Delhi High Court: Much to the disappointment of the Telcos, a Division Bench of Rohini C.J. and Jayant Nath J. upheld the controversial regulation issued by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India that imposes pecuniary liability upon all the Indian telecommunication companies to compensate the customers for the call drops faced by them.

Appearing collectively as the Cellular Operators Association of India, the petitioner companies represented by Harish Salve and Abhishek Manu Singhvi argued against the validity of the Consumer Protection (Ninth Amendment) Regulations, 2015 stating that it was ultra vires the ambit of Section 36 of the principal Act, which confers TRAI with the power of making regulations. Also invoking the doctrine of occupied field, the petitioners argued that the issue of call drops had already been taken care of by Quality of Service Regulations and hence both regulations were mutually contradictory/destructive. Calling the Ninth Amendment Regulations arbitrary and unreasonable, the petitioners claimed that the regulations have come to levying penalty without ascertaining the reason for call drops. To the contrary, TRAI represented by P.S. Narasimha (ASG) strongly averred for TRAI’s statutory power to issue the Ninth Amendment Regulations citing its statutory responsibility to protect consumers’ interest. The respondent further contested against the application of doctrine of occupied field by discerning the difference in objectives of both the regulations. Also dismissing the contention of arbitrariness raised by the petitioners, the respondent showed more than 400 drive tests conducted prior to issuing the Ninth Amendment Regulations.

Concluding that TRAI was well within its powers to issue the Regulations, the Court observed that the Regulations were neither arbitrary nor unreasonable. Also, noting the reliability of the Technical Paper developed by TRAI before issuing the Regulations, Court remained convinced that it was possible to implement the Regulations in all propriety. Agreeing with the contention raised by the respondent, the Bench discarded the applicability of the doctrine of occupied field and upheld the Regulations in their entirety with its pre-scheduled date for compliance. [Cellular Operators Association of India v. Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, 2016 SCC OnLine Del 1388 decided on 29/02/2016]

To read the Judgment, click HERE

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