Vodafone on Monday told the Delhi High Court that it would amend its plea to challenge the two TRAI orders giving a clean chit to the free offers of Reliance JIO (RJIO).
The submission was made after RJIO contended before Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva that Vodafone had not challenged the October 20, 2016 and February 2, 2017, decisions of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) by which it was held that RJIO’s free offers did not violate any tariff norm.
Even the court told Vodafone that it can either say that TRAI took no action, in which case the regulator can be asked to take a decision, or the company can say the orders of TRAI were wrong and these will have to be challenged. “It cannot be both, that they (TRAI) have done nothing and that they have passed an administrative order,” the court said. The new entrant in the telecom sector, RJIO, said the two orders of TRAI have been challenged by Idea and Airtel before the Telecom Disputes Settlement Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT).
RJIO argued that Vodafone’s petition alleging inaction by TRAI against alleged violation of tariff orders by Reliance was not maintainable in high court and the telecom major ought to have moved TDSAT. TRAI, on the other hand, claimed that its letters of October last year and February this year were not orders that can be appealed before TDSAT. The regulator said the two letters only communicated to Vodafone the finding arrived at by TRAI while disposing of the representations by the telecom major against RJIO’s free offers.
However, the court was of the view that if TRAI examined the issues raised by Vodafone and other telecom companies against RJIO’s tariffs and came to a finding, then it is an order. During the hearing, TRAI said it was a dispute between two telecom service providers (TSPs), so they should move TDSAT and added that Vodafone’s petition was not maintainable.
Vodafone opposed the contentions of RJIO and TRAI and said moving TDSAT was not an efficacious remedy as the tribunal does not have a Chairperson. It also said the issue before the court was not a dispute between two companies as it was a plea alleging inaction by TRAI. Vodafone further said that it will amend its petition to challenge the two letters of TRAI and sought time for that. The court thereafter listed the matter for hearing on March 10. Earlier, Vodafone had told the court that it was aggrieved by the free voice services being provided by RJIO as it violated TRAI’s tariff orders.
Vodafone had contended that inter-connection usage charges (IUC) form the floor price as per TRAI tariff orders and “one cannot go below that”. The company alleged that by providing the free voice calls and continuing to do so as a promotional offer beyond a period of 90 days, RJIO was violating IUC norms and TRAI tariff orders and regulations. It said it was also aggrieved by TRAI’s stand of allowing the alleged violation to continue.
Vodafone, in its plea, has sought a direction to TRAI to “fully implement/ensure compliance of each and all regulatory and legal principles” laid down in the tariff orders, directions and regulations by the regulator or any other authority as well as to ensure that RJIO does not violate them.