MUMBAI: Its wings have been clipped. If one goes by
the decision of the Supreme Court announced yesterday, all
appeals against regulations set by the Telecom Regulatory
Authority of India (TRAI) will now be dealt with in the various
High Courts, not by the Telecom Disputes and Appellate Tribunal
TRAI has since 2010 been contending that TDSAT cannot hear
appeals against its regulations, only those against its directions,
decisions or orders. And yesterday a bench of the Supreme
Court ruled in its favour.
The authority normally sets regulations on issues such as
rates, inter-connection and quality of service. TDSAT, TRAI
states, was set up to adjudicate any dispute between a licensor
and a licensee, between two or more service providers, between
a service provider and a group of consumers, and to hear and
dispose appeals against a direction, decision or order of
This is clearly set to have an impact on the course of the
ad cap regulation set by the TRAI, which the TDSAT is set
to adjudicate upon, following hearings involving broadcasters'
and the regulator's lawyers. Broadcasters have been stating
that the TRAI-mandated ad cap is going to have a detrimental
impact on their business and the argument has been on whether
it is in the form of a direction or a regulation.
The stance of the TRAI has been that what it has issued is
a regulation and not a direction under the quality of service,
keeping in mind the interests of consumers.
Observers expect the ad cap hearing to now move to the High
Court. Other cases that will be impacted included the VAS
regulation which has crippled the VAS industry but was issued
by the TRAI keeping in mind consumer interest.
The background of the Supreme Court ruling is that over the
years several appeals have been filed with it by telcos such
as Bharat Sanchar Nigam , Cellular Operators Association
of India, Tata Teleservices and Reliance Infocomm against
TDSAT orders involving regulations set by TRAI. And the TRAI
had itself filed a petition in the Supreme Court in 2010 against
a TDSAT order which had asked the authority to take a fresh
look at the telecommunication interconnection (port charges)
Amendment regulation 2007 after Bharat Sanchar Nigam had
filed an appeal against it.
TRAI had under that regulation reduced port charges by about
23 to 29 per cent on various slabs.
TRAI had petitioned in the Supreme Court that TDSAT can
only decide against any direction, decision or order passed
by the TRAI, and not its regulations. And yesterdays
ruling by the Supreme Court clearly indicates where the law
of the land lies.