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Delhi HC dismisses Vi’s plea against Rs 2000 cr penalty

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday dismissed Vodafone Idea’s appeal against a recommendation by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) that would effectively result in a penalty of Rs 2,000 crore for the company for denying points of interconnect to Reliance Jio Infocomm.

In 2016, TRAI recommended that a penalty of Rs 50 crore be levied on Bharti Airtel and Vodafone for each of the country’s 21 circles, excluding Jammu & Kashmir. The penalty added up to Rs 1,050 crore for each operator. It had also recommended a penalty of Rs 950 crore on Idea for 19 circles. Vodafone and Idea merged to form Vodafone Idea in 2018.

The regulator had said that the telecom operators violated licensing norms by denying adequate points of interconnect to Reliance Jio. The move was aimed at stifling competition and was anti-consumer, it had said, adding that the denial of adequate points of interconnect led to a huge number of call failures on Reliance Jio’s network.

Consequently, Vodafone moved the Delhi High Court in 2016 to quash TRAI’s recommendation, saying the latter’s move was against the principles of natural justice. The regulator, as per Vodafone, did not grant it any opportunity to defend its action since it was incumbent on TRAI to state in the show-cause notice that it was seeking to recommend an imposition of penalty.

Vodafone also said TRAI’s recommendation to the telecom department was neither an exercise of statutory powers nor an action contemplated under the quality of service regulation and was, therefore, arbitrary and beyond the jurisdiction of TRAI and deserved to be quashed.
A division bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad reserved its order on the matter on April 24 after hearing the parties. A detailed order is awaited. CNBCTV18

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