New Delhi: Idea Cellular Ltd, India’s third largest wireless services provider, on Tuesday approached the Delhi high court, challenging a penalty of Rs950 crore recommended against the company.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on 21 October suggested the penalty on grounds that the company had violated terms and conditions relating to points of interconnection among service providers, particularly towards Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd.
If the recommendation is accepted, Idea, present in 19 telecom circles, will be liable to pay a total of Rs950 crore: Rs50 crore per circle.
Sanjay Jain, additional solicitor general, on behalf of the department of telecommunications (DoT) challenged the maintainability of the petition saying it was premature as the recommendation was advisory in nature and no decision had been taken based on it.
A bench headed by G. Rohini, chief justice of Delhi high court and before whom the matter was being heard, sought a response from the telecom regulator and DoT and asked them to submit an affidavit restricted to the question of maintainability of the petition before the next hearing on 21 February.
Trai’s recommendation to DoT is based on a complaint by Jio, which alleged that Idea had refused to comply with interconnection norms. Idea, in its plea, claimed that it has met Jio’s requirements under points of interconnection and, as of 19 January, had allocated 19,175 such points to the company. It attributed congestion and call failures in Jio’s network to an underestimation of the volume, traffic and duration of calls on its network under its free voice calls and data offer.
Trai had also recommended identical Rs50-crore-per circle penalties for Vodafone India and Bharti Airtel Ltd, both of which operate in 21 telecom zones, Mint reported on 22 October.
Seeking a stay on the recommendation, Vodafone had moved the Delhi high court and submitted that there was nothing in the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997, that permitted the imposition of the penalty, and added that it was entirely “arbitrary and unconstitutional”. The matter is being heard by another bench and is being argued on maintainability.
Vodafone had also pointed out that imposition of such penalty was not covered under the quality of service regulations, which allowed a maximum fine of Rs50,000 for failure to meet service conditions.