SC asks BSNL not to take action against telcos on ADC issue
(19 jan '09, 12.22 a.m.)

The Supreme Court has directed government-controlled BSNL not to take action against private telecom operators, including Tata Teleservices, for not paying access deficit charges of more than Rs 90 crore.

A bench headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan asked the parties to maintain the status quo till February 9, the date of hearing, after Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium submitted before the court that BSNL would not take action against the companies.

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The Association of Basic Telecom Operators, HFCL Infotel Ltd, Shyam Telelinks, Tata Teleservices Maharashtra Ltd, Tata Teleservices Ltd (TTL) and others had moved applications seeking a stay on the demand notices issued by BSNL for access deficit charge.

While seeking to restrain BSNL from taking punitive action, disconnecting its points of interconnection (POI), or disrupting services, the applicants said that the demand notices were arbitrary and misconceived.

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BSNL has asked Tata Teleservices to pay more than Rs 4.12 crore for the Andhra Pradesh circle, Rs 1.11 crore for the Tamil Nadu circle, and Rs 55.44 lakh and Rs 34.50 lakh for the Ahmedabad and Vadodara circles, respectively.

The impugned demands are the sum of "access deficit charges not paid", calculated at 60 paise for local calls, 84 paise for STD calls and 96 paise for ISD calls prescribed by BSNL, TTL said.

The demands were earlier struck down by the telecom tribunal on April 27, 2005, and BSNL's appeal challenging the TDSAT verdict is pending before the apex court, TTL said.

According to Tata Teleservices, BSNL was treating the stay order by the apex court against the TDSAT judgment as final relief. BSNL cannot be allowed to use the interim order dated October 19, 2006, to make benefits or demands during the pendency of the appeal, TTL said.

The telecom companies said that BSNL's unilateral decision to impose charges was negating its own stand that the Interconnect Agreement and the rates prescribed in it do not govern the relation with the private service providers on access deficit charges.

"The Interconnect Agreement, being a bi-party agreement, cannot be unilaterally amended or changed as is being done by BSNL," TTL stated.

Stating that BSNL's conduct was onerous and mischievous in the present regulatory regime, it said that "TRAI is admittedly the repository of all powers qua determination of access charges and BSNL's actions smack of an attempt to usurp and circumvent the powers of TRAI."

 

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