Rollout delay: Tribunal sets aside penalty on new 2G players

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on November 15, 2017 Published on January 13, 2012

DoT told to refund money with interest

The new 2G mobile operators got a breather on Thursday with the Telecom Dispute Settlement Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) setting aside all penalties imposed by the Department of Telecom for failing to meet rollout obligation.

The Tribunal also asked the DoT to refund within four weeks the money collected so far with 12 per cent interest.

The Department had collected nearly Rs 350 crore from various operators that had received licences in 2008. This includes Etisalat DB, Loop, Videocon and Uninor.

The TDSAT Bench, headed by Mr Justice S.B. Sinha, said the DoT did not follow “ principles of natural justice” and did not give any opportunity to the telecom operators to present their case before imposing penalty or liquidated damages.

The operators had filed as many as 70 petitions challenging liquidated damages imposed on them by the DoT for various circles.

The Tribunal directed the DoT to give a fresh hearing to the telecom operators on this issue in accordance with today's judgement.

It further said that if there was any ambiguity in the terms of licence, the benefit has to be given in favour of the licensee (operator).

Reacting to the order, Uninor said: “It was our contention that the liquidated damages charged of us were unreasonable as they did not fully factor in the delays on the part of the DoT in clearing our radio sites as well as allocation of full spectrum. We welcome the TDSAT ruling today that has upheld all our contentions while refunding these charges.”

Earlier, the TDSAT had passed an interim order in this matter, directing various telecom operators to deposit 60 per cent of the liquidated damages imposed by the DoT.

The DoT had started imposing penalty on the operators after the telecom regulator gave a recommendation that they had missed rollout obligation. The TRAI had even suggested cancelling the licences of some of these players. The DoT has already issued show cause notice in this regard.

Most of the new players have not even started offering full fledged services due to the legal issues.

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Published on January 13, 2012
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