Vodafone and its group companies moved the Delhi High Court challenging TRAI’s Telecommunication Interconnect Usage Charges Regulations, 2015. The regulations have fixed termination charges for wire-line to wireless as zero paise and wireless to wireless to Rs 0.14 per minute.
Interconnection Usage Charges (IUC) or termination charges are payable by one telco, whose subscriber makes a call, to another whose subscriber receives the call. The charge is payable by the first for using the second’s network.
A bench, comprising Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw, declined to give any interim relief to the telecom major saying Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has to be heard and also because the regulations came in February, 2015.
The bench asked TRAI to file its reply in four weeks and posted the matter for further hearing on January 19, 2016.
During the brief hearing, senior advocate K Viswanathan, appearing for Vodafone, said the regulations are illegal, bad in fact and in law, arbitrary and gross violation of the principles of natural justice, beyond the functions of TRAI.
He said the February 23, 2015 regulations– Mobile Termination Charges (MTC) and Fixed Termination Charges (FTC) under IUC Regulation–were “ultra vires TRAI Act and were contrary to the object and purpose of its provisions to the extent that it arbitrarily and in a non-transparent manner fixes the termination charges”.
Viswanathan said that it is clear that the fixation of terms of inter-connectivity which includes the termination charge by TRAI cannot be zero, where costs are incurred by the terminating operator and therefore, the regulations fixing the charge as zero is ultra vires the provisions of TRAI Act.
He said that TRAI itself has stated in its 2001 Regulations that the interconnection charges shall be fixed on cost basis to provide recompense to the operators for work done for termination of calls on their network.
He further submitted that TRAI, while agreeing that costs are incurred for terminating a call, has grossly erred and acted in an illegal manner and contrary to the provisions while fixing the termination charges for wireline to wireless as zero and wireless to wireless from Rs 0.20 per minute to Rs 0.14 per minute.