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The Punjab government counsel to the Punjab and Haryana high court on Tuesday asked Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd to furnish information about parties, with alleged vested interests, spreading “malicious rumours" against the company. Besides, the court issued notices to the Punjab government and the Centre to take action against those who damaged the telecom major’s tower infrastructure during the ongoing farmers’ protest against the three new farm laws.

“It is suggested that the task of the state agencies would become easier if the petitioner was to share information regarding the alleged vested interests involved," said Atul Nanda, advocate general, Punjab government. The next date of hearing is 8 February, according to the high court order, a copy of which was reviewed by Mint.

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After its mobile towers, property and telecom infrastructure were vandalized in Punjab, Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) moved the high court on Monday, through its subsidiary Jio. In its plea, the company said that some parties with vested interests were spreading rumours against RIL and its affiliates.

Jio said that over 1,500 of its nearly 9,000 telecom towers were damaged, causing disruptions to its mobile network, affecting services, which led to inconvenience to many among its 14 million subscribers in Punjab. Jio is India’s largest telecom operator by market share.

“Vested interests, with a view to advancing their own interests and agendas, are actively engaged in spreading false rumours to the effect that the petitioner (Jio) and its parent company (RIL) and its affiliate companies are somehow beneficiary of a recent legislation passed by the Parliament governing marketing of agricultural produce," Jio said.

In a separate letter to the telecom regulator in December, Jio alleged that rivals Bharti Airtel Ltd and Vodafone Idea Ltd (Vi) were carrying out unethical and anti-competitive mobile number porting to capitalize on the ongoing protest. To counter Jio, Airtel and Vi had called the allegations “baseless", urging the regulator to dismiss them.

Since November, farmers have been protesting against the three contentious farm laws, which allow growers to sell their produce to any buyer of their choice, bypassing middlemen or commission agents at state-controlled markets. The laws were passed in September.

Mandis, or marketplaces for selling farm produce, were set up in the 1950s to stop exploitation of farmers and pay a minimum support price (MSP) for certain produce. Many farmers believe that the MSP is a vital safety net, and are sceptical of the new laws as they fear of being exploited by companies, such as Reliance Retail Ventures Ltd, despite Centre and PM Narendra Modi assuring that procurement of crops at MSP will continue under the new laws. Jio, being an RIL subsidiary, has been facing the heat of protesters.

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