The Delhi High Court today asked for the Department of Telecommunications’ (DoT) view on TRAI’s recommendation to impose a Rs 950-crore penalty on Idea Cellular for not providing interconnection to Reliance Jio (RJIO). A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar asked for the DoT’s view after the court was told that the recommendation of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) was under consideration of the department. The matter was listed for hearing on November 21. The DoT, represented by Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain and central government standing counsel Manish Mohan, said it was considering the initial recommendation of TRAI but also the reconsidered opinion given by the telecom regulator after the matter was remanded back to it.
The bench was hearing Idea’s plea challenging the October 21, 2016 recommendation of TRAI for imposing a penalty of Rs 50 crore per circle coming to Rs 950 crore for 19 circles in its case. Telecom majors Airtel and Vodafone have also challenged the recommendation as it suggests imposing a similar penalty of Rs 50 crore per circle on them. For them the total amount comes to Rs 1,050 crore each for their 21 circles. Idea has also moved an application for amending its plea to challenge the TRAI’s reconsidered opinion of May 24, 2017. It has claimed in its plea that it had complied with and met the requirements of providing points of interconnections (PoIs) to RJIO.
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Idea has also said that as of January 19 this year, it had allocated 19,175 PoIs to RJIO and contended that congestion and call failures were a consequence of RJIO’s “gross underestimation” of the volume and the duration of calls on its network due to its free voice calls and data offer. In its plea, Idea has contended there is inconsistency between TRAI’s Interconnection Regulations and Quality of Service Regulations. It has also alleged that the TRAI did not have the power to recommend imposition of penalty and can only recommend revocation of licence for breach of licence conditions. The regulatory authority was of the view that denial of interconnection by existing operators like Airtel, Idea and Vodafone to RJIO “appears to be with the ulterior motive to stifle competition and is anti-consumer”.