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Tdsat orders Dot not to invoke bank guarantees against Vi and Airtel until next hearing

In relief for Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) on Tuesday noted a commitment from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) that it will not apply penalties up to Rs 3,000 crore on telecommunications. major points in the interconnection case until the next court hearing.

The DoT assured that the bank guarantees of telecommunications operators would not be invoked before the next date of the TDSAT hearing, on October 26.

The DoT had recently issued notices asking the two telecom operators to pay Rs 3,050 crore cumulative in three weeks for violating standards by denying Reliance Jio points of interconnection (PoI) in 2016.
In 2016, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recommended a penalty of Rs 1,050 crore on Airtel and Rs 2,000 crore on Voda Idea for failing to provide points of interest to Jio. TRAI’s recommendation came from a complaint from Jio that more than 75% of calls on its network failed because incumbents did not publish a sufficient number of points of interest. The Digital Communications Commission, the supreme decision-making body of the Department of Telecommunications, approved the cumulative penalty in July 2019.
The TDSAT agreed to hear the case and requested a response from the DoT on Airtel and Voda Idea’s plea contesting the crore penalty claim.

Telecom argued that on the one hand, the government’s affidavit to the Supreme Court talks about efforts to save the industry, and on the other hand, it serves a fine of Rs 3,000 crore.

The duo questioned the legality of the TRAI recommendation, the resulting demand notices, and the DoT’s power to impose a penalty for the alleged non-granting of PoI. They requested the suspension of the formal notices.

Airtel called TRAI’s recommendation to impose a penalty a “comedy of errors”. Both objected to TRAI’s findings to argue that enough points of interest had been provided.

Meanwhile, Voda Idea argued that the Digital Communications Commission (DCC) had opposed the imposition of a penalty. Telecom claimed the DCC report was in its favor and the DoT was suppressing the report.

Recommendations to impose a fine are already being challenged in the Delhi High Court.

First publication: STI