The Madras High Court on Friday set aside an arbitral tribunal’s award for ₹44,000 as against the claim of over ₹2.5 crore made by Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) for having provided Global System of Mobile Communications- Primary Rate Interface (GSM-PRI) connection to Isha Founation at Velliangiri in Coimbatore district.
Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy concurred with senior counsel P. Wilson, representing BSNL, that the award passed by the arbitrator requires interference by the High Court since his conclusions were patently erroneous and qualify to be termed as perverse as held by the Supreme Court in a series of decisions on arbitration and conciliation.
The judge granted leave to BSNL to initiate the arbitral proceedings afresh. Earlier, Mr. Wilson told the court that the GSM-PRI connection was initially provided in 2010 with 100 inward dialling numbers. In 2017, 400 more numbers were added. The connection provided a 2 MB stream and could support 30 junctions.
The 2 MB stream originated from the BSNL GSM switch and was connected to the premises of Isha Foundation through an optic fibre cable. The other end of the stream terminated at the premises of the Foundation and was connected to a Private Automatic Exchange (PBX) installed by the customer.
In January 2019, BSNL raised a bill for ₹20.18 lakh for the billing period between December 1, 2018 and December 31, 2018. Subsequently, in February 2019, another bill was raised for ₹2.50 crore for the billing period between January 1, 2019 and January 31, 2019. However, the foundation complained that they were not receiving calls in certain extensions.
Upon receiving the complaint, BSNL did not find any technical problem at its end and asked the foundation to consult its PBX vendor. When the foundation did not pay the bills citing faulty connection, the BSNL engineers held an inspection and found that the customer had enabled Voice Over Internet Protocol to the IP-PBX.
Since the GSM-PRI circuit had become vulnerable due to VOIP, the foundation was asked to disconnect the facility. Subsequently, the arbitral proceedings were initiated to recover the bill amount but the tribunal ended up awarding a paltry amount and therefore the telecommunication company moved the High Court.