In a set back to British telecom firm Vodafone, the sector tribunal TDSAT has rejected its plea challenging the Trai's consultation paper on review of IUC regime, including abolishing the termination charge, a move that can bring mobile tariffs down.
London-based Vodafone is opposing Trai's consultation paper on grounds that it is against TDSAT's earlier judgement.
The review of Interconnection Usage Charge (IUC) regime is opposed by old operators as it talks about abolishing the termination charge, a levy paid by an operator to another on whose network the call ends.
"We are of the opinion that the application is premature and in any event it would not be proper for this tribunal to go into the question raised in this application [by Vodafone] at this stage," said the TDSAT bench headed by Justice SB Sinha.
The tribunal further said it could not pass any order at this stage, as the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) was in the process of finalising the drill.
"Contents of a pre-consultation paper, in our opinion, cannot be taken into consideration at this stage for the purpose of finding out as to whether any case has been made out for issuance of any direction or not," the TDSAT said.
However, it said Vodafone can move TDSAT after the Trai has formulated IUC regulations.
"Indisputably, the questions which have been raised shall have to be considered by the tribunal, if and when, any question arises," the tribunal said.
Over Vodafone's claim that Trai's paper violated the order passed by TDSAT, the tribunal said, "whether the directions issued by this Tribunal in its aforementioned judgment dated September 29, 2010 are correct or not is pending consideration before the Supreme Court".
TDSAT had on September 29 last year set aside the Trai's Interconnection Usage Charges (Regulation), 2009 and asked the telecom regulator to bring out fresh regulations in consultations with various stake holders.
This was challenged by Trai before the Supreme Court on February 2, 2011, which directed it to complete the entire exercise within a period of four months.
Following it, Trai on April 27 issued a consultation paper on IUC, which was opposed by Vodafone on grounds that it was in gross violation of the directions issued by TDSAT.
Filing an application before the tribunal, Vodafone contended that Trai can not be permitted to consider the matter afresh including adopting the process of invitation of suggestions and recommendations from the stakeholders including the "Bill and Keep" accounting method and Capital expenditures.
However, this was opposed by Trai, which contends it is strictly following the directions of the TDSAT, and that it has given an opportunity to all stakeholders to place their viewpoints and would hear all of them.
TDSAT, in its nine-page long order, has put on record the letter written to Vodafone by Trai slamming the telco for creating obstruction in the process.
"Your [Vodafone] objections, therefore, to consultation process are clearly ill-founded and cannot be acceded to. We would expect you not to obfuscate and hinder the consultation process needlessly and request you to participate and co-operate in the consultation process in a positive manner to the benefit of all stakeholders.
"You will also please appreciate that Trai is under a time deadline and it would not be in the interest of anyone to delay the process in any manner, much less in the manner now sought to be done," Trai had said in its letter to Vodafone dated May 11.