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Report on Shemaroo

Respond to Vodafone's TRAI challenge in two weeks, govt directed

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MUMBAI: Terming it as "premature", the central government has opposed a plea by the telecom major Vodafone Mobile Services challenging TRAI's recommendation to impose Rs 1,050 crore penalty for not providing interconnectivity to Reliance Jio.

The government rejected the plea by Vodafone, which operates in 21 circles, against a penalty of Rs 50 crore per telecom circle recommended by TRAI. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India had suggested the penalty on grounds that Vodafone had violated terms and conditions relating to points of interconnection among service providers.

Additional solicitor-general Sanjay Jain, appearing on behalf of the Centre, said that since the role of TRAI was advisory, what material did the telecom company had to show that the Centre’s decision would be clouded by the recommendation.

Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva, who was hearing the matter, directed the Centre to file a short affidavit within two weeks and limit it to the question of maintainability of the suit.

TRAI recommendation was made to DoT (department of telecommunications), and is based on a complaint by Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd, which alleged that Vodafone had refused to comply with interconnection norms. TRAI had also recommended a similar penalty on Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular Ltd.

Senior advocate Rajiv Nayar, appearing for Vodafone, urged the court to decide whether TRAI exceeded its jurisdiction by giving the recommendation. The telecom argued that TRAI has the power to impose "financial disincentives" for breach of Quality of Service regulations and to ensure compliance of terms and conditions of licence.

The ASG opposed the maintainability of the petition, saying once DoT took a decision, then it was an appealable order.

The court gave the telecom ministry and TRAI two weeks to file their reply on the issue of maintainability and listed it for hearing on 6 February.

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