A Division Bench of the Delhi High Court has upheld an order of a Single Judge dismissing Vodafone’s plea against the consultation process adopted by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) for fixing interconnection usage charges (IUCs) between cellular and fixed line operators.
IUCs are charges paid by operators of telecommunication services on whom the call originates to operators at whose end the call terminates. The charges are currently determined in accordance with the Telecom Interconnection Usage Charges Regulations 2015.
Vodafone had approached the Court after it was denied the cost models used to deduce the IUC charges. It had contended that TRAI’s withholding of critical information is illegal, arbitrary and in violation of the mandate of transparency required under the TRAI Act, 1997.
Vodafone had further placed reliance on the duty of the public authority to make all relevant information available to the stakeholders while formulating policies that affect the larger public interest.
The Bench comprising Justice S. Ravindra Bhat and Justice Sunil Gaur, however, agreed with the order rendered by the single Judge. It observed that the elements necessary for the process to be just were: firstly, “due consultations with all stake- holders”, secondly “allowing all stake-holders to make their submissions to the authority” and lastly “by making all decisions of the authority fully documented and explained.”
It then noted that in the case at hand, the process of consultations went on for over 8-9 months, when responses, at two stages were sought from all telecom companies. The second element was also noted to be followed, by organizing one open house and two workshops. As regards the third element, the Bench observed that TRAI issues an explanatory memorandum accompanying its regulations.
In the light of these observations, the Division Bench ruled, “In view of the above findings, this court is of the opinion that there is no error in the Single Judge’s findings that the TRAI’s inaction to accede to Vodafone’s demand, or refusal to share the models, demanded of it, are not in violation of the transparency mandate under Section 11 (4) of the TRAI Act.”
Read the Judgment Here