The Delhi High Court while refusing to interfere with the penalty imposed on Vodafone has held that the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) is empowered to deal with all disputes arising under the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Act, 1997.

A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad observed, “The TDSAT has been empowered to deal with all disputes arising under the TRAI Act. After the Tribunal gives the conclusion that the Order dated 29.09.2021 passed by the Respondent No.2 is not sustainable in law, then automatically the recommendation dated 21.10.2016 which is under challenge in the instant writ petitions would be set aside.”

The Bench said that the Tribunals are expert bodies that are constituted under the statute to decide the disputes and hence the Courts must not interfere with the same under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution.

Senior Advocate Gopal Jain and Advocate Manjul Bajpai appeared on behalf of the petitioners while Senior Advocates Ramji Srinivasan and Ritin Rai, and CGSC Arunima Dwivedi appeared on behalf of the respondents.

In this case, the primary challenge in a batch of writ petitions was to the recommendation passed by the TRAI on October 21, 2016, on the ground that such a recommendation was made by TRAI to the Secretary, Department of Telecommunication for penal action of Rs. 50 crores per Licensed Service Area (LSA) for all 21 LSAs except for Jammu and Kashmir where POI congestion exceeded the allowable limit of 0.5% as reported by Vodafone through their letter dated is contrary to law and deserves to be struck down.

The High Court after hearing the arguments of the counsel noted, “This Court finds considerable force in the arguments advanced by the learned Senior Counsel for the Respondents that any observations made by the this Court in the instant writ petitions will have an adverse impact on the Telecom Petitions which have been filed before the TDSAT.”

The Court further clarified that it has not made any observations on the merits of the case and that it is always open for the Tribunal to decide the issue on merits, including the recommendation which is under challenge in the petitions.

Accordingly, the Court disposed of the pleas.

Cause Title- Vodafone Mobile Services Ltd. & Anr. v. Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Neutral Citation: 2023:DHC:3687-DB)

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