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Cannot Ask TRAI To Direct A Telecom Service Provider To Produce Subscribers' Call Records: Kerala High Court

Hannah M Varghese
23 Nov 2021 7:46 AM GMT
Cannot Ask TRAI To Direct A Telecom Service Provider To Produce Subscribers Call Records: Kerala High Court
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The Kerala High Court recently refused to entertain a writ petition seeking the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India to direct a telecommunications service provider to produce the call records of one of its subscribers. Justice P.V. Kunhikrishnan observed that the powers granted to TRAI did not extend to calling for such call details from service providers. The petitioner was a...

The Kerala High Court recently refused to entertain a writ petition seeking the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India to direct a telecommunications service provider to produce the call records of one of its subscribers. 

Justice P.V. Kunhikrishnan observed that the powers granted to TRAI did not extend to calling for such call details from service providers. 

The petitioner was a Sub Inspector of Police at the Coastal Police Station, Thalassery. On 19.08.2020, while he was under treatment for an injury, his immediate superior officer asked him to report for duty. However, he refused to do so due to his ailments. 

The said telephonic conversation led to strained relations between them, urging the superior officer to file a complaint against the petitioner. Accordingly, disciplinary proceedings were initiated against the petitioner.

The recorded telephonic conversion was produced as evidence against the petitioner, but the petitioner claimed it to be an edited version. Since the duration of the call did not tally with the produced clip, the petitioner applied for the call records from the respondent company to substantiate his contention in the disciplinary proceedings.

However, the respondent company refused to supply the details. Therefore, the petitioner moved the Court. 

The respondents argued that there was a legal embargo in furnishing such details to the petitioner. They contended that the licence issued to them does not permit them to furnish the said details.

It was pointed out that the powers granted to TRAI under the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997 did not extend to calling for such call details and the Delhi High Court had confirmed this position in Telecom Regulatory Authority of India v. Yash Pal [2013 SCC OnLine 4271].

"Power to call for information or explanation from the Service Provider can be exercised by the authority only if such information or explanation is required for discharge of the functions assigned to it...To provide information in respect of the subscribers of mobile telephones such as their names and addresses, their call details and copies of the SMSs sent by them certainly are not amongst the functions assigned to the Authority under Section 11 of the (TRAI) Act," the Delhi High Court had held.

The Court agreed with the respondents and opined that in such circumstances, it was not in a position to issue any direction to the respondents to furnish the call details to the petitioner.

"The grievance of the petitioner is that, in the disciplinary proceedings, an edited version of the telephonic conversation is produced. The petitioner is free to approach the disciplinary authority and submit that it is an edited version and substantiate the same by adducing appropriate evidence and by filing petitions before the disciplinary authorities for appropriate relief."

As such, the Bench found no need to issue any direction to the telecom service provider to furnish the call details. With liberty granted to the petitioner to approach the disciplinary authority with a proper prayer, the writ petition was closed.

The petitioner was represented by Advocates Zubair Pulikkool and K. Seena and the respondents were represented by Advocates. Santhosh Mathew. Jaishankar V. Nair, CGC Arun Thomas, Jennis Stephen, Vijay V. Paul, Veena Raveendran, Anil Sebastian Pulickel, Divya Sara George, Jaisy Elza Joe, Abi Benny Areeckal and Leah Rachel Ninan.

Case Title: Malayil Samad v. General Manager, Bharti Airtel Ltd.   

Click Here To Read/Download The Order

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