled:

* There are changed circumstances for the Startup like funding has been granted to the business, chances of the business obtaining scalability are there, the business has created wealth for India or generated employment for at least 10 people, etc. Such changed circumstances have to be proved with supporting documents in this regard by the applicant Startup, or

* There has been a change in the norms, rules or exemption criteria for Startups after the initial application of the Startup has been rejected and such change has now entitled the Startup to apply again, or

* The Central Govt has directed the CBDT or IMB to reconsider such application of the Startup either on its own or on the basis of an application made by the Startup/ Group of Startups requesting such direction.

Provided that the Central Govt may waive the initial waiting period of 1 year to such period as it may deem fit but not below 3 months on its own or on an application made by the Startup/ Group of Startups, generally or for a particular class of Startups, as the case may be.

Provided further that all second exemption seeking applications, except the one where Central Govt has given the direction, shall be forwarded to Central Govt electronically within 48 hours of receiving the same. The Central Govt shall have the power to reject any such application within 7 working days of receipt of such application. In case there is no response from the Central Govt regarding that application within 7 days of receipt of such communication, it shall be deemed that the Central Govt has no objection regarding such application and CBDT or IMB can proceed with such application as per the applicable procedure and norms.

Provided further that unless the Central Govt has itself made the directions, this second exemption seeking opportunity shall not be available to the Startup if the Central Govt is of the opinion that the second exemption application has been made with an intention to evade tax or there would be an unreasonable loss to Govt Exchequer. Such an opinion must be communicated by the Central Govt within 7 days of receipt of communication of second application from CBDT or IMB respectively. In case if no such opinion has been  given by the Central Govt regarding any application within 7 days of receipt of such communication, it shall be deemed that the Central Govt has no objection regarding such application and CBDT or IMB can proceed with such application as per the applicable procedure and norms.

(C) 3 years consecutive exemption benefits should be extended to 4 years with an option to claim them together or as 2 years at a time with minimum gap of three years between the second 2 years exemption seeking. For instance, if a Startup has sought exemption for 2 consecutive years after initial 3 years, next exemption for 2 consecutive years shall start after the 8th year of incorporation of the entity. We believe that the time frame for tax exemption purposes has been extended to 10 years from previous 7 years period. If that is not the case, the 7 year period must be extended to 10 years for this suggestion to work.  [ says 10 years].

An option should also be given to the Startup to discontinue 4 years consecutive exemption already sought and granted by IMB and convert it into 2 years exemption after initial 2 years if circumstances of Startup warrant so. Such an option can be given only if the Startup expresses its desire to do so at least 6 months before the expiry of  initial 2 years period (i.e. not later than initial 18 months of the exemption period).

Also if a Startup is lucky enough to get a funding in the very first year of incorporation, it should not compulsorily with for 3 years before it can apply for the tax exemption. Such a Startup should be allowed to apply in the first year itself. The IMB can ask for relevant documents to satisfy itself that the funding necessitating such exemption request is actually received or would be received in near future (say within 6 months of granting of exemption).

If the Startup fails to get the funding within 6 months of granting of tax exemption by IMB, such exemption can be temporarily suspended by the IMB till the time funding arrives. If the Startup fails to get the funding even after 1 year of granting of exemption certificate under this clause, the IMB shall have the power to cancel such exemption certificate. If such cancellation happens, any tax or other monetary benefit derived and enjoyed by the Startup shall be refunded by it with reasonable interest, calculated from the date the Startup first availed of the benefits due to such exemption.

(3) Taxation Reforms: We also need few taxation reforms and clarifications in this regard. These are as follows:

(A) We need better and clear taxation treatment of funds granted to Startups by Govt, Private Investment players, PSUs, etc. For instance, if funds are granted to a Startup (Company/LLP), what would be its tax treatment and whether it would be allowed 3 years (or proposed 4 years) tax exemption too?

Currently a DPIIT recognised Startup is eligible to apply to the IMB for full deduction on the profits and gains from business. An entity remains a startup for 10 years if its annual turnover does not exceed Rs. 100 crore for any of the financial years since incorporation/registration. If A Startups is granted funding of 90 crore will that funding be treated as turnover or profits and gains from business for full tax deduction purposes?

Explanation I: For the purposes of this clause and for granting of 3 years (or proposed 4 years) tax exemption under Section 80-IAC, the term profits and gains of a business shall include gross receipts, turnover, funding, financing, investments, etc provided that they do not exceed Rs. 100 crore for any of the 10 financial years for which the Startup has been granted a recognition.

(B) Can a company claim both Section 56(2) (VIIB) and Section 80-IAC exemptions? If yes, how the limits of 100 crore for Startup purposes would be calculated? We need a clarification upon this aspect.

(C) Synergy and coordination between Central Govt, CBDT and IMB should be further improved and their decisions should be communicated instantaneously to all others in a safe, secure and digital manner using digital signatures (DSC). Decisions of Central Govt, CBDT and IMB should also be stored at a centralised location (server) in secure manner, which can be accessed by Central Govt, if and when required.

(D) Binding value of decision by CBDT and IMB must be established and communicated by Central Govt in writing. Decisions once taken by CBDT and IMB must be final and not open to challenge by taxation or other authorities, except through a review application or direction issued by the Central Govt. A notification in Official Gazette must be published by Central Govt in this regard.

Digital Village Project Of Modi Government Is Very Promising If Actually Implemented

Digital India project of Narendra Modi Government is yet to take off as right now it is just on books and is part of political rhetoric only. Actual Digital India implementation is still missing even in May 2019. However, the objectives and components of Digital India are very promising and can make India a Global Leader for Digital Economy. What is required is removal of bureaucratic hurdles and development of political will to actually implement various projects under Digital India.

One of such projects is Digital Village project. We are not talking about the political jargon that is often found in the media where a village is adopted and declared as a digital village. We all know the condition of such adopted digital villages in India. They are in ruin and they have nothing digital about them. This has happened as Indian Government was more interested in brownie points that actual growth and development of India. For the past 5 years, Modi Government has failed on all fronts of economic development.

Let ByGones BeGone and let us focus upon coming 5 years that can be used by Modi Government to transform India into a Digital Economy. We at AFPOH are very much interested in rural empowerment, farmers’ empowerment and empowerment of rural communities. Thus, when we read about Digital Village project of Modi Government, we were excited to hear about it.

We were excited because it is not just a political jargon but it has elements that if actually implemented can make Digital Village a wonderful project. For instance, Digital Village initiative would utilise broadband connectivity provided through BharatNet for providing health and financial services, skill development programmes and education to villagers across the country. BharatNet is an existing infrastructure and so is common service centres (CSCs) that would provide low-cost WiFi connectivity to all villagers to facilitate a service delivery ecosystem. To start with, the Government hopes to provide services in over 700 villages—one in each district of the country—within the first three years, before extending it across the country. So Government’s proposal makes some sense as it is not a political rhetoric.

Now the only concern pertains to actual implementation of Digital Village project. The first key offering under the project would be a platform for different educational courses through collaboration with the National Institute for Electronics and IT (NIELIT) and Tally Solutions, leading enterprise resource planning (ERP) software provider. In health services, the focus would be on providing primary care to citizens and cattle in the villages. In primary care services, patients can avail doctors’ advice on non-emergency medical problems that do not require doctor’s location visit through tele-consultation, where the consultation would take place through video conferencing. Government is also looking forward to arrange a system through which the villagers can avail the consultation of an expert veterinarian from the centralised location for their cattle. Under skill services to be imparted across the villages under Digital Village platform, common service centres would primarily focus on skills pertaining to automotive service technician, handset repair engineering, field technician for home appliances and electrical technician. As far as the financial services are concerned, the idea will be to provide access to useful and affordable financial products and services to each individual of the villages by creating awareness through the financial awareness inclusion programme. While Government would try and deliver these services, it would also look at more eco- friendly and sustainable energy resources such as powering streetlights through solar panels. So the implementation plan for Digital Village is good, at least on paper and till now.

This a a very ambitious and expertise oriented project and AFPOH is committed to extend its Techno Legal expertise for Digital Village project. We wish all the best to Modi Government in this regard and we are optimistic that Digital Village project would be a big hit.

Telelaw Project Of PTLB Would Resolve Ground Level Problems Of Rural Communities And Farmers

It was the year 2007 when Association For People Of Haryana (AFPOH) was created by Perry4Law Organisation (P4LO) and PTLB. Since then we have learnt a lot and we have shared our Techno Legal views, opinions and expertise with national and international stakeholders.

We were comfortable with our limited growth and limited role of Techno Legal policies formulation for national and international stakeholders. However, things have taken a nasty shape in the past 10 years. Farmers are starving, dying and committing suicide. They are highly unorganised and they know nothing about their legal rights.

The worst aspect is that big farmers are getting bigger whereas small farmers are either heavily indebted or they are killing themselves due to bad crops, high debts and poor agricultural productivity and sale. This is not what our Constitution has aspired for them and these marginalised segment and poor farmers need a level playing field.

But they are no match to crony capitalists, monopoly creating multi national companies (MNCs) and greedy money lenders. Even the policies of central and state governments are not in their favour. No matter how much Indian government glorifies its agrarian achievements, the ground reality is that farmers are either dying or killing themselves. Agriculture itself is in grave danger as the successors of these farmers are not willing to take up a super risky and unproductive profession and the youth are either leaving India or are moving to metropolitan cities of India for jobs.

This is where the TeleLaw Project of PTLB intends to step in. If nobody is helping them TeleLaw would help them. If nobody is listening to them, TeleLaw would listen to them. Not only we would listen to their problems but we would also provide Techno Legal services to them at affordable and concessional rates. All that is required is a TeleLaw Reference and once that is made/given, we would help the concerned person or organisation.

But what if an individual or organisation belonging to rural community is unable to get a reference? No problem. AFPOH has been authorised by PTLB to make a reference on behalf of rural communities, farmers, rural entrepreneurs, marginalised segments, etc. We will make a reference on your behalf and then TeleLaw Project of PTLB will take care of your legal problems.

PTLB has many more Techno Legal Projects that would be combined with the TeleLaw Project of PTLB soon. Once that is done TeleLaw Project of PTLB would become a single place solution for all problems of rural communities and farmers. We hope rural communities and farmers would find this project of PTLB useful.

A Comprehensive Techno Legal Water Policy Of India 2019 Is Urgently Needed

The most important component of agriculture is in severe scarcity and farmers have limited options in this regard.

In a recent meeting of members of Association For People Of Haryana (AFPOH) we discussed about contemporary problems and future potentials of agriculture in India. What we realised from the discussion is that agricultural productivity is continuously becoming affected by multiple factors. We discussed all these factors one by one and also explored supplementary activities that can support and strengthen agriculture in India.

However, one thing caused great cause of concern among the members. It is the lack of water for agriculture purposes and the reducing level of ground water all over India. Members also discussed that not only decreasing water levels but even the quality of water is not good for agriculture purposes.

So how India has reached to this dangerous situation? May be we over exploited the natural resources like water or may be our policies in this regard are not workable. We explored various possibilities to improve the situation and come to the conclusion that urgent action is needed in this regard before it is too late. Clearly we need a new and better Water Policy of India 2019 so that water crisis can be managed before it gets out of the hand.

We discussed various traditional and contemporary solutions for water crisis of India. What emerged from this discussion is the need to formulate a Comprehensive Techno Legal Water Policy of India 2019. This is the right time to take help of AgTech Startups and other Startups. We at PTLB Projects are also eager to provide Techno Legal solutions for this water crisis of India and would use the TeleLaw Project of PTLB to get best results for farmers and rural communities.

However, we may face two problems in this regard. First, Indian Government may not be very receptive to this idea as for the past 5 years it has adopted super conservative approach. Risk taking and taking bold steps is need of the hour and Indian Government has to move out of its conservative shell. Second, even if Government decides to act there is still the implementation problem. Bureaucratic hurdles, lack of performance analysis and missing accountability for non performing individuals/organisation would make this entire exercise futile.

Nevertheless, PTLB Projects has already starting working upon the Comprehensive Techno Legal Water Policy of India 2019. We would appreciate if the Indian Government supports us in this regard and make this aspect part of its 100 days agenda. If Government is involved at the very first stage, we can incorporate the concerns and suggestions of Indian Government too. That is why an open and healthy discussion between Indian Government and PTLB Projects/AFPOH is absolutely required.

According to Praveen Dalal, founding member of AFPOH, agricultural reforms in India need direct involvement and financial help of Indian Government. Incentives and taxation benefits must be given to farmers and Startups helping farmers in India. The Income Tax Act, 1961 also needs some fine tuning keeping in mind the support we have to extend to agriculture community in India opined Praveen Dalal.

Technology should be used to get best results out of water management practices and for getting best agricultural productivity. Soil testing, water testing, providing best quality seeds and organic fertilizers, etc are some of the aspects that can be part of the Techno Legal Water Policy. We intend to work upon this policy on priority basis and if Indian Government is able to extend its expertise and guidance, that would be a great help.

Resolve Without Litigation Your Disputes From Any Part Of The World

Disputes are not desirable but yet they do happen in every walk of the life. We have many options to resolve these disputes and approaching a  court is the last option. But for many people this is the first option and this is a wrong strategy on their part. By approaching the courts at the first place we are over burdening them unnecessarily when these disputes can be resolved outside the court. The over burdened courts  would have no choice but to give lengthy dates as there is no way a handful of judges in Indian courts can handle such impossible target.

This mindset is not a problem of ordinary people but our state governments and central government too. A big chunk of litigation in courts is  from government departments. State governments and central govt are notorious for not only denying remedies to citizens at the first place but they also keep on appealing against adverse orders against them to higher courts. So not only original cases but also appeals from the  adverse orders against state governments and central government are increasing burden upon Indian courts.

We at Perry4Law Techno Legal Base (PTLB) have been working in the fields like online dispute resolution (ODR) and e-courts since 2004. We have launched few techno legal fields in both ODR and e-courts fields. We understand the significance of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) very well. We also understand how technology can be used to strengthen ADR in India by converting traditional ADR into ODR.

As the field is new, some sort of confusion and uncertainty is natural. That is why we launched two different online portals on ODR for world wide stakeholders. The first one is a Pro Bono Platform where we are helping people to not only understand usage of ODR but also  helping them free of cost. Stakeholders can see this Guide so that they can best use our Pro Bono ODR portal.

The second platform is a professional one where our clients and big companies can avail our techno legal services on a regular and professional basis. All they need to do is to use our ODR clause in their agreements. If both the parties agree, they can also use our ODR portal without any agreement if they agree to our ODR clause at any stage of the dispute. The process is simple and very effective.

Now comes the best part. Some of the unique features of our ODR portal are:

(1) Our ODR services are available throughout the world and even if parties to the dispute reside in different countries.

(2) It is not mandatory that the dispute must be an Indian dispute but any dispute in any part of the world can be resolved using our portal if the same can be resolved using mediation, conciliation, arbitration or ODR as per the laws of respective countries.

(3) Our ODR services can be used at any stage of the dispute even if there is no pre existing ODR clause. Such an ODR agreement can be formed by simply accepting our ODR clause by parties to the dispute.

(4) Parties to the dispute need not to move even out 0f their homes to avail our ODR services. So travelling expenses and travelling time is totally saved.

(5) All required documents can be shared with us through the online portal, secure e-mail, secured chats, etc. No cost for sending documents through post would be incurred.

(6) We are the only techno legal Institutionalised Arbitration Centre that is dealing in ODR world wide.

If any company or government department wishes to have training about how to best use our ODR services, we can also ensure the same.

If Indian government is serious about better access to justice and ensuring justice for all, we are more than happy to have a collaboration with it. We are also open to collaborations with foreign governments and international organisations if they have similar projects or wish to expand their existing dispute resolution capacities.

We may update this article with more information and details for the larger benefit of all. Please visit regularly this blog in general and our ODR portals in particular for latest developments of our projects.

TeleLaw Project Of PTLB Filed RTI Application Against Ministry Of MSME For Failing Digital India

As our readers must be aware that we are in the process of streamlining and empowerment of MSME sector in India. On our preliminary examination, we found that Ministry of MSME is not at all MSME friendly. To make the situation worst, Ministry of MSME has least inclination to use and adopt modern technologies. As a result while Modi Government is trying to implement Digital India project yet Ministry of MSME is actually working in the opposite direction.

We at PTLB Projects are working very hard to make India a Global leader in Techno Legal fields but the bureaucrats and Indian politicians are least interested in making India a Digital Economy. All they are interested in is oppression of Indians using unconstitutional and Orwellian technologies like Aadhaar. And we are fighting against this gross violation of Civil Liberties and Human Rights of Indians by Indian Government.

We have established a “No Aadhaar Zone” where stakeholders can operate and manage their businesses and affairs in  a surveillance free environment. For that we have developed a “New India Model” where Techno Legal Projects of PTLB are empowering national and international stakeholders. One such projects if TeleLaw Project of PTLB that is ensuring Access to Justice (A2J) and Justice for All at global level.

In one such Digital Empowerment drive, TeleLaw Project was testing the Digital India awareness and readiness of the Ministry of MSME. It is really surprising that the Ministry of MSME is not at all aware of technology aspects and they are not using it in any manner. Even their Twitter account is almost inactive and they are not responding back to the queries of citizens. This is a bad governance example especially when Modi Government is claiming that Digital India is successful. We tried our level best to inculcate good technology driven Good Governance at Ministry of MSME but the Ministry is well committed to renounce technology in all aspects.

So to bring out the truth of adoption of Digital India by Ministry of MSME, we filed an RTI Application (Pdf) at the online RTI portal of Indian Government. Now that is another struggle in itself. The Digital Payments that our Indian Government is so vigorously projecting is in a real bad shape. The SBI is managing the digital payment gateway for RTI Portal of Central Government and every time you use it , it give a failure message. Then subsequently you have to make a follow up with the Indian Government to get the RTI Application number manually. Thus, neither Digital India nor digital payments are in good shape no matter how much money Indian Government waste on making their positive image through advertisements.

We would update our readers about the development in this regard as soon as we get any information.

Contempt Of Court And Digital India Non Compliance By Ministry Of MSME: An Open Letter To Our Beloved Narendra Modi Ji

Dear Narendra Modi Ji

Greetings from Perry4Law Organisation (P4LO) and PTLB Projects that are incessantly working in the direction of making India a Global Leader in Techno Legal Fields.

We have been empowering poor, farmers, needy people, marginalised segments, startups, MSMEs, etc through our Techno Legal projects. In one such project, we are trying to streamline the processes at Ministry of MSME by using technology and other processes that can bring transparency and accountability in the Ministry of MSME.

However, the Ministry of MSME is not only illegally forcing Aadhaar even after the decision of Constitution Bench of Supreme Court but is also mocking the Digital India and Indian Cyber Law. As per the Information Technology Act, 2000 and well accepted and implemented policy of Indian Government, electronic documents are accepted all over India in multiple Ministries and Departments. Insisting that documents should be sent in paper form only is not only waste of money and time but would also cost us precious trees and our environment.

We first communicated with the Ministry of MSME over e-mail and when the Ministry failed to act on time, we filed an RTI Application (PDF). The intention is to make the functionalities and processes of Ministry of MSME as much online as possible. But Ministry of MSME is not cooperating in this regard and is frustrating our Digital India and New India Model.

We have attached the entire development and communications with Ministry of MSME for your perusal in the hope that we may be allowed to streamline the processes and applications in Ministry of MSME and Digital India would actually be effective.

Please look into the matter urgently and take corrective steps so that bureaucrats and Ministries like MSME do not take Citizens, Digital India and New India for granted.

Warm Regards

Praveen Dalal
Mobile: xxxxxxxxxx
New Delhi, India.

(1) Update 1 (21-06-2019): Today the Contempt of Court and violation of provisions of IT Act 2000 by Ministry of MSME has been escalated to next levels. We would update our readers about the same and its outcome soon.

(2) Update II (01-07-2019): Today we filed a RTI Application before the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) regarding establishing transparency and accountability among Government Departments and Ministries. We also sought information about the Government’s pet project Digital India so that its actual implementation and truth can be revealed.

(3) Update III (02-07-2019): Yesterday (on 01-07-2019) we filed a RTI Application at PMO as the grievance officer was sitting upon our grievance. Today the grievance officer has forwarded our grievance to the head of the department at Ministry of MSME. We are committed to bring digital governance, Digital India, e-delivery and Good Governance in all Govt Departments and Ministries in India.

(4) Update IV (05-07-2019): After much follow up, the RTI filed on 01-07-2019 at PMO was finally registered today on 05-07-2019. While RTI Portal of Delhi Government is instantly registering the RTIs yet RTI Portal of Modi Government is taking 4 days just to register and communicate the RTI  number. Now think how much time would be taken by Modi Government to dispose off the RTI Application. On the other hand, RTI Applications in the Chief Minister Office (CMO) and Deputy Chief Minister Office  (DyCMO) of Delhi are moving in a 1 day cycle. So a RTI filed before Delhi Govt is not only instantly filed but it is also forwarded for prompt action within 1 day and this includes the time of filing of RTI Application too.

Dealing In Cryptocurrency Like Bitcoin Could Soon Be Banned And Punishable In India

Cryptocurrency like Bitcoin has a turbulent history in India. There has always been an environment of uncertainty and doubt about the legality of Bitcoin in India. To make the matter worst, many Indian and foreign Bitcoin exchanges were shut down without repayment to the Bitcoin holders. Many Bitcoin exchanges offices were also raided by law enforcement agencies in India to investigate money laundering and other foreign exchange compliance issues.

Nevertheless, enthusiasm among the cryptocurrency stakeholders always remained high in India. The cryptocurrency  stakeholders are lobbying very hard to get it recognised in India. However, the mood of Indian Government is more on the side of banning foreign  cryptocurrency and regulating its own digital currency like “Digital Rupee”.

The draft Banning of Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill 2019 is a manifestation of that intention of Indian Government. As per the draft Cryptocurrency Bill, Individuals involved in mining, selling or holding of cryptocurrency like Bitcoin might face 10 year prison term. So people who “mine, generate, hold, sell, transfer, dispose, issue or deal in cryptocurrencies” may face the heat of proposed law.

This is a very wide restriction and for all practical purposes dealing of foreign cryptocurrencies in India can be a severe offence now. Along with making it illegal, the draft law also proposes to make holding cryptocurrencies a non-bailable offence.

Economic Affairs Secretary Subhash Chandra Garg is heading the panel drafting the Banning of Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill 2019. The panel reportedly includes several members from the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) as well as investigating agencies and Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), among others.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had already issued a notification prohibiting Indian banks from providing financial services to crypto exchanges. Considering the potential of cryptocurrencies of being misused in money laundering and other illicit activities, government authorities had backed banning it in India in the past.

It seems Indian Government is planning to launch and promote its own digital currency. The Government is working on an official digital currency for India called ‘Digital Rupee’. The Government- controlled cryptocurrency might be rolled out after consultations with the central board of the Reserve Bank of India.

This is a smart move as promoting India’s own digital currency would have its own financial and regulatory benefits in future. However, there is a lack of innovative ideas in India and the Aadhaar fiasco has proved this point very well. Indian Government should rely upon Techno Legal Policies and Projects instead of forcing Orwellian and oppressive technologies. Also actual implementation of Digital Rupee scheme would be a challenging one. Without adequate Techno Legal expertise, this project would remain a dream only. So before launching Digital Rupee, Indian Government must do its homework and establish necessary and adequate infrastructure in this regard in advance.

It is premature to comment upon the proposed Cryptocurrency Bill, but there may still be some hope for foreign cryptocurrencies either before or after the Bill becomes a law. We at Perry4Law Organisation (P4LO) can help you in your cryptocurrency venture in India and other jurisdictions and if you are interested in our Techno Legal consultancy/services, please contact us and establish a client attorney relationship.

Modi Government Is Streamlining Corporate Governance And Role Of Independent Directors

As per media reports, Narendra Modi Government is all set to bring some far reaching corporate governance norms in India. Corporate frauds, white collar crimes, financial frauds, etc significantly increased during the previous term of Modi Government from 2014 to 2019. While it is difficult for an honest and hard working entrepreneur and startup to get a loan from any bank, many high profile corporate criminals took crore of loans without any oversight and accountability. As a result the non performing assets (NPAs) of banks increased significantly pushing many banks to the verge of bankruptcy.

That is a past scenario and Modi Government is doing all it could do to bring back the defrauded money and criminals back to India to face punishment under Indian laws. We are not covering that aspect in this article and this article is discussing some significant policy decisions made by Modi Government for corporate governance in India. Of course, they are just ideas at this stage and their actual implementation would not be easy for the Government.

The first decision pertains to independent directors. According to existing law, every company listed in India has to have independent directors accounting for at least a third of its board strength. Their main duty is to act as overseers outside the influence of the company, safeguarding the interests of minority shareholders.

As per Injeti Srinivas, the top bureaucrat in charge of corporate affairs, Independent directors on company boards will soon have to clear an exam before they can be appointed. The exam will be an online assessment covering the basics of Indian company law, ethics, and capital market norms among other areas. While aspiring directors will have a fixed time frame within which they have to clear the exam, they will be allowed an unlimited number of attempts. Srinivas, who aims to roll out the new oversight program within two months, said the ultimate aim of the exam is to ensure that officials aren’t able to plead ignorance if they’re hauled up over a lack of oversight.

Experienced directors who have already been on boards for several years will be exempt from the test but will have to register themselves on a database the Government is preparing. This compilation will be a one-stop platform where companies looking for independent directors can meet those willing to serve.

This policy is good if implemented properly and in a time bound manner. Firstly, we would have independent directors who are well versed in corporate affairs. A well aware director would not let corporate irregularities to happen easily as is happening right now. Also if such an independent director is also liable for his/her acts or omissions, they would stop acting as a rubber stamp. So for all fresh independent directors, clearing the exam is a prerequisite before they can be appointed at the board of a company.

Secondly, once such qualified independent directors have cleared the exam and have acquired experience, they could register at the portal of Government. Once registered, they would not be required to clear the exam again and prospective companies can appoint them directly from the portal after complying with all the requirements. Maintaining such a database is a very productive exercise and it should be further refined with Techno Legal ideas from time to time.

The second decision pertains to screening of audit firms and companies that used doubtful audit practices to get defaulters loans that they otherwise were not entitled to get. Some of the audit firms have been suspended for facilitating big loan defaulters to get loan that ultimately resulted in big loss to many banks. However, mere suspension is not enough and if an audit firm is found guilty after proper inquiry, civil and criminal prosecutions should be initiated against the firm as well as the individual who was responsible for such unethical behaviour. CBI and SFIO should also investigate such audits and activities of such suspicious firms and banks too, wherever involved.

The TeleLaw Project of PTLB would be happy to extend its Techno Legal Service and expertise in this regard.