Telcos challenge TDSAT decision on intra-circle calls in SC

In the two petitions filed by their lobby groups Cellular Operators Association of India and Association of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India, the telcos challenged orders of sectoral tribunal TRAI, which had set aside the directions of TRAI to charge 20 paise per minute for intra-circle calls.

After hearing the petition, a bench headed by Chief Justice S H Kapadia directed the operators to file statements of their respective liabilities against BSNL on account of carriage charges between November 2005 and March 2009.

"... File statement of liabilities, which are due on each of the members for the relevant period," said the bench, also consisting of Justices K S Radhakrishnan and Swatanter Kumar, while giving three weeks' time to telecom operators.

Meanwhile, Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium, appearing for BSNL, submitted before the apex court that the PSU would not take any coercive action against the private telecom operators over their dues on carriage fee, till the next date of hearing.
The Solicitor General further informed the court that telcos have to pay around Rs 500 crore to BSNL.

The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal had, on May 21, 2010, set aside TRAI's direction to have a uniform carriage charge of 20 paise for intra-circle calls.
According to the operators, TDSAT has also set aside two letters written by TRAI on May 17, 2006, to the PSU and "wrongly allowed BSNL to levy distance-based carriage charges on the appellant instead of a uniform carriage charge of 20 paisa per minute in case of intra-circle".

Carriage charges are collected by BSNL to forward calls originating from private cellular networks to the PSU.

The lobby groups has further submitted that TRAI, in its regulation, had directed BSNL to take 20 paise as carriage charge for all calls for and from private cellular mobile networks.
"However, in violation of the said IUC Regulation, BSNL was levying a distance-based carriage charge of 65 paise, 90 paise and Rs 1.10 for distance slabs of 50 to 200 km, 200 to 500 km and above 500 km respectively," the operators said.

During the proceedings, Attorney General G E Vahanvati -- appearing for TRAI -- submitted that the regulator was aggrieved by this order, and stated that it would hurt the growth of the sector.

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