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SC tells Reliance Info to pay up entire demand made by BSNL — Refers case to Delhi HC

Our Bureau

New Delhi , Dec. 3

THE Supreme Court on Friday referred the dispute between Reliance Infocomm and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd to the Delhi High Court even as it directed the former to pay the full amount of Rs 182.7 crore as demanded by BSNL for illegally routing international long distance calls as local calls. Since Reliance has already paid Rs 98 crore to BSNL, the balance Rs 84.7 crore has to be paid within four weeks.

The payment will be an interim measure until the Delhi High Court takes a decision on the appeal filed by Reliance Infocomm.

A Bench, comprising Mr Justice N. Santosh Hegde and Mr Justice S.B. Sinha, further asked the High Court to dispose of Reliance's appeal against BSNL's claim of Rs 182.7 crore by January 31.

The Department of Telecom is also looking at imposing a penalty of Rs 150 crore on Reliance separately for licence violation.

The Supreme Court Bench has asked Reliance to comply with its undertaking before the High Court to correct the Caller Line Identification for ILD calls. Reliance has agreed.

The Bench issued the directions based on a Special Leave Petition (SLP) filed by BSNL against the Delhi High Court order which had asked the public sector undertaking to maintain status quo on the dispute.

The issue relates to a complaint by BSNL that Reliance was violating ILD licence norms by routing long distance calls like local calls to avoid payment of the Access Deficit Charges (ADC). The High Court has been asked by the Supreme Court to consider BSNL's argument that no one (including the Court or an arbitrator) other than the Telecom Dispute Settlement Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) had the jurisdiction to adjudicate this dispute.

Appearing for BSNL, Senior Counsel Mr Soli J. Sorabji alleged that Reliance Infocomm had 10,000 fictitious domestic lines. Senior Counsel Mr Harish Salve, appearing for Reliance Infocomm, however, denied the allegation and said BSNL had not filed any response till date to his client's affidavit on the issue.

Mr Salve said Home Direct Services were a normal feature in the telecom industry all over the world. Even BSNL and MTNL have this service.

The court, however, did not go into the merits of the case, saying the companies were at liberty to raise these issues before the High Court.

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