November 29, 2021

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Jio applies to TDSAT to be heard in points of interconnection fine case

Reliance Jio Infocomm (Jio) has filed an application of impleadment in the point of interconnection (PoI) case in an appellate tribunal, where telcos -Vodafone Idea (Vi) and Bharti had contested telecom department’s penalties against them.

TDSAT will next hear Jio’s views in December 15. Airtel, Vodafone Idea and even the telecom department opposed the telecom market leader’s application for impleadment.

“…stating very clearly that allegations in appeals filed before your lordships expressely level allegations against Reliance Jio,” said senior counsel Ramji Srinivasan, representing Jio.

Both Vi and Airtel had earlier appealed in Telecom Disputes Settlement Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT), against Department of Telecommunications’ (DoT) demand of Rs 3050 crore as cumulative penalties from the two telcos for allegedly denying adequate PoIs to Jio, which affected quality of services, thus flouting license conditions.

PoIs are required for voice calls to go through from one network to another – in this case, from Jio’s network to those of Bharti, erstwhile Idea Cellular and Vodafone India.

The matter went up to the highest body in the telecom department – the Digital Communications Commission (DCC) – which, while approving the penalties, had asked TRAI to review the amount, but the latter did not budge.

In the latest turn in this case, Vi objected to Jio’s impleadment. “With utmost respect we have serious allegations to their locus standi,” said senior advocate Maninder Singh, representing Vi along with advocates Mahesh Agarwal and Shally Bhasin.

Ironically even DoT objected To Jio’s appeal. “I represent DoT and I also have objection to Jio’s impleadment,” said advocate Dhruv Tamta.

The two-member bench headed by Justices Shiva Kirti Singh (chairperson) and Subodh Kumar Gupta have scheduled Jio’s application for December 15 and given telcos two weeks to reply to Jio. Another week will be given for rejoinder.

“On behalf of third party Reliance Jio, an MA has been filed …seeking impleadment/intervention as a party respondent. After hearing the counsels, it appears an opportunity to all parties to file their reply to MA of Jio… within two weeks. Rejoinder…within one week thereafter,” said justice Singh.

In earlier hearings, DoT had wanted to take instructions from the telecom department on the next step, in the PoI case. The department’s counsel said it will take another 8 weeks to get back with its reply, whucb will elaborate on its stance.

“On merits of petition today, Tamta prayed for larger time to seek instructions and file a reply. The petition is admitted to hearing…in 8 weeks has been granted in filing a reply by the respondent,” Singh added. Until then DoT will not encash any bank guarantees.

The battle between the authorities and the two players started in 2016 when on Jio’s complaint the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) recommended fines of Rs 1,050 crore each on Vodafone India and Airtel for violating licence conditions over quality of service by not granting adequate PoIs to Jio in 21 circles each. It slapped a Rs 950-crore fine on Idea Cellular for violating rules in 19 circles. Vodafone India and Idea Cellular have since merged to create Vodafone Idea.

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