The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) to re-consider its order of penalising telecom operators for call drops. The directive comes in as a technical paper, issued a month after the ruling, stated that telcos were not solely responsible for the “deficiency in service.”
While the Trai’s ruling was on October 16, 2015, the technical paper was released a month later.
“Factually, it appears that nobody has seen technical papers on the day of (framing of) regulation. Please take into account the technical paper and tell us in affidavit whether you consider amending the regulations, or you still want to stand by it. Whatever you have to say, tell us with reasons,” the bench of justice Kurian Joseph and RF Nariman told Trai’s counsel additional solicitor general PS Narasimha.
However, Narasimha tried to down play the relevance of the document, and said the regulator periodically released “technical papers” on various subjects. He said the regulations and technical papers are “stand alone things”.
“You cannot shy away from the fact that exactly one month after the regulation on call drops, you have come out with the technical papers in which you admit that call drops will happen and the reasons can’t be attributed to telecom companies alone,” the bench said.
The Trai was also asked to explain why the technical papers were released a month after the rules came into force.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for cellular operators association, offered to sit with the Trai to chalk out a roadmap and address the problems of call drops. He said the technical paper was released on the basis of the companies’ response.
“They (Trai) did not consider our response at the stage of consultation paper and came out with a zero-tolerance on call drops. Now, exactly one month after they come out with technical papers in which they admit what we have been saying that call drops are beyond the control of service providers,” Sibal told the court.
The Cellular Operators Association of India, a body of 21 operators, including Vodafone, Bharti Airtel and Reliance, have challenged the Delhi High Court order upholding Trai’s decision, making it mandatory for them to compensate subscribers for call drops from January 1, 2016.