Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Saturday, Mar 05, 2005
Regulatory Bodies & Rulings
Info-Tech - Telecommunications
Tribunal dismisses Reliance Info petition against DoT penalty
New Delhi , March 4
THE Telecom Dispute Settlement Appellate Tribunal on Friday said that Reliance Infocomm has `clearly and deliberately' breached licence norms and put national security in jeopardy by routing international long distance calls as local ones.
Dismissing the petition filed by Reliance Infocomm against the Rs 150-crore penalty imposed by the Government for illegally routing international long distance calls, the Tribunal said, "Having regarded all the circumstances - the licence provision which have been breached, the circumstances in which the breach was committed and the consequence of the breach putting the security of the nation in jeopardy - we do not find it to be a fit case for this tribunal to interfere. We dismiss the petition with cost. There was a clear and deliberate breach of licence condition."
The three-member tribunal headed by Mr Justice D.P. Wadhwa has also imposed an additional cost of Rs 25,000 on the company. Reliance's counsel said that the company would challenge the order in Supreme Court.
The Department of Telecom had imposed a Rs 150-crore penalty on Reliance Infocomm after the company was caught routing international long distance calls as local ones through the Home Country Direct Service (HCDS).
In doing so, Reliance was avoiding payment of the Access Deficit Charge to the State-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd and was changing the caller line identification (CLI) of the ILD caller to that of a local number.
While claiming that there was no violation, Reliance had said that the change in CLI was unintentional and was similar to the operator-assisted trunk calls of BSNL and MTNL.
The TDSAT order, however, said, "It is clearly established that Reliance deliberately changed the nature of calls from ILD to domestic. This can easily be done by software. In operator assisted calls the particulars of the calling subscriber are maintained by the operator and the called subscriber is informed about the identity of the caller, which does not happen in Reliance's case."
On Reliance's argument that the DoT had not given a hearing before imposing the penalty, the tribunal said, "We find it strange that a licensee (Reliance) under the Indian Telegraph Act should be calling upon the licensor (DoT) to do the explaining, rather the ball should be in other court and the licensee by its action should infuse trust and confidence."
The TDSAT noted that it was after considerable prodding by DoT that the company admitted that it was offering HCDS and since the first show-cause was given by the Government on October 4, 2004, adequate opportunity was given to Reliance to be heard.
In a strongly worded order, TDSAT said, "There are conditions in the licence where the licensee is obliged to observe in the interest of security of the country. Breach of its obligations can be of serious consequence for the nation."
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