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The Delhi High Court has upheld the call drop penalty imposed by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), dismissing a petition filed by the Cellphone Operators Association against TRAI’s decision.
As per TRAI’s order, telecom operators had to compensate subscribers for the first three calls dropped per day at the rate of Re 1 per dropped call from January 1, 2016
While dismissing the petition today, the Division Bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Jayant Nath also made it clear that since the said order was not stayed during the pendency of proceedings, the telcos would have to compensate subscribers as per the terms of the TRAI order.
During the course of the arguments, the Bench had asked TRAI whether an alternative mechanism to resolve the issue of dropped calls could be formulated. ASG PS Narsimha appearing for TRAI, had said that while it was not possible to provide network signals in every nook & cranny of the country, the Regulation ought not to be viewed as an exercise of ‘executive power’ and therefore, the question of arbitrariness or unreasonableness would not arise.
The case which saw the Petitioners terming the TRAI order as a ‘penal form of regulation’, witnessed legal heavyweights fielded for both sides. While Senior Advocate Harish Salve had appeared at the admission stage for the Petitioners, Senior Advocates Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Gopal Jain also appeared for the Petitioners during various stages of proceedings.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, and ASG Sanjay Jain had appeared for the Respondents.
In its 39-page verdict, the Bench has agreed upon TRAI’s power to enact regulations for the purpose of ensuring quality of service to consumers.
“In view of our conclusion that the impugned regulations are well within the domain of TRAI under Section 36 of the Act, the contention that the compensation so levied is relatable to tariff, in our opinion, is irrelevant for the purpose of deciding the validity of the impugned regulations…
Similarly the contention that the compensation provided under the impugned regulations amounts to imposition of penalty is liable to be rejected since what is provided under the impugned regulations is only notional compensation to consumers who have suffered as a result of call drop. According to us, the same can under no circumstances be termed as penalty. We are, therefore, of the view that the impugned regulations cannot be held to be beyond the scope of the regulation making power on TRAI on any ground whatsoever.”
The Bench further stated,
“Since the impugned regulations have not been stayed by this court during the pendency of this petition, we make it clear that the petitioners are bound to comply with Regulation 16 of the Telecom Consumers Protection Regulations, 2012, as inserted by the impugned Notification dated 16.10.2015, with effect from 01.01.2016 and TRAI is at liberty to take appropriate steps in accordance with law for compliance of the same.”