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Wednesday, September 26, 2018
Infosys fails to prove ex-CFO deleted data from laptop

Infosys fails to prove ex-CFO deleted data from laptop InfosysNSE -2.01 % could not provide enough evidence to substantiate that former CFO Rajiv Bansal deleted data from company laptop, leading to dismissal of its claim of breach of agreement by the arbitrator, two people privy to the proceedings told ET. The Bengaluru-headquartered software services firm was ordered last week by arbitrator RV Raveendran to pay the remaining severance of Rs 12.17 crore with interest after about 14 months of Bansal taking the matter to arbitration tribunal.

Bansal had invoked his rights to take Infosys to arbitration proceedings in April 2017 after the Infosys board halted payouts on his Rs 17.38 crore severance package, awarded at the time of his exit in December 2015.

“Their (Infosys) main defence was breach of the agreement committed by Rajiv (Bansal) and because the data in his laptop was deleted. The arbitrator has negated all those contentions saying there is no such breach.

It has categorically been held that Rajiv has not breached the agreement and there is nothing to show he himself deleted any data. And there cannot be a breach of the severance agreement,” one of the persons cited above told ET. The person requested for anonymity.

“Infosys also had a counterclaim. They suffered damages because information was not given back to them. That was a laughable defence. It was not pursued very seriously, and got rejected, he added.

While Bansal was represented by Indus Law, law firm Nishit Desai Associates defended Infosys before the arbitrator. ET had reported in May that Infosys had cited data deletion as among the reasons to deny Bansal his dues.

Bansal’s severance has been a bone of contention in the governance battle waged by Infosys founder NR Narayana Murthy against the company’s board last year. Murthy said the “hefty” severance promised to Bansal could have the appearance of “hush money”.

The second person said the award by arbitrator Raveendran, former Supreme Court judge, was comprehensive.

“It is extremely meticulously drafted award looking into all the possible aspects...the arbitrator has looked through the evidence in its entirety, relevant documents and relevant pleadings, contentions of all the parties and whatever defence was taken by Infosys he has considered all of them and negated them by sound reasoning both in terms of law and factual reason,” said the person, who is aware of the arbitrator’s decision.

Infosys declined to make any further comment beyond its regulatory filings made last week that claimed the verdict of the arbitrator was confidential. Nishith Desai Associates did not respond to a mail seeking its reaction or views on the decision. Legal experts say lack of evidence, in such claims data deletion, has all the chance of getting rejected.

“If there is not enough evidence, the claim of data deletion falls flat. And the relief sought in that case are likely to be rejected. From a legal perspective, if data belonging to a company was deleted in an unauthorised way is an issue that comes under the IT Act,” said Salman Waris, managing partner, TechLegis Advocates and Solicitors.

Case Files: Infy loses arbitration over severance package of its ex-CFO Rajiv Bansal.
Firm asked to pay outstanding amount of Rs 12.17 crore with interest.
APRIL 2017 Bansal dragged IT firm into arbitration after co halted his severance pay of over Rs 17 crore.
DEC 2015 Bansal quits Infosys. (Source: Economic Times)

WhatsApp appoints grievance officer for India

WhatsApp appoints grievance officer for IndiaUnder pressure to clamp down on sinister messages, Whatsapp has appointed a grievance officer for India and detailed the process for users to flag concerns and complaints, including those around fake news. Meeting one of the key demands that India had put on WhatsApp to curb fake messages that triggered mob killings, the Facebook-owned company has updated its website to reflect the appointment of a ‘Grievance Officer for India’.

The update mentions that users can seek help through the mobile app, send an email or write in to ‘KomalLahiri’, who is based out of the US.

According to Lahiri’s LinkedIn profile, she is senior director, global customer operations and localisation, WhatsApp. When contacted, a WhatsApp spokesperson declined to comment on the matter but pointed to the public FAQ on the company’s website that contains these details.

According to sources, the appointment of the Grievance Officer was made at the end of August.

They added that the Grievance Officer for India being based in the US is in tune with similar practices by other American tech giants.

According to the WhatsApp website, users can reach out to the company’s support team directly from the app under ‘Settings’ tab and in case they wish to escalate the complaint, they can contact the Grievance Officer directly.

A section within FAQs read: “You (users) can contact the Grievance Officer with complaints or concerns, including the following: WhatsApp’s Terms of Service; and Questions about your account“.

The updated FAQs also detailed out the mechanism for law enforcement officials to reach out to WhatsApp.

The government has been pressing WhatsApp to develop tools to combat fake or false messages. One of the demands was to name a grievance officer to deal with issues in India.

India is WhatsApp’s biggest market with more than 200 million users. It, in July, limited message forwards to five chats at a time and had also removed the quick forward button placed next to media messages to discourage mass forwarding. It has also introduced a ‘forward’ label to help users identify such messages.

The latest appointment is also significant as the Supreme Court, last month, had agreed to examine a petition alleging that WhatsApp does not comply with Indian laws, including the provision for appointing a grievance officer. The apex court had sought a reply on the matter within four weeks.

With general elections slated for next year in India, the government is taking a tough stance on use of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp for spread of misinformation.

The government had warned WhatsApp that it will treat the messaging platform as abettor of rumour propagation and legal consequences will follow, if adequate checks are not put in place.

In a meeting held with WhatsApp Head Chris Daniels last month, IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had asserted that the company will have to find a solution to track origin of messages on its platform, set up a local corporate entity that is subject to Indian laws within a defined time-frame as well as appoint a grievance officer.

WhatsApp, which has been slapped with two notices with a third one under consideration, has said it is in the process of establishing a local corporate entity.

It has, however, not accepted government’s demand for traceability of messages saying creating such a software will go against the idea of user privacy and end-to-end encryption.(Source: The Hindu BusinessLine)

Additional Solicitor General suggests FIR against Cambridge Analytica

Additional Solicitor General suggests FIR against Cambridge AnalyticaThe Additional Solicitor General (ASG) of India has conveyed to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) may conduct a preliminary enquiry against Cambridge Analytica for data breach. The MeitY had recently asked for a legal opinion from the ASG on filing a first information report (FIR) against Cambridge Analytica under the ‘IT Act and the Rules therein’, a senior official at MeitY told BusinessLine.

“The ASG has said that the matter requires further investigation by appropriate agencies. Sincethe present case relates to the breach of IT Act, a Central legislation with pan-India ramifications, it will be administratively expedient if a single investigative agency such as the CBI investigates the matter,” the ASG has opined, the official pointed out.

Preliminary enquiry
The ASG, in his opinion, has said that the CBI may conduct a preliminary enquiry after following prescribed procedure under the CBI Manual. “As soon as sufficient material disclosing the commission of a cognizable offence is available during the course of preliminary enquiry, a regular case should be registered against Cambridge Analytica and persons-in-charge of the company,” Vikramjit Banerjee, ASG, said in the letter seen by BusinessLine.

The ASG said that the company (Cambridge Analytic), and its directors, may also be investigated for ‘conspiracy under Section 120-B (criminal conspiracy)’ read with relevant offences under the IT Act. “Specific averments constituting the commission of offence will have to be made to implicate the directors of Cambridge Analytica,” the ASG observed.

As such, a violation of privacy rights, such as in this case, where user data was transferred without consent, entails deprivation of property the person has in these rights. Further, the ‘act of retaining’ such data by Cambridge Analytica to influence Indian voters in the free exercise of their franchise amounts to a wrongful gain under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), he said.

“With respect to vicarious liability of every person who, at the time the contravention was committed, was in charge of and was responsible to the company for the conduct of business of the company, it is advised that Section 85 of the IT Act (a person/company guilty of the contravention and liable for punishment) may be invoked for registering an FIR against such persons at the appropriate stage,” the ASG added in his opinion.

Last month, Minister of Electronics and IT, Ravi Shankar Prasad, had also asked the CBI to look into the issue and how the case could be brought under the ambit of the Indian IT Act. (Source: The Hindu BusinessLine)

‘How Google ‘inadvertently’ added 112 to phone list

How Google ‘inadvertently’ added 112 to phone listOEMs might have made the suggestion before official notification. Ever since Google admitted that it had inadvertently inserted emergency number 112, the key question being asked is why the Internet giant included the phone numbers in users’ contact list by default in 2014 when the Centre’s official order on the same was issued only in 2016.

Emails seen by BusinessLine suggest that there were discussions and letters exchanged between the handset industry and the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeITY) as early as 2013 on the issue of having an emergency number, much before the final notification was made by the Centre in 2016.

Specifically, three letters from DeITY – sent on December 3, 2013, January 2, 2014 and January 22, 2014 – asked phone makers to do two things. First, to provide patches in the existing smartphones to enable dialling emergency number through a dedicated virtual key. Second, future feature phones (non-smart) that would be introduced in the country by various manufacturers to have one of the existing keys configured for activating the emergency number dialling even if the phone is locked. This was in the context of the Nirbhaya rape in December 2012 that shook the nation’s conscience, and citizens were demanding concrete action.

“Intense discussions have been held, led by the Finance Minister, involving Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), DOT, DeITY. Many permutations and combinations were discussed, including launching a government-sponsored device for security etc. etc.! We obviously advocated that mobiles are the best security shield and enhancing their capability. Amongst suggestions which were made during the deliberation was to use the existing and already configured standard GSM emergency number 112 as the distress number,” states a communication from Indian Cellular Association dated March 6,2014, seen by BusinessLine. Indian Cellular Association is the industry body representing mobile phone companies. “We are required to provide this feature in all future smartphones and featured phones. The process should be completed by end of April i.e. smart phones and featured phones which are to be imported or manufactured after May 1, 2014 should carry this feature,” stated the letter sent to all industry stakeholders. When contacted Pankaj Mohindroo, President, ICA, confirmed the letter sent in 2014.

Senior officials, who were then at the Ministry of Communications, confirmed that such discussions may have happened at that time. “There was a lot of pressure to do something post the Nirbhaya case. Finance Minister P Chidambaram had announced the SoS alert button for women in December 2013 so there was discussion on how best to do this,” said an official on condition of anonymity.

Based on these discussions between ICA and the Centre, Google might have been asked by the OEMs to incorporate the emergency number. Google did not comment. on this story.

Google statement
On Friday, Google issued a statement that an internal review had revealed that in 2014, the then UIDAI helpline number and the 112 distress helpline number were inadvertently coded into the SetUp wizard of the Android release given to OEMs for use in India and has remained there since.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India had floated its consultation paper on the matter in March 2013. In the paper, TRAI did not propose any specific number as the emergency number. It was only in April 2015 that the regulator issued its recommendations to use 112 as the national emergency number. (Source: The Hindu Businessline)

DoT moves ASG again, seeking legal opinion on Idea-Voda merger

DoT moves ASG again, seeking legal opinion on Idea-Voda mergerSeeks clarification on payment of administratively-held spectrum and M&A guidelines
In a move that might further delay the merger between Vodafone India and Idea Cellular, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has once again sought the opinion of the Additional Solicitor-General (ASG) on payment of administratively-held spectrum and clarity on guidelines related to mergers and acquisitions.
Administratively-allocated spectrum pertains to radio waves given to an operator outside the auction process. Prior to 2010, spectrum was given on a subscriber-linked criteria. Post 2010, all airwaves have been allocated through an auction process, thereby creating a difference in pricing.

This is the second time that the licensor is seeking the ASG’s approval for the impending merger.

Clarifications on merger

In the latest move, the department has sought clarifications on whether the demand for the differential between the initial fee and the market-determined price of administratively-allocated spectrum held by Vodafone is to be raised, in respect of the amalgamation of its subsidiaries in 2014-15, or in connection with the proposed merger with Idea Cellular.

According to the licensor, Vodafone India merging four of its units — Vodafone East, Vodafone South, Vodafone Cellular and Vodafone Digilink with Vodafone Mobile Services in 2014-15 — should be considered the first merger. The proposed merger with Idea should be considered the second merger, sources close to the development told BusinessLine.

Further, DoT has also sought clarification on whether it should raise the demand for the total administratively-allocated spectrum, or for the up to 4.4 MHz held by Vodafone.

DoT has also asked the ASG if bank guarantees from Idea should be for its entire spectrum, on a one-time spectrum charges (OTSC) basis, or only for radio waves beyond 4.4 MHz.

Idea Cellular, an Aditya Birla Group company, held administrative spectrum across Mumbai, Delhi, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh (East), Bihar and Himachal Pradesh circles as on January 19, 2018.

When Vodafone units were merged with itself (the first merger, according to DoT), the licensor had sought ₹6,678 core as OTSC dues, which was challenged by the operator in court. Following a Supreme Court order, Vodafone paid ₹2,000 crore for the deal. (Source: The Hindu BusinessLine)
Idea-Vodafone merger may get delayed as DoT readies fresh demand of Rs 4,700 crore

Idea-Vodafone merger may get delayed as DoT readies fresh demand of Rs 4,700 croreIn 2015, Vodafone had merged its four subsidiaries Vodafone East, Vodafone South, Vodafone Cellular and Vodafone Digilink with Vodafone Mobile Services, which is now called Vodafone India.

The mega-merger deal of Idea Cellular and Vodafone India may not meet the expected June 30 timeline as the telecom department is looking to raise a fresh demand of around Rs 4,700 crore, a source said. The demand will be raised from Vodafone India before its merger with Idea Cellular.

"Vodafone India had merged its all arm into one company and there are dues of around Rs 4,700 crore related to one-time spectrum charges (OTSC) on the company. DoT will ask Vodafone to either clear dues or furnish bank guarantee before merger with Idea," an official source told PTI.

In 2015, Vodafone had merged its four subsidiaries Vodafone East, Vodafone South, Vodafone Cellular and Vodafone Digilink with Vodafone Mobile Services, which is now called Vodafone India. DoT at that time had asked Vodafone to clear OTSC dues worth Rs 6,678 core but the company challenged it in court. Following Supreme Court order, Vodafone had paid only Rs 2,000 crore to get the deal cleared.

The telecom minister Manoj Sinha is learnt to have asked DoT (Department of Telecommunications) to take legal opinion whether a demand regarding OTSC dues can be sought from Vodafone India. "The DoT has received legal opinion which affirms that a demand can be raised from Vodafone," the source said.

The official said that final amount is still being worked out, which may involve interest as well and it is likely to be raised next week.

"DoT is working on fresh demand expeditiously and may issue it next week. The demand note will have to be drafted meticulously and there are lot of complexity involved. Therefore, DoT needs some time," the officer said.The demand will be in addition to bank guarantee of around Rs 2,100 crore that DoT will seek from Idea for OTSC dues.

Both Idea and Vodafone were expecting the merger deal to create India's largest telecom company to be completed by June 30, 2018. The merged entity is proposed to be named as Vodafone Idea Limited if approved by shareholders of Idea Cellular. It is estimated to have over 40 crore mobile customers from day 1 and 41 per cent revenue market share.

Vodafone Group and existing promoters of Idea will hold 45.1 and 26 per cent of the equity share capital of the merged company, respectively and the balance 28.9 per cent will be held by the public shareholders. (Source: ETtelecom)

Telecom department may clear Vodafone-Idea merger tomorrow

Telecom department may clear Vodafone-Idea merger tomorrowIdea and Vodafone have decided to combine their operations to create the country's largest telecom operator worth over USD 23 billion (or over Rs 1.5 lakh crore), with a 35 per cent market share.

The telecom department is likely to approve tomorrow the merger of Vodafone India and Idea Cellular that will create the country's largest mobile service operator with proposed name of Vodafone Idea Ltd. "DoT is expected to clear the Vodafone-Idea merger on Monday. The certificate will be handed to them," an official source told PTI.

Idea and Vodafone have decided to combine their operations to create the country's largest telecom operator worth over USD 23 billion (or over Rs 1.5 lakh crore), with a 35 per cent market share and a subscriber base of around 430 million.

The proposed merger is expected to give breather to both debt-ridden firms Idea and Vodafone, from cut-throat competition in the market where margins have hit rock bottom with free voice calls. The combined debt of both the companies is estimated to be around Rs 1.15 lakh crore.

"The merger will be taken on-record after Idea furnishes required bank guarantee and gives undertaking of owning the liabilities of Vodafone India that may arise in future," the source said.

The Department of Telecom (DoT) will seek a bank guarantee of around Rs 2,100 crore pertaining to one-time spectrum fee of Idea Cellular and undertaking that the resultant will clear dues pertaining to one-time spectrum fee and other sub-judice matter in accordance with the court's order.

Idea will be asked to replace one-year bank guarantee of Vodafone India submitted for deferred spectrum payment.
Vodafone and Idea will have to give undertaking of clearing dues that are sub-judice as per decision of the courts, the source said.
Idea will hold extraordinary general meeting on June 26 to change its name to Vodafone Idea Limited following the completion of merger.

Vodafone will own 45.1 per cent in the combined entity, while Kumar Mangalam Birla-led Aditya Birla Group would have 26 per cent and Idea shareholders 28.9 per cent.

Birla is proposed to be the non-executive chairman of the merged entity and Balesh Sharma is likely to be the new CEO.
Idea's chief financial officer Akshaya Moondra will head the financial operations of the new entity as its CFO.
Ambrish Jain (currently the deputy MD at Idea Cellular) is set to become the new chief operating officer. (Source: The New Indian Express)

Ad council panel upholds Airtel complaint against Reliance Jio

Ad council panel upholds Airtel complaint against Reliance JioThe latest salvo follows complaints that Jio had made earlier made to ASCI about Airtel's speed claims and in courts against its campaign of broadcasting IPL matches in partnership with Hotstar.

The advertising watchdog's fast track panel on complaints has upheld a complaint by Bharti Airtel against Reliance Jio's advertisements that claimed its data network being the best and the largest, and said the ads were misleading by "ambiguity" and "implication".

Upholding other complaints of Airtel, the Fast Track Complaints Panel (FTCP) of the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) ruled that Jio's claims of "best entertainment" through television commercials and YouTube ads, was not substantiated.

ET reviewed a copy of the interim ruling.  In a statement issued on Sunday, however, Jio said the advertising panel was yet to take a final decision, and termed Airtel's allegations as "frivolous". "This is another instance of an incumbent dominant operator thwarting every initiative of a new entrant to offer state-of-the-art digital services to Indian consumers," it said. 

It's the latest in a series of fights over advertisements between the two. They are involved in a bitter duel for subscribers in the market through tariffs and other means such as content and other services, besides speed of their networks, where, according to experts, perception is sometimes more important than actuals

In mid-May, Airtel had complained that there was no basis - either through clarification or independent third-party data - for Jio to substantiate its claims made in its advertisements, and, therefore, they were violated ASCI code. There are larger networks than Jio in the world and also those that provide better benefits and are faster in terms of speed, it said.

Airtel alleged that Jio was aiming to entice and lure viewers to subscribe to its network through misrepresentation."This complaint was upheld. The TVC and the YouTube advertisement contravened Chapter 1.4 of the ASCI Code," the panel said on the three separate complaints filed by Airtel against Jio's claims of best and largest network, best entertainment and best post-paid offers.

The observations are interim, with the next date of meeting between the panel and Jio set for June 18.

"The FTCP was of the opinion that 'data consumption' cannot be the parameter to claim 'largest mobile data network'. The infrastructure as well as the number of subscribers, are important parameters for which the complainant provided evidence that China Mobile Ltd has larger number of 4G base stations as well as subscriber base," the panel said. It said the claim refers to only "consumption of data" and not the extent and infrastructure of network. The panel said Jio's claims of offering the "best post-paid offers" was misleading by "omission" since it is not clear what aspect of the advertiser's product was being compared with what aspects of competitors' products.

Jio, however, said the matter was still under discussion with ASCI.

"We believe that the recommendations at this stage do not reflect the submissions made and favourable views expressed by ASCI during the course of discussions. We have followed up with further submissions and clarifications so that the right decision is made," a Jio spokesperson said in response to ET's queries. The latest salvo follows complaints that Jio had made earlier made to ASCI about Airtel's speed claims and in courts against its campaign of broadcasting IPL matches in partnership with Hotstar. 

"Telecom is the new cola in the hands of the new consumer of new India. The category is about speed. And speed is therefore the cutting edge USP. The battle happens here," said brand consultant Harish Bijoor.  "Perception, sadly, is more important than the truth. In the category of the TSP, the perceptual is more important than the real. Therefore, this battle and the war," he said. (Source: ETTelecom)

COAI mulls legal options on Jio defamation suit

COAI mulls legal options on Jio defamation suitA group representing the country’s major telecom operators is evaluating legal options to counter a defamation suit filed by Reliance Jio Infocomm, one of its members, against it and its director general. A group representing the country’s major telecom operators is evaluating legal options to counter a defamation suit filed by Reliance Jio Infocomm, one of its members, against it and its director general. The Delhi High Court accepted the defamation suit against the Cellular Operators Association of India last week. In an interim order, the court asked the association and director general Rajan Mathews to refrain from using “disparaging and defamatory” words or phrases against Mukesh Ambani-owned Jio, which the telco alleged, had hurt its reputation.

Jio’s allegations were “patently misconceived” as all communications were “issued in good faith” and were made to call attention to “regulatory decisions that are detrimental to the growth and development of the telecom sector and to seek intervention of the regulator,” COAI said in a statement on Sunday.“COAI is well within its rights to hold and voice its views on regulatory and policy issues. The matter is currently sub judice and we are in the process of considering and evaluating our legal options,” Mathews said.

He added that it was disappointing to see a member take legal steps against the association. “We believe the allegations are without merit and we intend to defend ourselves vigorously,” said Mathews. Jio had alleged that the industry body and its DG had tried to thwart its entry into the telecom market and later stifle its growth while advancing the interests of other members, including India’s top three telcos Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular, which together account for more than 60% of the nation’s mobile phone subscribers.

Jio, which has signed up more than 186 million subscribers (15.7% market share) since starting operations in September 2016, had alleged that COAI’s previous statements had reflected its biases against the telco. The industry body has alleged that some of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s decisions, including local interconnection rate cuts, were detrimental to the industry and favoured Jio. The association defended its comments, saying that a “clear, stable and predictable policy environment is the foremost requirement of any regulatory regime that fosters industry growth and customer services.”

The industry body hoped that the legal authorities would take “a more balanced view on this issue, which may be impacting the relationship of the member and the association and also the entire industry.” Earlier, the regulator and Jio had dismissed as “baseless” allegations by India’s top three operators that Trai’s recent rulings and policies were biased against them. Trai had said the companies were free to move court if they found any anomaly in its orders. (ETTelecom)

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