The Madras High Court today refused to quash the TRAI regulations pertaining to access charges levied by owners of cable landing stations, where submarine cables providing international connectivity terminate in the country, but struck down an order which drastically lowered the tariff.
A bench of Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice M Sundar upheld the powers of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to make such regulations.
It was passing orders on writ appeals by the Tata Telecommunication Ltd and Bharti Airtel challenging an earlier order of a single judge who had upheld three TRAI regulations of 2007, October 2012 and December 2012.
The TRAI had amended the International Telecommunication Access to Essential Facilities at Cable Landing Stations Regulations and taken over the power to control and decide the charges levied by CLS’ owners for granting access to the facility to the domestic telecommunication operators.
The bench, however, quashed the tariff fixed by TRAI in 2012 slashing charges levied by CLS owners to one-tenth of the existing tariff on ground of lack of transparency.
It directed the TRAI to redo the process strictly in accordance with the existing laws within six months.
The TRAI had earlier slashed the access charges following complaints that the rates charged by the petitioner firms were excessive.
CLS facilitates connection between the submarine cable and the domestic network owned by the telecommunication companies.
During the hearing of the petitions, the TRAI had submitted that the rate cut would ultimately benefit the internet users.
The appellants, who together own a majority of the 16 CLS in the country, argued that TRAI had fixed the access charges arbitrarily, without appreciating the economic and financial dimension involved. – Business World