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DoT questions TDSAT jurisdiction to hear telcos’ plea on 3G

Terming the inter-circle roaming pacts among telecom service providers for 3G services in areas where they do not have the designated spectrum as ‘illegal’, the government had issued notices to five players to stop such services immediately

New Delhi: The telecom ministry today questioned the jurisdiction of the Telecom Dispute Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) on entertaining the petitions of five telecom operators, including Bharti Airtel and Vodafone, challenging the government's directive to stop third generation (3G) roaming agreements, reports PTI.

Additional solicitor general (ASG) AS Chandiok appearing for the Department of Telecom (DoT) told the tribunal that it has no jurisdiction to entertain the petitions which are altering the terms of telecom licence.

Terming the inter-circle roaming pacts among telecom service providers for 3G services in areas where they do not have the designated spectrum as ‘illegal’, the government had issued notices to five players to stop such services immediately.

The operators—Bharti, Vodafone, Idea, Tatas and Aircel—had challenged the government’s decision in the TDSAT.

The ASG said that in its recent judgement the Supreme Court has said that the tribunal cannot entertain the petition which is altering the licence conditions.

On this the tribunal asked the government to file a separate application in this regard. The ASG said, “It would be filed today only.”

Further, the tribunal asked the operators to file replies of the new coming application questioning its jurisdiction by Friday this week and directed to list the matter on Monday (9th January) for the next hearing.

Meanwhile, state-owned BSNL today requested to implead into this ongoing dispute and make it a party in the suit.

Additional Solicitor General AS Tankha appearing for BSNL submitted that that PSU is going to be affected very largely by the outcome of its hearing and it should be heard. He also submitted that an application in this regard would be filed today only.

On this, the TDSAT chairman justice SB Sinha said it should be decided only after deciding on the preliminary objections raised by the DoT.

During the proceedings Mr Chandiok submitted that operators have still not complied with the interim order of TDSAT dated 24th December directing them to handover the copies of their 3G roaming agreements.

The operators said that they were asked to hand over their agreements only to the tribunal and not to the DoT.

The operators said that they have already submitted their agreements in a seal cover before the tribunal.

However, the tribunal said that such agreements submitted by the operators can be inspected by DoT through its counsel.

Yesterday, in a strong rebuttal to telecom operators on the issue of 3G roaming, the government had alleged that service providers have not come with clean hands and that they have suppressed material documents before telecom tribunal TDSAT.

Filing an affidavit before the TDSAT, the DoT had requested the tribunal to dismiss the petition of telecom operators challenging the government directive to stop 3G roaming immediately.

DoT had on 23 December 2011 issued notices to telecom companies saying their 3G roaming pacts were illegal and should be stopped immediately within 24 hours.

Operators—Bharti, Vodafone, Idea, Aircel and Tatas—challenged DoT’s decision before the TDSAT on the same day.

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