Private telcos to pay BSNL Rs 39,000 for ports: SC

Hearing a petition filed by GSM operators' association COAI against BSNL's demand for Rs 55,000 per port as IUC, the apex court said the arrangement will be continued till August 2, when the case comes up for hearing again.

Passing an interim order, a bench headed by Chief Justice S H Kapadia directed the Cellular Operators Association of India to pay Rs 39,000 to BSNL as IUC to get interconnected into the PSU's network.

The Apex Court directed BSNL to file an application with details of the amount which it want to recover from the private telecom operators, which paid less IUC for the period between February, 2007, and May, 2010.

Meanwhile, the bench also asked BSNL not to disconnect private telecom operators from its network till August 2, the next date of hearing which was accepted by Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium, appearing for the PSU, who gave a statement on record regarding it.

"Pay them Rs 39,000 and there would be no disconnection. But then you would also have to come back with a proposal for the gap amount (claimed by BSNL)," the bench, which also consisted Justices K S Radhakrishnan and Swatanter Kumar, said.

The court also clarified that the cellular operators would have to pay the differential amount to BSNL. "Somehow, you (COAI) would have to pay. You can not say that I would not pay for which the regulation has been struck down."

The court also said that it would conduct hearings expeditiously on this matter.
The Apex Court's direction came over a petition filed by the Cellular Operators Association of India, which had challenged the order passed by sectoral tribunal TDSAT on May 22, 2010.

The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal has set aside TRAI's notification fixing the IUC at Rs 39,000 against Rs 55,000 charged by BSNL, which was prevailing since 2001.

In its order, the tribunal had directed TRAI to start the process of fixing the port charges afresh. Meanwhile, it also directed BSNL not to collect the additional port charges from the operators due to them for the period between February, 2007, and May, 2010. However, BSNL went ahead and wanted to recover Rs 300 crore that was short-paid by the operators as IUC between 2007 and 2010.

This was challenged by COAI before the Apex Court, contending that as TRAI was in the process of finalising the new recommendation on IUC, there should be status quo and BSNL should not demand money.

"From February, 2007, till the date of judgment, it should have directed status quo till the TRAI came with its fresh recommendations, after hearing all the stakeholders including COAI and after taking into account the current cost of network elements," said COAI in its petition, adding that BSNL was "abusing its dominant bargaining position.

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