The commercial court of an additional district judge on Monday upheld the decision of a lower court and ordered public telecom BSNL to pay Rs 10.5 lakh to its dealer for “wrongfully forfeiting a security deposit”, by continuing to provide services to a customer long after he stopped paying bills. The court observed it was BSNL’s fault that it continued services to a customer who had stopped paying.
BSNL entered into an agreement with Tehri resident Pradeep Pokhriyal in 2002, by which the latter was allotted a dealership for marketing and distribution of mobile services for two years on a security deposit of Rs 5 lakh.
During this, a mobile number was issued to one Surendra Ratwal and due to non-payment, who stopped paying bills and the outstanding reached Rs 4.16 lakh. Due to this, BSNL didn’t release Pokhriyal’s Rs 5 lakh security deposit after the expiry of the contract period.
Pokhriyal approached the high court, which appointed retired district judge PC Aggarwal as a mediator to resolve the matter. The arbitrator ordered an award of Rs 10.5 lakh in favour of Pokhriyal, which was challenged by BSNL in the commercial court.
The telecom contended that the arbitrator had not considered the case law submitted by BSNL and said the award was illegal, as it was against “the public policy of the country”. BSNL asked for the order to be set aside.
The dealer argued that it was the duty of BSNL to verify the address of the customer before releasing the mobile phone connection to him.
The court, too, expressed surprise that despite the subscriber not paying the bill, BSNL started an ISD facility on his number and continued his services for the next 18 months.
After considering all the facts, the court dismissed the petition of BSNL, holding that the arbitrator “had not committed any illegality and irregularity” while passing the award. ToI