Madras High Court tells Aircel to comply with DoT rules for merged circles

Written by Sajan C Kumar | Chennai | Updated: Oct 17 2014, 06:59am hrs
The Madras High Court has asked telecom service provider Aircel to comply with the conditions imposed by the department of telecommunications (DoT) with regard to merger of its Chennai and rest of Tamil Nadu telecom circles and to amend the licence for the merged service area.

DoT had instructed Aircel to comply with certain conditions when the telecom major applied for merger of its Chennai and rest of Tamil Nadu mobile

service circles the former

in Aircel Cellulars name and the latter under Aircel as per the circular by the Union government regarding spectrum allocation.

Taking objection to the order, Aircel and its subsidiary Aircel Cellular moved the Madras High Court praying for direction to DoT to grant an unconditional formal approval to the

petitioners to merge their Chennai and RoTN licences for the merged service area, that is, the Tamil Nadu service area, including Chennai.

Rejecting the arguments by Aircel, Justice V Ramasubramanian ruled that the petitioners shall, within two weeks from the date of receipt of copy of this order, comply with the conditions as imposed in the order of the DoT. The court observed that it was true that DoT cannot recover from the petitioners, the one time spectrum charges as levied by them, in view of the interim orders of protection granted in favour of the petitioners

But, it does not mean that even while considering the applications for the grant of fresh licences or the application for the grant of transfer of licences, the DoT is obliged to ignore their earlier claim completely.

"At the most the petitioners can claim that in the event of succeeding in the other writ petitions, the payment made by virtue of the orders impugned in these writ petitions should be refunded or at least adjusted towards future charges, Justice Ramasubramanian said.

The primary objections of Aircel had been to the two conditions according to which the company was obliged to clear all the dues in respect of both licences as well as payment of one time spectrum charges for the spectrum held for the erstwhile two service areas.

Aircel's objection to these two conditions was that the company as well as several others have already filed writ petitions and that by interim orders passed in 2012 and 2013, the Madras High Court had granted interim protection.

Aircel contended that the DoT cannot impose a condition for the transfer of the licences, that would actually annul the effect of the interim orders granted by the court.

The petitioners argued that when they had been protected by interim orders passed in a batch of writ petitions, the respondent cannot impose a condition for the transfer of licences, that will set at naught the effect of the interim orders.

However, the stand of the DoT was that the levy of these charges was on the basis of the decision of the Supreme Court and that therefore, the petitioners cannot raise any objection.

Aircel is the holding company and Aircel Cellular is its subsidiary firm and both the boards have decided to merge the company for the purpose of merging the licences.

The Union government had issued a circular for the merger of Chennai metro service area and rest of Tamil Nadu service area on the ground that such bifurcation of the state of Tamil Nadu into two service areas, namely Chennai Metro and Tamil Nadu telecom circle, was contrary to public interest.

The circular, therefore, called upon the licensees who were having licences in both service areas, to apply for the issue of licence for the merged service area, without payment of any additional entry fee.