another example of the Credit Card industry's deceptive advertising targeting children
cartoon of the month

Monday, July 16, 2007

This "popular" blog makes it to national print media

Small war against the big premium SMS rip-off

Mayank Tewari, Hindustan Times
First Published: 03:10 IST(15/7/2007)

Randhir Verma, president of the Chandigarh Telecom Subscribers Association, is all set to take on telecom operators over what he calls the ‘premium SMS fraud.’

A premium SMS costs anywhere between Rs 3 to Rs 6 – unlike Re 1 for a local one, and Rs 2 for a national — and the cost is shared by the cellular operator and the media channel.

“Kaun Banega Crorepati”, for instance, generated 58 million SMSes over three months. Assuming a charge of Rs 3 per SMS, a total of Rs 174 million was shared by the TV channel and the cellular operator. So who is losing out? The consumer.

“This is open cheating,” says BS Sharma, president, All India Consumer Congress, another consumer forum. “If the subscriber is at the root of this money generation, then why don’t they get a share?”

Two weeks ago, Sarbajit Roy noticed his 7-year-old son trying to send an SMS to win a free trip to Singapore.

“I was shocked to see the “Pyjama Pakdo” contest on Hungama TV. Every time a child sees a pyjama on screen he is expected to send an SMS. The first child to send 100 SMSes could win a trip to Singapore,” says Roy, a telecom consultant who writes the popular blog Cyber Crime India.

“My son was very upset when he learnt that a boy from Hyderabad had won a trip.” The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), which registers consumer forums like the Chandigarh Telecom Subscribers Association, does not control the pricing of value-added services.

“We don’t interfere with the price mechanism of premium SMS-based services — this does not fall under the purview of the TRAI,” says TRAI chairman Nipendra Misra.

There is one more reason why telecom operators are getting greedy. The Average Revenue Per User (ARPU), as on March 31, 2007, is going down. Market leader Bharti’s ARPU, for instance, has come down to Rs 406 (quarter ending March this year), compared to Rs 427 in the previous quarter. Idea Cellular too has witnessed a drop: to Rs 317 from Rs 322.

Result? “Everyone is focused on value- added services (VAS),” says Kartikeya, president, content, Cellebrum, a firm that provides telecom operators with VAS packages. VAS, estimated to be worth Rs 4,950 crore in March 2007, is set to grow by over 65% and generate business worth Rs 8,200 crore by the end of this financial year, according to estimates made by the Assocham.

If consumers have a problem, they should take it up with a consumer court, says Misra since TRAI is not a content regulator.


Saturday, September 16, 2006

Sarbajit puts Delhi Govt in "legal fix"

Govt in legal fix
[ 14 Sep, 2006 0013hrs ISTTIMES NEWS NETWORK ]

NEW DELHI: Traders may be invading Town Hall with requests for giving more roads the commercial tag, but there's some bad news.

Attempts to save the capital from the sealing drive have hit a legal hurdle as Delhi government is unable to figure out under which Act it should formally notify 1,979 streets as commercial, mixed land use and pedestrian shopping streets.

MCD's standing committee had approved change of land use of these streets on Monday and forwarded the resolution to Delhi government for notification. The land use has to be changed under the new mixed land use regulations in Master Plan 2001, notified last week by the Union urban development ministry.

The government, however, is struggling. The file is still with the urban development department and officials are finding it difficult to find a legally sound way out.

Their predicament is that Delhi government cannot change the land use under Delhi Municipal Corporation Act.

According to sources, Delhi urban development minister A K Walia held meetings with principal secretary (law) B S Mathur on Tuesday and Wednesday but was told that Delhi government had no legal backing to change the land use of the streets as this pertains to land, a subject under the purview of the Centre.

The government has to frame a notification and send it for lieutenant-governor B L Joshi's approval. The notification has to be done under an Act. According to law department sources, the only sound legal option is to notify change of land use under Delhi Development Act 1957.

Constitutional expert Sarbajit Roy, who has also challenged the ministry's notification in the high court, said: "The land use regulations can be changed only by DDA and there is a set procedure for this. The Act clearly specifies that the regulations need to be put before the two Houses of Parliament."


Friday, March 17, 2006

Sarbajit versus Goliath.

"Distcoms now in RTI net"
ALOKE Tikku and MOUSHUMI Das Gupta
New Delhi {Hindustan Times - Delhi edition)

INFORMATION IS power and Delhi's power distribution companies will
finally have to share it.

The Central Information Commission on Thursday delivered a ruling that
brings the private power distribution companies (distcoms) under the
purview of the right to information law. The decision settles a
controversy over the status of the distcoms that had claimed exemption
from the RTI law on the ground that the majority shareholding was held
by private parties.

Welcoming the move, Rakesh Mehta, principal commissioner (power) said,
"The government was always of the view that distcoms should be bought
under the purview of Information Act. It would help empower consumers."

The distcoms are yet to be communicated the order. Talking to the
Hindustan Times, J.P. Chalasani, director, BSES said, "We have not
received any communication as yet. But if a decision has been taken to
bring us under RTI we will abide by it."

The Delhi government holds a 49 per cent share in the equity of the
distribution companies. In its order announced at the conclusion of a
hearing in an appeal filed by Delhi citizen, Sarbajit Roy, a
two-member bench of the commission held that this was quite sufficient
for the private bodies to be treated as a "public authority" under the
right RTI law.

Rather than seek a majority shareholding of the government, the only
requirement for a company to qualify as a public authority under the
RTI is that it should be "owned, controlled or substantially financed"
by the government.

The issue about the status of the discoms came up when a RTI request
was filed with the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC) to
seek information on the implementation of a Supreme Court order. Roy
had sought the information under a clause that empowered a public
authority to seek information from a private body. He never got the
information but the DERC did promptly move the Delhi government for a

... Power to the people, finally

THE MOVE to include distcoms in the right to information Act is good
news for consumers. It means that from now distcoms will have to open
up to requests for information from consumers on all aspects of their
functioning, including issues like disposal of complaints, reason for
delay, what action has been taken against staff for delay, how much
power they get from Transco etc.

The issue had been hanging fire for quite some time. In fact, the
Delhi government had written to the Centre last month seeking their
clarification. The issue had also rocked the ongoing session of Delhi

sarbajit roy

Thursday, January 12, 2006

DERC faces contempt petition [Sarbajit Roy]

Sarbajit files a contempt petition in Supreme Court of India

DERC faces contempt petition
[ Saturday, December 10, 2005 01:14:16 am TIMES NEWS NETWORK ]

NEW DELHI: A contempt petition has been filed against Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC) for not directing private power companies to disconnect electricity connections of illegal industrial units running in non-conforming residential areas in the Capital.

The petition was filed after the fire mishap in a Vishwas Nagar factory on Wednesday which was triggered by a short-circuit.

On May 7, 2004, Supreme Court had given Delhi government a time-frame to close down illegal industrial units that had come up after August 1, 1990.

The order was clear: water and electricity connections of the industrial units found operating after the due date of closure (the last deadline was November 8, 2004) had to be disconnected.

The deadline for disconnection was December 8, 2004. According to statistics of Delhi Pollution Control Committee, the number of illegal industrial units that had come up after the 1990 cut-off date was about 51,000 in 1990 but had increased to 1.01 lakh by 1995.

Official figures provided by the industries department show that only 2,673 water and electricity connections have been disconnected.

The petition points out that despite the court orders, the private power companies were not directed to disconnect connections of illegal units.

The drive against illegal industrial units was also carried out by SDMs and not the companies. The petitioner, Sarbajit Roy, has said: "The power companies have earned profits worth Rs 2,000 crore because of not initiating a drive against illegal industries.

The contempts, which have commenced from December 9, 2004 and which are still going on, have seriously affected the administration...and deprived the residents of Delhi from their lawful entitlements to electricity."


Sarbajit and his multicoloured RTI raincoat

Sarbajit Roy gets results on opening day :-)

First proceeding under RTI Act
Manoj Mitta
[ Saturday, December 24, 2005 01:55:08 am TIMES NEWS NETWORK ]

NEW DELHI: The first ever quasi judicial proceedings under the Right to Information Act 2005 kicked off on a propitious note as a public authority readily agreed to mend its ways and give information to citizens without asking questions.

The Delhi Development Authority (DDA), represented by its vice-chairman Dinesh Rai, told the Central Information Commission (CIC) that it would shortly revise the format of its existing application form to bring it in line with the RTI Act, so that no citizen has to give any explanation for why he is seeking information.

In another far-reaching reform, the DDA said that each of its 40 public information officers would, in keeping with the RTI Act, be directed to accept any application for information regardless of whether the subject pertained to him or not.

The CIC also forced the DDA to admit that its website does not comply with the RTI mandate of making a pro-active disclosure in form of 17 manuals on different aspects of the organisation.

The concessions wrested from the DDA at its very first hearing may help the two-month-old CIC establish its credentials as the independent appellate body envisaged by the RTI Act.

It is still too early to say whether the CIC packed with ex-babus really has the will to thwart the covert and not so covert attempts by the bureaucracy to hide information from citizens.

In keeping with its stated policy of transparency, the CIC took the unusual step of allowing TV cameras to capture the proceedings in the face of objections from DDA officials.

At the end of a two-hour public hearing, the CIC gave a fortnight to the DDA to explain why it had withheld from an applicant, Sarbajit Roy, the public feedback on the proposed Master Plan for Delhi-2021.

The first hearing, however, had its share of teething problems. For one, the room available with the CIC to hold its public hearings turned out to be too small.

In fact, the CIC, currently housed in the old campus of JNU, has already put out an advertisement to lease a larger and more centrally located premises.

The CIC also admitted that it should not have in the very instance summoned the head of the DDA. It is likely that for future hearings, the CIC will summon only the public information officer of the department concerned to respond to the grievances of the applican


RTI: Depts have put up manuals online

More on Sarbajit Roy and his Right to Information Complaint against DDA

RTI: Depts have put up manuals online
Manoj Mitta
[ Friday, December 23, 2005 02:20:21 amTIMES NEWS NETWORK ]

NEW DELHI: The first-ever hearing by Central Information Commission on a particular matter is going to decide how much water does the RTI law hold.

The RTI law specially provides that where the information sought for "concerns the life or liberty of a person, the same shall be provided within 48 hours of the receipt of the request".

This implies that public information officers will have to attend to such urgent requests even on weekends and holidays. Most departments have made no arrangement yet for complying with this statutory requirement.

The most commonly flouted provision of the RTI Act is the one that prescribes that each department should maintain 17 manuals in the public domain to usher in greater transparency in the functioning of the government.

The departments that have put such manuals on their websites can be counted on fingertips. Each of these omissions and commissions on the part of bureaucracy have been highlighted by the complaint filed before Central Information Commission by a Delhi-based engineer, Sarbajit Roy.


Central Information Commission to hear first case Friday

Sarbajit Roy's RTI Test Case will have its first hearing on Friday 23-December-2005

Central Information Commission to hear first case Friday
New Delhi | December 22, 2005 2:15:06 PM IST

It will be a baptism of sorts for the newly formed Central Information Commission when it hears its first case under the Right to Information Act Friday.

"It's about procedural matters of the Delhi Development Authority (DDA). The appellant has said that the mechanism of providing information by the DDA is inadequate," India's first Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah told IANS.

This will be the first appeal case after the RTI Act was enacted Oct 12 and the Central Information Commission was set up.

"It will help us clarify a lot of issues. I don't know whether there was any offence against the RTI Act which the appellant (he didn't mention the name) has accused the DDA of," Habibullah, a retired officer of the Indian Administrative Service, said.

The full five-member commission that also includes O.P.Kejriwal, Padma Balasubramanian, M.M. Ansari and A.N. Tiwari will hear the case.

"This will set a precedent for hearing such cases by the commission," Habibullah pointed out.

The veteran bureaucrat also disclosed the modus operandi on appeal cases to be heard by the commission. The procedure was finalised over a week ago.

"We have assigned various ministries to different commissioners. The appeal, depending on which ministry it pertains to, will first come to one commissioner," he said.

"If the commissioner rejects the appeal, he will ask for the assistance of another commissioner. If the two differ, then they will place the matter before the multi-member commission," Habibullah explained.

"The first court is the public information officer of the ministry. And the first court of appeal lies with the ministry. The commission is the final court of appeal," he clarified.

The commission is, however, still in the process of evolving practices and procedures to deal with cases where information has been denied or adequate information has not given to a person.

Fiercely defending the independence and integrity of the commission, Habibullah, an advocate of transparent governance, said: "The commission is being set up outside the government. The commission can ask any papers from the government. I am not answerable to the government.

"The commission will decide whether the government's instructions on are in conformity with the act or not," he added.

The right of information seeks to bring greater accountability and transparency in governance of the country by providing citizens access to all government records except in cases that affect national security.

The commission, which is presently located in the guesthouse of the Lal Bahadur Shastri Academy for Training in Jawaharlal University's old campus, is also in search of new premises.

"We are venturing out in search of new premises from the private sector. It should happen in not more a month's time," said Habibullah.

Responding to Kejriwal's contention in the open letter he wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sometime back, he said: "He (Kejriwal) felt the process of setting up the commission was very slow. It could be because he is not from the government."

"The commission is still in the process of being set up. We have skeletal staff. I don't have space to put staff here," he admitted.


Tuesday, October 04, 2005

2005, Right to Information Act gets 1st applicant

Right to Information Act gets 1st applicant
- By Urvashi Kaul

New Delhi, Oct. 3: While the citizens of India are waiting for October 12 to spam the system to request for information using the Right to Information Act 2005, which officially comes in to force from that day, there already seems to be a request for information filed with the Department of Information Technology, due to a "tricky loophole" that the applicant citizen has pointed out.

Official sources said that this is the first request for information under the Right to Information Act 2005.

The application requests for information pertaining to amendments to the Information Technology Act under this Act.

The request, under the said Act, a copy of which lies with this newspaper, points out that as per Section 1(3) certain provisions, particularly Sections 5(1) and 5 (2) of the Act, have long been in force. The letter further says that "these sections provide for mandatory designation of information officers within the department to receive the requests for information from applicants within 100 days of the Act coming into force."

Mr Sarbajit Roy, who requested for information under this Act, wanted to know "whether a cyber regulation advisory committee has formally considered and submitted any advice and/or recommendations concerning amendments to the Information Technology Act 2000 and the other specifics related to it."

The Act was passed in order to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority.

The Right to Information Act, 2005, received the assent of the President on June 15, 2005, and was accordingly published on June 21, 2005.

The Act provides for setting out the practical regime of right to information for citizens to secure access to information under the control of public authorities. Under the Act the department must expeditiously provide information.

The maximum time limit is 30 days from the receipt of the request.

Trackback : From Asian Age, New Delhi, 3, October 2005
first request for information under Right to Information Act 2005


The info I seek from DoIT is as follows:-

1) Please inform me if the Cyber Regulation Advisory Committee has
formally considered and submitted any advice and/or recommendations
concerning amendments to the Information Technology Act 2000. If so,
please list out, and well specify, the dates / reference numbers of
such advice(s) / recommendations.

2) I wish to inspect (and take notes from) all records and/or recorded
deliberations of proceedings, materials, representations to,
submissions to/of, documents, information etc. considered from time to
time by the Cyber Regulation Advisory Committee concerning amendments
to the Information Technology Act 2000.

3) Likewise (to para 2 above), I wish to inspect all similar records,
information(s), opinions, materials, file notings etc. concerning the
Expert Committee(s), in any, formed to examine amendments to the
Information Technology Act 2000.

Title: First Applicant under Right to Information Act 2005, India, Request for information under RTI India.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Pawan Duggal comments Ebay India PaisaPay encryption

Is Encryption legal in India?

By Urvashi Kaul
(Asian Age)

New Delhi, Aug. 10: Is encryption legal in India? Well that’s the impression one gets when you log on to any of the online auction sites. Any Indian citizen, unaware of the IT Act 2000 or the Wireless and Telegraph Act would be led to believe that it is, indeed, legal in India, without realising that he/she would be liable to imprisonment for up to five years.

For instance,, an online auction site has been, apparently, inducing (in to participating) its buyers and sellers in to breaking the law. Incidentally, Ebay India had acquired in July 2004. It may be recalled that’s CEO Avnish Bajaj is still facing charges in connection with circulation of the lewd MMS depicting two Delhi Public students in a sexual act.

While the Indian IT Act, 2000 allows absolutely no encryption,, seemingly, tells its site visitors that 128 bit encryption is legal in India. Furthermore, has been inviting its customers to fax their Credit Card details in order to pay sellers through PaisaPay (a gateway used for payment provided through leading banks like ICICI, HDFC, Citibank), that the website claims comes to a "secure server" and only "authorised ebay employees have access to".

IT Act experts point out that by asking customers to fax their credit card statement which contains other details like name, credit card number and billing address, these websites are actually "aiding and abetting" credit card frauds.

"Going by the present status," said informed sources, "The Central Government, so far, has not notified any security procedures under Section 16 of the IT Act for on-line electronic commerce, banking and financial transactions in India." Informed sources also point that the department of telecom, which consents to 40 bits encryption also seems to be overlooking law.

Cyber law expert Pawan Duggal said that, "Although the government has not made any effort to define encryption in the Indian IT Act, but technically it clearly says that it is not allowed."

Trackback: Pawan Duggal illegal ebay 128-bit encryption

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Ex RBI GM K.Vijayraghavan comments

Deccan Herald » Economy & Business » Detailed Story

RBI’s proposed norms may ease life for cardholders

The RBI has come out with a draft guideline for credit card issuers, but how far this is implementable is the moot point, says K Vijayraghavan.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has recently come out with a draft guideline for the issuers of credit cards. The guidelines have been issued in the wake of complaints of harassment and ill-treatment meted to card holders particularly at the time of recovery.

The first issue that juts out is that issuers, viz., banks and NBFCs have been made liable for the actions of their direct sales agents (DSA). The issuers have been told in very unmistakable terms that the agents will have to comply with the norms of KYC (know your customers). What this essentially means is that the background of the customer should be thoroughly screened by the agents before issuing cards. The intention is laudable, but implementation is not easy.

It is not clear as to what options are available to issuers in case agents fail to fulfill the mandate. Well, the agency can be terminated, but it is only curative and less preventive. In other words, there appears to be a need to spell out more clearly the issues that could crop up in this area which would need to be settled between issuers and agents or how complicated problems can be sorted out and solutions enforced on the agents if necessary.

The Banking Ombudsman will look into complaints from holders or issuers. But it is not indicated whether disputes between issuers and agents fall within the ambit of Banking Ombudsman. Appointing DSA is part of outsourcing activities which banks do. But the extent of risk involved in this exercise needs to be carefully measured. The issuers of cards will do well to keep this in mind and ensure that their agents are kept under strict surveillance. A larger issue is: whether outsourcing is desirable everywhere and anywhere may also worth debating.

Fixing credit limit

The guidelines say that the drawing limit for cards should be fixed by issuers after taking into account the fact that there is no prohibition on a person getting several cards, which will increase his drawing/borrowing power. The intention, again, is commendable, but one point needs clarification. What is the mechanism available to issuers to obtain information on the number of cards (and their drawing power), a person has? Will a declaration from the applicant be sufficient? What is the option available to issuers if an applicant suppresses such information? We are in a super computer world, and the death of distance has already been brought about. Can there be not a centralised agency where full details of cards issued by all agencies can be pooled? It should also be possible to plug loopholes in such a system where a person tries to obtain card under different names or by differently spelling his name.

Making calls

A number of protective clauses are seen in the guidelines from the point of card holders, particularly in regard to levying of interest, wrongful billing etc. This is no doubt welcome. It is also desirable to ensure that unsolicited calls are not made to customers and unsolicited cards are not issued as said in the guidelines. Maintenance of a “do not call registry” has been prescribed to be maintained by issuers. The agents are to be told by issuers that only those calls which are cleared by the latter should be made to customers. But, what will be the position in the case of calls made to a card holder who prefers to treat even a recovery call as an unsolicited call which is non-permissible and accordingly takes objection. How can the issuer or agents prove that it was not an unsolicited call? It will not be out of context to mention in this connection that making unsolicited calls have become a part of marketing strategies, and some foreign banks make such calls to offer loans.

Information protection

Considerable protection also seems to have been extended to card holders with regard to confidentiality of information. The issuers have been told that they should be very discreet and selective while passing on information about card holders to agents. It is said that “personal information provided by the card holder but not required for recovery purpose should not be released” by the issuers to agents. If the issuers make the agents fully responsible for recovery, stipulating such conditions may ultimately create problems for the issuers. The question will also arise as to who will be responsible to decide what all information about cardholders can be released or should not be released to agents by the issuers.


It is not inconceivable that somebody asks for a list of dos and donts in this regard, which may not be very easy to prepare. The guidelines also say that neither the issuer nor the agents shall cause harassment of any kind to any holder while effecting recovery. It is known that certain cardholders get rough treatment at the time of recovery. There is no doubt that authorities effecting recovery should not take law into their hands while carrying out their duties. At this juncture, it is necessary to ponder as to how banks have been effecting recovery of normal advances. The situation is no different in the case of credit cards....Perhaps it may be advisable to bring in the concept of “willful defaulters”, who fall in a different category. This is a tricky and partially risky area and is double-edged. Putting such instructions in black and white as also not doing so are both trouble-inviting strategies. Needless to say all cases of credit card defaults cannot be taken to court either. Whatever may be the suggestions or disagreements one may have about the guidelines, instructions from RBI will have to be given due importance by all concerned. The point, however, is that instructions coming from RBI have statutory backing and are more or less mandatory. This being the case, RBI would also like to consider whether some portions of the guidelines could have been issued by Indian Banks’ Association (IBA).

No doubt, the guidelines have thrown lot of light on many grey areas. Nevertheless, issuers and agents will always be interested and rightfully so, in getting their money back. Their interests also need to be protected because, ultimately, here also depositors money is involved.

One may not be able to visualise hundred per cent recovery position for credit cards, but many of the problems which cropped up in this area have been to a significant extent, caused by the haphazard and untrammelled way in which credit cards were issued.

Proper appraisal

It would be interesting to conduct as study to ascertain whether default level and also the various other problems are more in the case of customers or non-customers. There is reason to assume that they will be more in the case of non-customers. If so, it would prove beyond doubt that lack of proper appraisal and examining the need to possess a credit card have given rise to the present state of affairs.

In the name of retailing, banks have perhaps compromised on certain cardinal issues thereby glossing over the inherent risks associated with retailing. Let me again quote the RBI deputy governor who said “While retail banking offers phenomenal opportunities for growth, the challenges are equally daunting.

How far retail banking is able to lead to growth of banking industry in the future, would depend on the capacity-building of banks to meet the challenges and make use of opportunities profitably.” This being so, RBI may like to consider whether banks need to be advised in unambiguous terms that they should put more emphasis on proper appraisal before issuing credit cards.

The writer is a retired Chief General Manager, RBI. E-mail: