Narrow escape for govt; cancel Sprinklr deal, urges Oppn

Though it did not stay or cancel the deal, High Court expressed serious concern over maintaining the confidentiality of data

Published: 25th April 2020 06:38 AM  |   Last Updated: 25th April 2020 06:38 AM   |  A+A-

Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan

Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan (Photo | Albin Mathew, EPS)

By Express News Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Even as Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Friday insisted that the High Court had rejected the Opposition’s arguments against the Sprinklr deal, the fact remains that the government has had a narrow providential escape. Most of the government claims over ensuring data privacy and security have fallen flat. While Law Minister A K Balan maintained that there is nothing against the government in the verdict, the Opposition has become even more vigorous in urging the LDF government to cancel the deal.  

Though it did not stay or cancel the deal, the High Court expressed serious concerns over maintaining the confidentiality of data. The HC also hinted that it was not intervening in the deal considering the raging Covid-19 pandemic. In its remarks, the court was critical of the government depending only on Sprinklr. The fact that the state government did not explore the scope for seeking technical assistance from the Union Ministry of Information and Technology also drew criticism.

However, CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said the Opposition charges over the Sprinklr deal have been proven meaningless with the HC verdict.Welcoming the High Court’s interim verdict on Sprinklr, the Opposition urged the government to cancel the Sprinklr deal in view of the court’s remarks. “The HC verdict shows that the issues raised by the Opposition are serious in nature. If the government has any decency left, it should cancel the deal,” demanded Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala.

“The HC verdict focuses on five things -- data security, inherent consent, preventing Sprinklr from using government logo, privacy of individual data and, finally a directive that the data should not be transferred. About 99 per cent of the issues raised by the Opposition have been addressed. Taking into consideration the High Court’s remarks, the government has no moral right to continue with the deal,” said Chennithala. 

He pointed out that the Central government had conveyed that it has the technical knowhow to provide the same service for the state. “Why does the state government feel responsible to argue in favour of the company? The court has expressed its clear displeasure towards the deal,” he said. The Opposition will continue with its fight against “the government’s attempt to sell data” under the cover of the pandemic, he added. 

KPCC chief Mullappally Ramachanran termed the verdict as a major setback for the government. The chief minister’s defence of Sprinklr has crumbled like a pack of cards with the HC verdict, said Mullappally. “The HC issued such an order so that the ongoing Covid preventive measures are unimpeded. The HC has registered its major displeasure over the government’s actions. The conditional clearance given by the HC is in no way helpful to the government. The HC expressed the same concerns regarding the deal as the Congress had raised,” said Mullappally who also reiterated the demand for a CBI investigation into the deal. The HC verdict has upheld all concerns raised by the Opposition, said former chief minister Oommen Chandy. The chief minister could not convince the court about this “extraordinary” deal, said Chandy.

Govt to go ahead with deal: Pinarayi
The state government will go ahead with the Sprinklr deal as the High Court has neither issued a stay nor cancelled the same, said Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. The High Court through its interim verdict has rejected the allegations raised by the Opposition, Pinarayi said, responding to queries at his customary press meet here on Friday. Terming the verdict as a setback for the Opposition, he said the government will take steps to ensure data security.

“The government has already taken proper measures to ensure security of data. There’s no confusion in this regard. The government has also informed the HC of the measures taken. There won’t be any compromise on ensuring data security,” said Pinarayi. Pinarayi also rejected criticism over the hiring of a senior advocate, N S Nappinai, from outside the state to appear for the government in the case.

Covid-19 crisis saved the govt, says BJP
Had it not been for the crisis situation in state in the wake of the Covid-19, the High Court would have cancelled the Sprinklr deal, BJP president K Surendran has said. Surendran, who had approached the HC seeking cancellation of the Sprinklr deal, said the strict conditions placed by the court in its interim order proved there were serious flaws in the deal. “The court has upheld our arguments regarding data privacy, ensuring data security and return of the data transferred to the foreign firm,” said Surendran.

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