TRAI and TDSAT were specifically created to deliver ‘justice’ in the complex techno-economic issues of telecom since high courts do not have the expertise or bandwidth to do this and one goes to the apex court for the legal last word. Even the SC does not have the skills, expertise or time to go into the intrinsic merit on a holistic basis. This was eminently settled in the famous WLLM Appeal to the Bench of CJI Pattanaik, Justice S B Sinha and Justice Sema. They explained this beautifully when they delivered judgement in that famous case and, very significantly, relegated the matter to the TDSAT.
As one who had the honour to be somewhat involved in the creation of both TRAI in Jan 1997 and the TDSAT in Jan 2000, I can sincerely vouch for the rationale behind the setting-up of these two bodies.
However, it is unfortunate that both GoI and the industry appealed against the TRAI/TDSAT findings in the matter and went to the SC. They asked for it and got “the fine print” of the law. With hind sight, one can state now that all the parties involved have to share the responsibility for the final outcome. It would be generally accepted that the latter and the spirit of justice are not necessarily coincident. The SC could have relegated the matter to TDSAT to decide but, in their wisdom, the Hon’ble Bench decided otherwise…
You are also absolutely right in your view that, since 2003, the operators “could have adhered to being compliant and deposited the AGR dues in a timely fashion, as per self-assessment, in the courts..” If they had done so the judgement might have been more favourable and the extent of the final blow far less. But, as you say, all “that is history now”.―Authored by TV Ramachandran, President, Broadband India Forum, CT Bureau
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