The Madras High Court has refused to stay the operation of the regulations of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) with regard to fixation of access facilitation charges payable by Indian International Telecommunication companies to Cable Landing Stations (CLSs).

Conceding the contentions of TRAI senior counsel P Wilson, the first bench of Acting Chief Justice Huluvadi G Ramesh and Justice RMT Teeka Raman declined to order status-quo on the writ appeals from Tata Telecommunications Limited and Bharti Airtel, on March 15.

After going through the various provisions of law as also the amendment made to the TRAI Act and taking into consideration the financial implication involved in the matter and in the light of the contentions advanced by the three senior counsel -- P Chidambaram for Tata Telecom, PS Raman for Bharti Airtel and Wilson for TRAI -- the bench said the matter has got wider ramifications both on the perspective of the consumers as also the department on the financial aspect. As such, the bench said it would be wholly unsafe to pass any interim order at this point. Further, the amendment to the TRAI Act being of recent origin, the provisions with regard to any legislative defect in the said enactment with regard to drafting or the interpretation to be attached to any of its provisions required to be dealt in depth so that a proper and definitive judicial interpretation could be given to the said provisions.

“In such a scenario, this court is of the considered opinion that an exhaustive hearing is very much essential for passing any order. In view of that, this court at this point of time, is not inclined to grant any interim order at this stage, but to hear the main case itself on April 17,” the bench added.

The TRAI brought an amendment on October 19, 2012 to the 2007 international telecommunication access to essential facilities at cable landing station (Amendment Regulation 2012) by which a sub regulation 4 to10 was introduced. Under this, TRAI may specify access facilitation charges payable by Indian International Telecommunication companies to cable landing stations. On December 21 the same year, TRAI issued International telecommunication cable landing stations access facilitation charges and co-location charges. By the said regulations, the charges of cable landing stations were reduced to 1/10th which ultimately would benefit the internet users.

Tata Telecommunications and Bharti Airtel, challenging the three regulations (2007, October 2012 and December 2012), filed writ petitions and a single judge dismissed them on November 11, 2016. Hence, the present writ appeals from the two. – Indian Express


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